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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What you need to know before you head into the Uintas

The Uintas are one of Utah's Best Kept Secrets. I mean- the National Parks are great but the Uintas are just amazing. All of the trails are dog friendly (every one!)

If you aren't convinced, check out some of my Uinta Posts: 

If you still aren't convinced, listen up:  Only 45 minutes away from the city, dog friendly, with over 1,000 lakes, amazing hiking trails, backpacking and camping opportunities, it is really a gem.  It is my favorite spot to escape on a summer weekend because it is always so much cooler than the city, and all of the Uintas are dog friendly.  If you are familiar with Utah and our watersheds, you know how hard it can be to find a dog friendly hike with water. Here is a list of Uinta hikes and you will see there is something for everyone. 

Let's talk about everything you need to know 
before you head into the Uintas

Fees:  It is 6$ for a 3 day pass in the Uintas.  This is a little confusing becasue there is no mandatory ranger station at the beginning.  You can chose to stop at the entrance station in the beginning of the Uintas, or you can go the "self service" option available at many trailheads and popular areas around.  If you have a National Parks Pass, this works too!  Just leave your parks pass on your dashboard. 

Parking:  Make sure you park in designated parking spots only at the trail heads.  Some of the popular trailheads, such as Crystal Lake trailhead, run out of parking very quickly.  Make sure you arrive at the traillhead early and  park in a DESIGNATED spot, or else you will return to a parking ticket on your car.  Make sure you buy the recreation pass at one of the self service or ranger stations, and leave this in your car for rangers to see.  

Garbage:  Besides the campgrounds, there really arent many (or any?) garbage cans around the Uintas, even at the trial heads, even at the bathrooms.  Carry out what you carry in is the rule of the game here. 

Dogs:  All of the Uintas are dog friendly which is AMAZING.  You and fido can hike to your hearts content and swim in as many lakes as you would like.  But please, be respectful, keeping your dog on leash or under voice commands, and always cleaning up after your pet.  While you wont see many (or any) bikers out on the trails, there are a lot of families and horses.  Be respectful 

Swimming:  Be warned, the water is always cold.  If you do decide to go swimming, be warned of the temperature, and stay away from the fishermen.  The lakes of the Uintas are stocked and popular among the local fishermen.  

Maps and Service:  There are no paper maps handed to you when you pull in.  And the only maps you will see are the the trail heads.  I highly recommend purchasing a Nat Geo Map here on Amazon before you go.  There is NO cell service in the Uintas.  You may find some on the Bald Mountain Pass, but go in knowing you wont have a cell phone to get you out of a bind.  Always bring a map with you as there are a ton of lakes and you can easily get disoriented. On another note, Mirror Lake Scenic Byway goes on for millllleeeessss.  If you are at the other end of the park, Wyoming is your closest town.  BUT, there is a ranger station/store at this end if you do need something- this was a good find while camping on July 4th.  Get your map off Amazon

Layers:  This is so important.  The weather changes so dramatically up here and like I said, there is no service to check your weather app.  Always bring warm layers as the Uintas can get very chilly, especially at night if you are camping (It can go from 80s to 30s).  My lesson with the Uintas, and basically most of Utah, is bring a swim suit, rain jacket (always pack a light rain shell), snow coat and sunscreen everywhere you go.  Because you can never be sure what the weather will do!  I've drove in on a nice sunny day and an hour layer caught in a snow storm on Bald Mountain Pass.

Food and Water:  Make sure you bring enough food, water, and safety supplies with you.  You are in a remote area with no sevice.  Be prepared! Pack enough food and water for your trip and extra in case of an emergency.  And always pack a travel first aid kit.  I absolutely love my Osprey Mira 34 backpacking bag.  So much room, large water reservoir, really comfortable, with a built in ran cover you can use in bad weather.  This bag rocks.  I also recommend a first aid/safety kit like this.  

Camping:  Make sure you bring enough warm clothes for the night.  The temperature drop very quickly at night.  Also make sure you have bug spray, bear spray, and use safe practices to keep food away from your campsite (a separate section below).  No one wants to wake up to a black bear in the middle of the night.  Importantly:  Do NOT camp within 100 feet of any water source, and 200 is preferred. We use the Alps Mountaneering 2 person Lynx we love it!  Order yours off Amazon here. 

Fires:  There are some fire restrictions in the Uintas.  You can find the full list here.    This will affect less than 10% of the High Uintas Wilderness. All other areas will remain open to campfires, though all visitors are encouraged to practice “Leave No Trace” by minimizing campfire impacts or, better yet, choosing to go without one.  Always be aware of the fire hazard for the day (there is a sign when you enter the park) and be very careful.  Find more campfire tips here.  If you are bringing in firewood, make sure you buy it outside of Kamas where the prices are jacked up for tourists heading into the Uintas. If you do not bring your own firewood, only collect dead and downed wood that is on the ground- do not cut branches off of live trees. 

Food Storage/Bears:  Like all wilderness areas, it is important to keep your food out of reach of wildlife.  If you are car camping (camping at a site with your car nearby) make sure you lock all food items in your car.  Coolers, any food, and even tooth paste and deodorant should be locked in your car.  If you think this is extreme, bears can even get INTO your car.  Bears have been seen getting into car doors:  check out this video of a bear getting into someones car for the food.   Yellowstone even put in Bear Boxes to help prevent bears getting into campers belongings.  If you are backpacking and your car is not nearby, it is important to know how to tie up your food.  Read here about how to tie your food away from your campsite to prevent Black Bears at your campsite (and buy a Bear Bag here) .  If you do encounter a Black Bear (the only bear species you will find in the Uintas)  If the bear approaches you, yell, wave your arms, throw rocks, and retreat slowly by walking backwards. Carry on as much as you can, but avoid making eye contact with the bear. Many animals perceive eye contact as a challenge or threat.

On Your Way Out

Samak Smoke Shop-  Samak (Kamas backwards) is the little town on the edge of the Uintas. And the Samak Smoke Shop is an awesome little spot right before you head into the Uintas.  They have amazing coffee, basic convenience store needs (camping needs, beer, etc), but the best?  Their smoked goods, specifically their jerky.  Their smoked jerky is hands down, the best I have ever had.  Peppered, teriyaki, turkey, beef jerky, there are a lot of awesome and they are all absolutely delicious.  Their jerky is smoked in house with no preservatives and has won several awards. They use fresh cherry wood chips from Wisconsin instead of liquid smoke, using a special recipe- no chemical aftertaste, no preservatives, and always fresh.  Its the bees knees.  There is also a variety of smoked cheeses and fish.  And yes, you can order some of that amazing jerky online here if you aren't local!

Chevron Gas Station Donuts:  This is going to sound weird (like really weird) but some of the best donuts I have ever had is at the Chevron gas station in Kamas, the gateway to the Uintas.  If you are leaving the Uintas early (or getting into the Uintas early) you have to stop at this Chevron gas station for their amazing donuts.  Make sure you go early because they do sell out quick.  

Now that you are prepared, head into the Uintas!  Enjoy this lovely escape from the city heat, in the beautiful Utah wilderness. 

What you may need:  
The gear I use and highly recommend! 

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