Scouting Uinta Lakes

November 14th, 2016

Trip details at http://rblr.co/MyIf

With the nice weather holding this late in the year in the Uintas you practically have to go hiking. These lakes were mostly new to me and I wanted to scout them out for fly fishing trips. It was trivial to plan a route with minimal bushwhacking that would take me past all of them in an easy loop. The primary goal was Marjorie lake, one of the lakes in the Uintas that are planted with grayling. Never having caught one of these I plan to come up here and get in on the action. With so many lakes in this area it just made sense to explore the others and see if any of them would be worth visiting as well.

The first mile and a half or so is a stretch that I’ve hiked many times on my way to some of my favorite fishing lakes in the area. It’s an easy stretch with a moderate climb over the ridge between Haystack Mountain and Mt. Watson. I’ve come to find that the top of this saddle is also the start of the preferred route for summiting Mt. Watson. Now that I’ve begun to collect peaks this information is handy and filed away for future use.

With the climb in done, I began the descent toward Long Lake and hit the turnoff about a 1/4 mile in. From this point it was all new to me until connecting back to the Smith and Morehouse trail beyond Duck Lake.

Signage at the turnoff toward Marjorie Lake

At first the trail skirts a long narrow alpine meadow with a stream running through the middle of it. There was good amount of water still flowing here in mid November so I expect this is probably a good stream through the late spring and summer months. No fish to be seen at the time but seems plausible for inspection next season. A short 3 weight fly rod with a soft action could make for some really fun and challenging fishing in a place like this.

Alpine meadows

Maybe 1000 feet past these meadows there is another trail junction that doesn’t show up on any of my maps but makes sense that there’d be one. It takes you along the Northern side of the ridge between Marjorie Lake and Weir Lake and would be the normal route to access Weir, Pot, and Duck lakes. I continued on toward Marjorie Lake at this junction.

The trail begins to differ a lot from the other side of the loop in character when it turns South and heads through the woods. It has a much more foresty character than the deserty feel of the area around Long Lake. A lot more soil and a lot less rock. There is a significant amount of dead timber in these woods, too. I found myself thinking a lot about how easily this place could go up in flames during the height of the summer months. Clearly a place to be super careful with any campfires.

It’s a good trail too and makes for an easy hike. It took me only 30 minutes to reach Marjorie Lake from the point where this trail splits from the Smith and Morehouse trail. I scouted around the margins of the lake and it looks like there are a lot of good campsites here. There are signs of significant use as well.

Marjorie Lake

I scouted from the Eastern side along the Northern shore. I later discovered that this trail continues along the South shore and descends past the West end of the lake into the upper stretch of the N. Fork Provo River. You can literally hike all the way to SR 150. I’ve seen that trailhead from the road many times and thought about hiking it more than a few. Now I know where it leads.

But this time my route called for crossing the small ridge to the North and dropping down into Weir Lake. There’s no trail here but it’s a short easy climb followed by a bit of a scramble down into the lakes below. No problems here. After my boulder hopping expedition of the previous week this was like a paved sidewalk by comparison.

Weir Lake turned out to be a more interesting place than Marjorie. I saw a lot of fish here and really look forward to coming back.

Weir Lake

The trail picks up again on the Western shore. I assume that if you follow this Northeast that it will join the junction where I earlier turned toward Marjorie Lake. I followed it West past Pot Lake (I bet that this signage is stolen every time it’s replaced) and some smaller ponds until arriving at Duck Lake where I stopped for lunch. I’d seen this lake before from above while climbing into Island Lake. It’s not particularly nice and is clearly used very heavily based on the number of campsites present and trash left behind.

After a quick meal and coffee cooked over Esbit tablets in my Vargo Hexagon stove I packed up and headed back to the trail which connected me back to the familiar Smith and Morehouse trail just where it begins the climb up into Island Lake to the Northwest. I turned East here which heads back toward Long Lake and back the the Crystal Lake trailhead. This side of the loop is significantly higher than the other and follows a bench that overlooks Weir and Pot lakes. It was a nice review of the terrain that I’d just covered to look down on it from above.

All in all a very successful scouting mission and a very enjoyable hike. I hope to be able to take a few days this year to pack in and see if the fishing is as promising as it looks.

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