Overview

This moderately difficult hike passes by several beautiful lakes and offers more adventurous hikers the possibility to explore many lakes within a relatively short distance. This hike can be done as a long day hike or an overnight backpacking trip. Due to the significant elevation change crossing over Watson Pass this hike is best suited for hikers in good physical condition and children with some experience.

Trailhead

The hike to Island Lake begins at the Crystal Lake Trailhead (40.681798, -110.963266), just off of the Mirror Lake Highway, near Trial Lake. To reach the trailhead from Kamas, UT:

  1. Drive east on Highway 150 for approximately 25.0 miles to the signed turnoff for Trial Lake.
  2. The road passes by the Trial Lake and Washington Lake campgrounds before ending at the Crystal Lake Trailhead.

The road is paved for all but the last quarter mile, but most passenger vehicles can handle it without difficulty.

The Route

Begin hiking on the prominent trail at the northwest end of the parking area with signage for Long Lake. The trail starts out wide and flat as it traverses the east side of Crystal Lake. Soon the trail narrows and begins to climb. From here to the summit of Watson Pass the trail picks up more than 300 feet of elevation.

Beyond Watson Pass, the trail descends to the shore of Long Lake, about 2.0 miles from the trailhead. Long Lake has plentiful open shorelines that make it ideal for fly fishing or anyone who loves a good view.

Continue hiking as the trail crosses over the dam at the south end of Long Lake. For the next few miles, the trail travels through a mix of forest and alpine meadows before arriving at the final steep climb to Island Lake (40.683234, -111.017577), approximately 3.75 miles from the trailhead.

Once at Island Lake, a social trail circles the shoreline and offers access to an abundance of good campsites. There are plenty of fish in Island Lake but they can be a challenge to catch due to their unique diet of freshwater shrimp. Orange and pink flies that imitate this food source may be the ticket to catching them.

There are a handful of other lakes in the vicinity that are worthy of exploration. On your return hike, you can hike back the way you came, or for some variety, take the junction for Duck Lake and follow that trail past Pot Reservoir and Weir lake to where it reconnects with the main trail between Long Lake and Watson Pass. Total hiking distance for the out and back hike is approximately 7.5 miles.

Rules and Regulations

  • Keep dogs under control at all times.
  • No littering.
  • Pack out trash.

Special Considerations

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.

Credits

This trail guide is provided by Backcountry Post.