Four Lakes Basin
At first glance, the 9-mile hike to Four Lakes Basin doesn’t look too difficult. The trail starts at 10,400 feet at Hayden Pass and ends at about 10,800 feet in Four Lakes Basin. What isn’t immediately apparent is that this trail has a lot of ups and downs in between. Elevation gain going one way is in excess of 1,400 feet with plenty of loose, rugged terrain to make it even more challenging. But for those willing to make the trek, the rewards are great – a beautiful high alpine basin filled with four large lakes and wide, open meadows.
This hike is best completed as a multi-day backpacking trip and is only recommended for adults in good physical condition.
The hike to Four Lakes Basin begins at the Highline Trailhead (40.722031,-110.864106) on Hayden Pass, about 3 miles north of Mirror Lake on Highway 150. This trailhead is best reached from Kamas, Utah but can also be accessed from Evanston, Wyoming.
Reaching the trailhead from Kamas, Utah:
- From Main Street in Kamas, drive east on Highway 150 for approximately 34.2 miles to the signed junction for the Highline Trailhead on the east side of the road.
- Turn right onto the gravel road and continue for 0.1 miles to the parking area.
There are vault toilets available at the trailhead.
NOTE: The Highline Trailhead is part of the Mirror Lake Recreation Fee Area. You must display a recreation pass in your vehicle to park at the trailhead. Purchase passes at any of the self-serve kiosks in the area, the Forest Service office, or from some local retailers.
The first 7 miles to Four Lakes Basin follows a section of the famous Uintas Highline Trail, which spans roughly 80 miles from this point to the east end of the Uintas at Leidy Peak. The trail gets plenty of traffic and is easy to follow but it is still quite rugged.
There are several trail junctions to destinations such as Mirror Lake, Scudder Lake and Wyman Lake within the first few miles. Stay on the main Highline Trail heading generally east at all of these junctions. After about 4 miles, the trail arrives at the signed junction for Naturalist Basin. From here traffic on the Highline Trail tends to decrease slightly due to the popularity of Naturalist Basin.
Continue east past the junction as the trail descends to the headwaters of the Duchesne River where a river crossing is required. There is no bridge in place but it usually isn’t very difficult to pick a route across on rocks. Use caution during high runoff.
Beyond the Duchesne River, the trail climbs steeply up loose, rocky trail as it gains nearly 600 feet of elevation before arriving at the signed junction for Four Lakes Basin at (40.682944,-110.77904), just under 7 miles from the trailhead. It might be easy to miss this junction so if you find yourself at Pigeon Milk Springs near the base of Rocky Sea Pass, just turn around and backtrack 100-150 yards until you locate the correct path.
After leaving the Highline Trail, continue south for about 0.6 miles to another signed junction; bear left following the sign toward Four Lakes Basin. The trail climbs to nearly 11,000’ before offering the first views of the Jean and Dean Lakes in upper Four Lakes Basin.
The main trail descends to the west end of Jean Lake before heading south toward Dale and Daynes Lakes. You can leave the trail at any time on a number of small social trails to begin exploring the basin. Jean and Dean Lakes, located near the top of the basin, are a bit more rugged but will offer a better chance at solitude. Dale and Daynes Lakes are located amongst large open meadows and grassy slopes, making them ideal for horses. There are campsites throughout the area and the scenery is fantastic no matter where you choose to stay. Please note that campfires are not allowed within a quarter mile of any lake within Four Lakes Basin.
There are great opportunities for further exploration in and around Four Lakes Basin. Cyclone Pass, just east of Dayne’s Lake, offers incredible views of the basin as well as the remote Rock Creek drainage to the east. The trail is extremely steep, requiring the use of hands at times, but is worth the effort. To locate the trail, hike east from Dayne’s Lake toward Cyclone Pass, the low point on the ridge. There are large boulder fields protecting access from all but the south side. Work your way up through grassy benches until you find cairns leading the way to the obvious trail up the pass.
If you plan to fish, all of the lakes in the basin offer good opportunities and there are several other lakes nearby if you decide you want to try your luck elsewhre. Allen Lake, located about a half mile south of Daynes Lake, is loaded with Arctic Grayling; an unusual fish found in only a handful of Uinta lakes.
Round trip distance from the Highline Trailhead to Four Lakes Basin and back is approximately 18 miles.
Rules and Regulations
- No campfires allowed with a quarter mile of all lakes within Four Lakes Basin.
- Do not camp within 200 feet of water sources or trails.
- Keep dogs under control at all times.
- No littering.
- Pack out trash.
Afternoon thunderstorms are common in the High Uintas. Much of this trail passes through open terrain that may be hazardous if lightning strikes. Seek shelter if a storm approaches.