6.1 miles One Way
1,350 Feet Elevation Gain
I got to finally got to check Naturalist Basin and Agassiz Peak
off my list, and better yet, it I got to do it with a group
of good friends. Great conversation, laughs, informative safety
meetings and lots of fresh delicious fish will always make this
trip stand out as one of my favorites.
Naturalist Basin is a multi-tiered
wonderland of lakes and alpine scenery. Nestled between
two 12,000+ foot peaks (Agassiz 12,428' and Spread
Eagle 12,540'), in the western end of the main 100
mile Uinta spine, Naturalist Basin is one of the quicker
routes to get into the wilderness experience of the Uinta
Over the years, the area has become extremely popular, over-fishing,
destructive camping and too many campfires have taken their
toll on some of the purity in the area, but it remains an incredible
treasure just the same. The Forest Service has now permanently
banned campfires in Naturalist Basin, and has shut down many
campsites, especially around the first meadow in Naturalist
The Uinta Mountains are special in that they run east-west.
Behind the San Juan Mountains in Colorado, The Uintas boast
the most area above treeline of any mountain range in the United
States. They are also special in the fact that they are one
solid unbroken mass of quartzite, the granite below remains
unfractured. Most of the lakes, ponds and streams get their
water from springs year round.
To get to the Naturalist Basin Trail Head, Take Uinta Highway
150, east of Kamas, Utah. Park on the east side of the road
by Butterfly Lake Campground, after Bald Mountain Pass, and
THE TRAIL TO NATURALIST BASIN:
The trail to Naturalist Basin starts with the famous Highline
Trail which traverses the entire 100 Mile Uinta Mountain
About half a mile into the hike, you will reach a intersection
with a trail going right, which goes to Mirror Lake, continue
forward towards Rocky Sea Pass and Naturalist Basin.
At around 2 miles, you'll see a sign for Scudder Lake,
or if you miss the sign you'll see the lake to your right through
At about 3 miles you'll reach the trail to Packard
Lake, which turns right and is 1.5 miles one way to
the lake. Continue forward, from here the trail starts
to steepen a bit. Around 4 miles in you will reach the
trail to Naturalist Basin which turns left or north. If
you continue on the Highline Trail, you will reach another
trail to Four Lakes Basin or you could continue
to the Rocky Sea Pass or continue down the Highline Trail.
After turning up the Naturalist Basin trail, the grade steepens.
After walking through the wooded forest for a mile, you will
drop down into a beautiful meadow with tall cliffs in front,
with a junction of running mountain streams.
From here you can go right (East) to Jordan Lake, or you can
go left to the Morat Lakes and beyond to Blue Lake. We chose
the Morat Lakes because it was a crowded weekend and Jordan
is much easier to get to, and is usually crowded.
On your way to the Morat Lakes, you will reach a meadow with
a small pond in the middle, make sure you follow the trail on
the right or east side of the meadow.
This section is the steepest part of the trail, don't rush it,
you'll be there soon enough.
Many camping areas were closed, so be prepared to hike a little
to find a suitable camping spot. You can also go up to the Blue
Lakes area, it's a little higher, but you should find more solitude.
The trail from Morat to Blue gets confusing near the top, but
it's short, stay close to the stream (The waterfall is dried
up this time of year). Once on top of this plateau, walk toward
the base of Agassiz Peak to find Blue Lake.
Saturday and Sunday, September 1-2, 2007
We found this sign at about 5 miles into the trail.
It was at the turn off from the Highline Trail to Naturalist Basin.
You can tell from the broken glass, that this had probably angered
a few Kamas locals.
It would have been useful information at the Butterfly trailhead.
I heard the reason was the wood was getting scarce in Naturalist Basin.
From around 3 miles into the west end of the Highline Trail
looking northeast toward Agassiz
From near the turnoff to Packard Lake,
Looking northeast toward Agassiz Peak 12,428', from the Highline Trail
Looking northeast toward the meadow at the entrance to Naturalist
To the left is the trail to the Morat Lakes and to the right is the
trail to Jordan Lake.
From the ridge between Agassiz Peak and Spread Eagle Peak,
looking east over Naturalist Basin. Shaler Lake is visible below.
From the East Morat Lake looking southwest toward Agassiz Peak.
The tier above is home to Blue Lake, and is only a 10 minute jaunt
from the Morat Lakes.
Looking west toward Peak 11,641' from East Morat Lake.
Looking northwest up to Agassiz Peak Summit, 12,428 feet above sea
From West Morat Lake looking southwest towards the base of Peak 11,641'
From West Morat Lake looking north. Agassiz Peak is visible above.
It was a very placid, reflective lake.
Can you see where the bank ends and the lake begins?
From Blue Lake looking towards the ridge between Agassiz and Spread
The Peak in the middle is unnamed 11,647', and according to my calculations,
should give the best view of Naturalist Basin, too bad I didn't make
From the southeast end of Blue Lake looking northwest toward Agassiz
Looking west over Blue Lake toward Peak 11,641' and Agassiz Peak 12,428'
From Blue Lake looking south.
Looking south over Blue Lake 10,940', with Peak 11,641 reflecting
in it's calm waters.
Looking south over Blue Lake
Looking west towards Agassiz Peak, 1,500 feet above Blue Lake.
After climbing the peak the night before, I unwisely took the scree
route down the middle.
The cliffbands 1/3 from the top were difficult and required both hands
and a little climbing skill.
The rain didn't help things either.
Quartzite cliff edges on the north end of Blue Lake.
Looking west toward Agassiz Peak.
Agassiz Peak 12,428', a better view of the cliffbands.
The little white pointy rock on the right is the two pillars to which
you must pass.
East Morat Lake and West Morat Lake.
Both sit on a intermediate level between Blue Lake and Jordan Lake.
The hike from these lakes up to Blue lake is only about 10 minutes.
Looking south over West Morat Lake,
with the West Grandaddy Mountains to the south.
West Morat Lake from atop the Blue Lake tier.
Looking south toward East Grandaddy Mountain 11,659' from the ridge
up to Agassiz Peak.
At the base, in front of this mountain at 10,300', is one of the biggest
lakes in the Uintas.
You could call it the grandaddy of the Uinta Lakes, because it's called
Grandaddy Lake covers over 170 acres.
Between Grandaddy Lake and Pinto Lake (4 miles north of Grandaddy)
are probably 15 large lakes and 100 small ones.
Looking down from Agassiz Peak toward Blue Lake in Naturalist Basin.
The Morat Lakes are visible on the right of Blue Lake.
On the left is LeConte Lake, you can barely see Jordan Lake