Hiking 76 Miles on the Uinta Highline Trail

By Bryden Bowley | August 17th, 2021

Things don’t always go as planned in the mountains. But whether I completed the trail or not, my Uinta Highline hike is one I won't soon forget. 

Living in Utah can be overwhelming, as there are so many great options for experiencing the outdoors. Within a 4-hour drive radius, you could visit towering granite mountains, boiling hot pots, or desolate red-rock deserts. Early this summer, though, one mountain range in particular caught my attention: The Uinta Mountains.

Just east of Kamas is the Mirror Lake Highway, the gateway into the Uintas. Not far after you pass Mirror Lake, you reach the Highline Trailhead - the starting (or ending) point of the stunning 104-mile long Uinta Highline Trail. The highest range in Utah, the Uinta Mountains are the only major range in the United States that are oriented east-west, and there is no shortage of views throughout them.

It was the last week of May and I was tossing around ideas for what backpacking I wanted to accomplish over the summer. The Uinta Highline seemed to line up as a good starting point to kick off the season, so I downloaded a GPX file I found online, installed it into my GAIA, packed my things, and set out for the trail. I spent the next 3.5 days walking through some of the most magnificent mountains I have ever seen. 

I was taken aback by how gorgeous the Uintas were. I'd lived in Utah for 10 years and it was my first time in this beautiful space. Though it was beautiful, it was challenging: The heat wave that was cooking the Salt Lake area held no mercy on the Uintas. The temperature never dipped below 90F. I spent most of my day hiking in the dangerous circumstances of exposed-above tree line walking above 10,000 feet. 

Coming off Anderson Pass, I started to feel sick. I made my way to tree line, set up my tent, and heated up some sipping broth to at least feel like I was putting something in my body. I didn't sleep much. I spent most of the night throwing up what little I had in me. It was awful.

In the morning, I packed my things and set my sights for Chepeta Lake Trailhead. When I arrived at the trailhead, there was one car. The man kindly drove me to the nearest Best Western, where I was able to rest and recover for the night.

The fact is, things don’t always go as planned in the mountains. Learning to accept unfortunate circumstances is what makes you appreciate the fortunate ones. I’m still unsure of what made me sick—maybe it was the excessive heat or something I ate, or maybe both. Either way, I’m looking forward to the next time I can go hiking in the Uintas.

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