The Uintas are a mountain range about an hour east from where we live. The 40-mile Mirror Lake Scenic Byway goes from Kamas, UT to Evanston, WY and it is beautiful! You can only drive it through the warmer months, from about June to October. I have visions of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers when they finally exclaim ‘the pass is open!’
The highest point of driving is near Bald Mountain, which is 10,000 feet. So it’s up pretty high. Our California sea-level nephews found the oxygen a little lacking when hiking around a little farther down at Provo Falls. ;)
There is lots to do and many things to see along the way, but we have favored more of the Mirror Lake are and its surrounding lakes. Mirror Lake is the biggest and most popular of the lakes. Large parking lot. Picnic tables. Camping. It’s $20 a day for up to 8 people and 1 vehicle to camp up in the Uintas, but we’ve never camped up there. It’s on my to-do list. :) But I love it up there. We never spend enough time there. There are several lakes up there (actually 1000 lakes in the whole Uintas), some where you can camp, some it’s just a day use and some you have to hike to.
Two lakes that we’ve enjoyed are Moosehorn Lake and Butterfly Lake as well as the Mirror Lake area.
On your way up the mountain (west side) to the Mirror Lake Area, you’ll pass by Provo Falls. A spectacular waterfall, I must say! The construct of it all is fascinating. It almost looks fake with the even rows of stone. Of course, the amount of water flowing does depend on the time of year and the amount of snow from winter. We went up twice last year, once on June 26 and the other on July 6 and the change in water flow was pretty noticeable. I imagine this year (2017) will be a lot more raging with all the snow we had.
Of course, depending on the flow, you can hike around and through the water. We spent a couple hours here with our extended family just sitting farther down the hill, feet in the water, exploring both sides of the stream. It was delightful! Normally when it’s just been our family, we come, we look, we pause, we go. I loved hanging out there with them!
The cascading rocks make natural benches, perfect for sitting on one and putting feet on another in the water.
And it was really cute because across the stream in a cove of rocks here was a birds nest (it’s shadowed). And every once in a while you’d see these baby birds with their yellow beaks pop their head through the hole and squeak. Eventually you’d see mama bird (or dad?) swoop low, past us, skimming the river and over to the bird’s nest to give them breakfast. Then out she’d go again. It was pretty cool to watch.
This kind of stuff is so much better than gawking at your phone and social media, guys. :)
We did have a very frightening incident though with Otis. He’s usually a very cautious dog and a little bit nervous to let us out of his sight, so he’ll usually stick close by. We were the only ones there at the river in this area (earlier in the a.m., thank you) so we were letting him walk around–leash on him, but not holding him. He decided to explore within the stream in a place he shouldn’t have. The area where we were had more graduated rock formations within the water, but then at one spot it dropped. He started to go towards it and we all yelled at him to stop, but the rocks were slick and he couldn’t stop and over the edge he went. I don’t know how he managed to parkour himself out of it, but he did. I was closest to him and there was nothing I could do but watch. My stepbrother was on the other side of the river and ran with his expensive camera equipment in hand, mind you, through the water to get to the other side where we were. We all thought we were going to be taking home a dead or broken dog. I think someone was watching out for him–and us–because that would have been a horrible experience for us all, including my two teen nephews. He stuck very close to us after that. And my stepbrother was glad to know that when push came to shove the safety of the dog outweighed the safety of his equipment as this real life moment showed. :)
This is what he parkoured out of making it to the side safely…if you can believe it. I know we couldn’t believe it.
And like I say, afterward, he kept pretty close to us. Sometimes, a little too close (haha).
Provo Falls. Amazing for a quick stop or for some time relaxing and exploring. As always, the earlier you go, the less people. We had that whole area down stream to ourselves and left around 11:00. Most people stay up where the main falls is. After spending time picnicking and exploring the other lakes, on our way down we noticed tons of cars. I’ve even seen it where they are parked on the side of the road, so it can get very busy.
Oh, and just to see a difference in water, here’s a post from seven years ago about this same time. Big difference in the amount of water…and photos. ;)
MIRROR LAKE AREA
Let’s see, for Mother’s Day all I wanted was a family camping trip to Capitol Reef, for my last birthday all I wanted was a camping trip to a place called Diamond Fork, almost three years ago for my birthday, can you guess what I wanted? You guessed it. A (day) trip up to the Uintas with the family…and Zach’s BFF, who is family.
Can you really blame me though? What an awesome place to just hang out and fish! This is just a little hike away from Mirror Lake.
And I love how the boys (that includes Dan) will finagle themselves anywhere to get the bite. They do catch-and-release, by the way.
Of course, us girls don’t fish, but there are plenty of logs and rocks to sit on and enjoy the time there. Anything to be outside in the mountains. And Otis (our 130lb rott-lab horse…I mean dog) was so happy up there too!
There is a path that either goes all or most of the way around each side of Mirror Lake. Fun to explore. We’ve never gone all the way around, but gone up both sides…so I’m not 100% sure (haha). You’ll also find little trails that shoot off from lake where you can hike around.
One of my all-time favorite photos.
There are so many amazing bits of nature to see and explore.
And I am not alone in taking photos, folks. Got two other kids here with their camera backpacks. That’s a happy picture for me. :)
One of the many lakes up in the Mirror Lake area is Butterfly Lake.
Great for fishing, camping or just plain picnicking. There are picnic benches along this side of the lake. You do need to make sure you’ve paid to stop and use the place. Of course, a super nice park ranger gave us a tip that if we didn’t want to have to pay, we could go a little farther down the road and park just off the road in an open area–don’t know if it’s really a ‘parking area’, but there were several cars there. We just stayed and paid though because we wanted to use the picnic tables and have lunch.
Here’s a little warning. These are the high Uintas. Like I’d mentioned, you can’t even come up until June because of the snow. Therefore, sometimes you’ll still see snowy spots in your recreational area, not to mention it can get really watery and muddy, like you see in the bottom of the photo here. In other words, wear shoes that you don’t mind getting wet and dirty. :)
Another favorite place to stop is Moosehorn Lake. The grandness of it all, right?
I mean, who wouldn’t want to stop here and fish and eat a bit of lunch with such a breathtaking view!
This little lake holds a special place in my heart. We brought the kids here when they were young our first time to the Uintas. We had a blow-up raft that Dan rowed them out onto the lake. It was such a lovely day! Good times.
Sorry if I keep repeating myself with words like gorgeous, amazing and beautiful….but it is what it is.
This is what I live for. You may remember me saying that we never went camping together when the kids were growing up, but we have spent so many moments in the mountains doing stuff like this. This is where my heart is–with my family out in nature. Heck, Dan and I will go for a day or for a weekend trip and he fishes, while I relax in a chair, read a book, take photos or just plain soak in the sun and the beauty around and listen to the birds, the rustling leaves and the streams. I can spend hours in the mountains doing nothing…which is everything to me.
I crave these moments.
I never take for granted that we have all this beauty and diversity in such a short distance. We can experience so much from just minutes away to an hour away to only three hours away. I count my blessings that we live here every single day.
It fills my soul.
I’m so excited to have shared these adventures with you this week! Hopefully it’s given you some ideas of places to go and things to do this summer…or to just daydream about far off places that you want to go…like I do. :)
I’m anxious to get out and do more Utah Adventures this summer! More of which I plan to share right here. Keep an eye out for more starting in the next couple weeks.