Most of the Uinta Range is one uninterrupted belt of wilderness, stretching East to West for over a hundred miles. The Western flank of the range is more tame. It is bissected by roads here and there, few peaks pop above the treeline, and the mountains passes are deep and wide. It shouldn't be underestimated nonetheless. Hikers and campers disappear and die in these mountains every year.
Wall Lake (Scott Patterson's photo)
The heart of Western Uintas is 120,000-acre Mt Watson - Lakes Roadless Area
, sandwiched between Mirror Lake Highway and Weber River valley, crowned by nearly 12,000 ft-high (but easily accessible) Bald Mountain
The mountains here are made of slightly slanted layers of Precambrian sandstones. This layered cake geology results in hundreds of lakes and glades, and forested plateaus and benches, separated from each other by cliffy steps. More details about the Roadless Area can be found in Scott Patterson's book Western Uinta Backcountry Guide
, including routes to the summits, hiking trails to the many lakes, and fishing info. Send Scott a PM if you want to purchase the book - SP members can have it for 1/2 price, and w/o shipping cost.
To the North of Weber River, Windy Ridge still holds tremendous allure to backcountry skiers. But after avalanche fatalities
of recent years, private landowners of lower-elevation lands made public access to Windy Ridge a problem.
Iron Mine Mtn
To the South of Mirror Lake Highway, elevations gradually diminish towards Highway 35. Murdock Mountain (11,212)
is the highest point in this part of the range, although perhaps the most popular hikers' destination is an unconspicous hill named after Mr. Cardwell, which happens to be Wasatch County highpoint. Iron Mine Mountain and Soapstone Mountain are towering above Provo River further South - South-West.
Currant Ck Peak
Beyond Route 35 and towards US40 and Daniel's Pass, the mountains become a mishmash of public and private property, with rampant summer home development and noticeable ATV abuse, and only a handful of the tallest hills exceed 10,000 ft. Currant Creek Peak (10,554)
is the highest point here. Further SW over Strawberry Peak, the range joins with Southern Wasatch.
The prime use of the mountains these days is recreation. Mirror Lake Hwy (SR150) is a fee area
, and so is Daniels Summit area. Not being a wilderness, the area is still partitioned rather reasonably into motorized and non-motorized recreation sub-areas. Lakes are stocked with fish, using airdrops these days. Logging has pretty much ceased since the 1960s, and young pine forests sprang up in place of former clearcuts. There is hardly any useful minerals in the area, although a group of abandoned mines exists in South Fk Weber River drainage. The most precious commodity Western Uinta provides is probably water. Back in the beginning of the 20th century, Utah agricultural authorities, under the guidance of Mr. Cardwell (after fhom one of the lesser hills is named these days), sought to harness the water resources of these lakes and marshes, and dammed creeks here and there. Most of these irrigation projects lay in ruins now. In a followup to the Great Depression, Park City miners were employed to construct an ambitious irrigation tunnel from Duchesne River into Provo River, crossing under 10,000 ft ridges of Iron Mine Mountain. With some interruption for WWII, the project was finally completed in 1950s.
The regular hiking season in Western Uintas is July through September. It is very wet with residual snowbanks in May/June and sometimes through July, and the mosquitos abound in July - early August. Early season snowfalls are relatively common in September and October, but ski / snowshoe season doesn't begin in earnest until November, to last sometimes into May.
Mirror Lake Highway (SR150) is closed at Soapstone Turnoff
from November through Memorial Day, altough the gate may be left unlocked when the snow level is low, so one can drive at one's own risk.
Weber River Highway (SR213) is plowed for the public to the ranch gate at Smith and Morehouse turnoff
SR35 is plowed about to Pine Valley.
Route 169 (a.k.a. Lake Creek Road, off Center Street in Heber) is plowed to the 'bilers parking lot at the edge of Timber Lakes development
Your additions and comments are always appreciated
Western Uinta Avalanche Advisory