Gilbert Creek (Highline Trail Variation)

Gilbert Creek (Highline Trail Variation)

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 40.82350°N / 110.3396°W
Additional Information Route Type: Long backpack with scramble at the end
Additional Information Time Required: A few days
Additional Information Difficulty: Class 2+
Sign the Climber's Log


There are several driving routes to the trailhead, but this is the quickest. A good road map is needed. From Roosevelt, take State Highway 121 north. This is where the elbow in Highway 40 is, right downtown, so the turnoff is easy to locate. Stay on Highway 121 north, follow it as is makes a sharp turn at Neola and heads due east. The highway will reach a "T" and turn south. At the "T", turn left (north) to the town of Whiterocks. From Whiterocks, drive northwest along the paved road. Not long after passing the fish hatchery, will be another junction. Go straight (not left). The road heads north, then east, then north again. At the next intersection, go straight and to the Elkhorn Guard Station. Continue straigh on the Elkhorn Loop Road, up Pole Mountain, and to Forest Road 110 before heading to Pole Creek Lake. Don't take the Elkhorn Loop to Pole Creek Lake, but turn right onto Forest Road 110. If you reach Pole Creek Lake, you overshot the turnoff. Follow Forest Road 110 north for about four miles to the signed (for West Fork Whiterocks Trailhead) turnoff to the left. Instead of turning left, turn right and drive about eight miles to the trailhead below Chepeta Lake. Most of the Elkhorn Loop as well as Forest Road 110 is gravel, but usually in good condition for cars, provided you drive slowly.

 Gilbert Creek Route...First half of the route. Highline Trail variation is marked in Blue.

The Gilbert Creek Route...Second half of the route.

Route Description

Here is another variation/possibility of the Whiterocks/Gilbert Creek Route described here. See that route page for an introduction of the route. Both variations of the routes meet up at Fox Lake. This variation is two miles longer one way. Having hiked both trails to Fox Lake, I would say that both are equally scenic, but for different reasons. The Whiterocks Variation trail follows a creek for much of the distance and passes scenic Cleveland Lake and several meadows before climbing to Fox/Quent Pass. The trail stays below timberline until the base of the pass. The Highline Trail stays below timberline for the first few miles, but quickly climbs and stays above timberline until Brook Lake (just before Fox Lake). After Fox Lake, the entire rest of the route is the same. The best long distance views are from the Highline Trail, but the best meadow and lake scenery is from the Whiterocks Route. Take your pick. Both routes are very scenic and you can't go wrong.

From the trailhead, follow the well marked Highline Trail to the west. The trail is fairly well used and easy to follow. The trail follows the dam of Chepeta Lake and then heads west at a gentle grade to beautiful Sharlee Lake (not named on the topo maps, but some forest service maps label it). The trail continues west at a gentle grade passing to the south of Reader Lakes. Shortly after this the trail climbs above timberline and stays there until dropping down to Brook Lake. Continue along the Highline Trail while enjoying the good views. You will reach a junction with the trail down to Taylor Lake. This is about 4.5 miles from the trailhead. The lake is rather large and visible below. Keep right anc continue west along the Highline Trail. The trail climbs to a highpoint at just over 12,200 feet and is known as Pole Line Pass. The trail climbs steadily and is not very steep for a trail above timberline. Why the location is known as a pass is beyond me, because it isn't a low point between two ridges or peaks. It is simply the highest point the trail reaches on the side of a mountain. After Pole Line "Pass", the trail zig-zags at a steeper grade down the west side of the mountain. Brook Lake is at the base of the steep section and right at timberline. Fox Lake is another mile beyond and is 10 miles from the trailhead. Also at Fox Lake, there is a junction with the trail to Island and Hoop Lakes Trailhead on the North Slope (yet another variation of the route that is beyond the scope of this page). You will follow the Highline Trail all the way to Gilbert Creek (see below). Note: The remainder of the route is exactly the same as the Whiterocks Variation route: The route meets up with the The Whiterocks Variation at Fox Lake. Follow the Highline Trail west to Kidney Lakes. Always stay on the Highline Trail and avoid the side trails to Davis Lakes, Uinta River, etc. Along the way the trail will pass through huge and spectacular wildflower meadows, which are amoung the largest meadows I've ever seen. Kidney Lakes are in a nice setting and a great place to hang around. They have great fishing as well. The lakes are another 5 miles from Fox Lake. After Kidney Lakes, the Highline Trail becomes less used. The trail drops into the timberfor most of the way before reaching Gilbert Creek. This is where the Highline Trail once again begins a steep climb to Painter Basin and just before Milk Lake (not visible from the trail). You will leave the Highline Trail here. The trail along Gilbert Creek shown on some maps is long gone. Don't waste any time trying to follow the trail marked on the map. Follow Gilbert Creek up towards Gilbert Peak. The route is in timber at first, but varies between meadows and some marshy areas. The area is just gorgeous, especially after reaching timberline. From there its an alpine meadow. You will pass one lake before reaching "Gilbert Creek Lake" which is rather large and at 11,489 feet elevation. Both the creek and lake are full of fish, but it can be windy for camping here. Now after walking almost 20 miles, you are finally at the base of Gilbert Peak. There are several routes to the peak from the upper basin. One possibility heads due north from the lake and reaches the east ridge of Gilbert at a saddle. Another route climbs just to the right (east) of a prominent gully due south of the highest summit of Gilbert. Both route are steep with much boulder hopping, but the views compensate for the effort. Enjoy the summit. This route usually takes 4-5 days to complete, and this particular variation is 46 miles round trip.

Gilbert Peak (center) as seen...Gilbert Peak (center) as seen from Gilbert Creek.

Essential Gear

A good pair of boots is needed. Parts of the route along Gilbert Creek are rather marshy and wet in summer, so be prepared for that. Full camping gear is needed, and if you like trout, don't forget a fishing pole.


There are great campsites all over the area. The most popular campsites are Reader, Fox/Cresent Lakes, and Kidney Lakes, so if solitude is important, you many want to camp elsewhere. All these lakes are big enough however, that you can still find a secluded campsite, and there never too crowded. Gilbert Creek has some of the most secluded campsites anywhere.



Parents refers to a larger category under which an object falls. For example, theAconcagua mountain page has the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits' asparents and is a parent itself to many routes, photos, and Trip Reports.