Read about my complete Uinta Highline Trail experience, including prep, gear, logistics, and post-hike impressions.
We were packed up and hiking a little before 7:00 am. We needed to crank out some mileage or figure out an alternate exit point that would allow us to shave some miles off the overall hike. Either way, I wanted us to get to Anderson Pass and King’s Peak as early as possible. We already lost part of the first day to unpredictable afternoon storms around a mountain pass and I didn’t want it to happen again.
We made our way down the mountain to the Unita River. The trail was difficult to follow in the forest, but a careful inspection of the ground usually led to a small cairn or a shoeprint that would point the way. These are several grassy meadows in this area and we passed some grazing pack horses. Not long after that, we popped out of the shade and into the sun just above Painter Basin. The view of the valley was spectacular and only got better as we got closer. Soon we were in the open, windy, grassy fields and we stopped at a small creek crossing to eat lunch. I think this was the most pristine section of the entire Uinta Highline Trail (UHT) and we were fortunate to have it all to ourselves.
We spent the early afternoon simply traversing the basin. If the sun was out, it was very hot. If it suddenly became overcast, it was freezing. We couldn’t layer up and strip down fast enough. The wind was almost as schizophrenic as the sunshine.
We made it to the base of Anderson Pass around 2:00 pm. This is also the second and last intersection with Henry’s Fork Trail—the final bailout point of the Uinta Highline Trail. Past this point, there’s no choice besides backtracking east or continuing to the western trailhead of Hayden Pass.
We were probably around 12,000 feet and my girlfriend was struggling. She put on a brave face, but there was no way she would have made it up and over Anderson Pass—let alone to King’s Peak—before sunset. I made the decision to exit at Henry’s Fork and hitchhike back to Hayden Pass to maintain our vacation schedule. That decision would end up cutting around 15–20 miles off our section hike, saving us a day and a half of walking at our proven pace.
The only thing I regret about my decision to change our exit point is that I got so close to the highest peak in Utah but didn’t get to bag it. I was so close. The best part about my decision was that our timetable was suddenly very clear. We hiked up and over Gunsight Pass and walked a few miles down Henry’s Fork Trail. We camped on a hill above Henry’s Fork Lake and enjoyed watching the sunset.
Watch the video
Follow in our virtual footsteps as we hike a section of the Uinta Highline Trail. Watch the entire video or jump ahead to specific days. You can find more information to help you plan your own UHT hike at cchikes.com/UHT18.
Just got home from our attempt on the Highline Trail. We also had to bail at Henry’s Fork, which was not pleasant for many of the same hitchhiking reasons, but mostly due to the 3 to 6 inches of snow we had to hike out in. The high today is just above freezing, so we made the right decision. Not that there was much question. We have done Anderson pass before and while the East side is an easy slog the back side is steep narrow, and has dangerous drop offs. Unthinkable covered in at least 6 to 9 inches of snow and ice.
Just wanted to share a few things I learned with anyone reading the blog. The High Uintas are serious. We almost died of hypothermia on the third day. Rain/slush and wind is extremely dangerous and rain pants are not optional for the Uintas in any season (hard lesson learned, and we lost a lot of time recovering).
Budget more time than you think, every high pass is dangerous and if the weather does not cooperate you need to be smart. Also bad weather will slow your pace more than you think. Navigating wet slippery rocks takes time (and the trail is frequently very rocky).
Bring more warm clothes than you think, and waterproof gloves would have been a godsend.
I wouldn’t go back without a Garmin InReach. If we could have known the Forecast we would probably have bailed sooner and avoided some unnecessary misery (and in our case we could have had someone meet us at the trailhead when we had to bail).
(Wish I could post a picture of Painter Basin covered in snow her- very pretty, although scary for us at the time.)