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Wilderness Wednesday: High Uintas Wilderness, Utah’s Land of the Lakes

Picture an extremely tall mountain, overlooking a clear blue lake at its foot surrounded by thick forests of Engelmann spruce, fir, pine, conifer, and apsen trees.  Next visualize this lake showing a beautiful reflection of that same mountain. Now imagine this scene happening over and over again throughout one area. While it may appear to be imaginary, these scenes are very real, combining together to make up the High Uintas Wilderness in northeastern Utah. 

High Uintas WildernessPhoto courtesy Cordell Anderson, Wilderness.net

One of Utah’s greatest treasures, the High Uintas Wilderness is one of the U.S.’s most outstanding wilderness areas, with evidence to prove it. As part of both Ashley and Wasatch-Cache National Forests, it is the largest wilderness area in Utah with a total of 456,705 acres.

Stretching 60 miles east to west, the area is home to the highest mountain peaks of the Uinta Mountain range, which is also the highest in all of Utah with peaks ranging from 6,000 to the highest of all, Kings Peak at 13,528 feet. This area also has meadows, wetlands, waterfalls, streams, rivers, and lakes, surrounded by numerous varieties of flowers such as the monkey flower, which looks like a smiling monkey, and the rare old man of the mountain flower. However what this wilderness area is known for is its amazingly breathtaking views both from above and on the ground. It has countless clear blue glacier-formed lakes against a gorgeous backdrop of towering mountains, true picture perfect moments.   

High Uintas is home to a number of animals such as moose, elk, deer, mountain goats, black bears, a herd of rocky mountain bighorn sheep, river otters, birds, and fish. An animal to look out for when visiting this wilderness area is the gray jay whose nickname is the camp robber. Named for their sneaky ways of obtaining food they have been known to hoard food and consume anything that they can find. Another animal is a willow ptarmigan, a type of white bird who during the wintertime is completely covered with feathers—even their feet, to make walking easier in the snow. One more remarkable animal to look out for is the bald eagle.

With 545 miles of trails guiding visitors into the depths of the wilderness, there are many things to do at High Uintas. Some of the popular trails are Hades/Rocky Sea Pass, which passes through a large number of incredible lakes; Swift Creek Trail as the preferred route to Kings Peak; and Center Park for its stunning panoramic view of the Yellowstone Basin in its entirety. Visitors can go boating, river and lake fishing, camping, hiking, and cross country skiing. The most popular activity is backcountry fishing.

Beyond its beauty, the High Uintas is also a water source to the unique animals in the area and the Uinta Mountains watershed is crucial in supplying water for power, industry, farm, and city use for thousands of Americans in Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, and California. 


-- by Fionna Poon, Our Wild America intern

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