Fish Lake Loop

excerpts from the book
Utah's Incredible Backcoutry Trails
by David Day

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Distance: 9.4 miles (loop)

Walking time: 6 1/2 hours

Elevations: 2,400 ft. gain/ loss
     Fish Lake Trailhead (start): 8,000 ft.
     Fish Lake:10,180 ft.
     ridge above Fish Lake: 10,400 ft.

Trail: The first part of the trail is well used and easy to follow. The return portion of the trail from Fish Lake back to the road is sometimes vague, but the route is so well defined that a good trail is not really necessary.

Season: Midsummer through mid-fall. The higher parts of the trail are usually covered with snow from mid-November until late June. For current conditions call the Kamas Ranger District, Wasatch-Cache National Forest, at (435) 783-4338.

Vicinity: 40 miles east of Heber, near Oakley

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     Fish Lake is a perfect example of why it is so imperative that we preserve the best of Utah’s wild lands while we still can. Cut off from the High Uintas Wilderness Area by the Mirror Lake Highway, Fish Lake is located just above the beautiful Weber River Drainage on the western end of the Uintas. Conservationists have long pleaded that this region should be given wilderness protection too, but it is probably too late now for Fish Lake to be included. There are currently active housing developments within four miles of the lake, and the pressure to use the area’s resources is unrelenting. Fish Lake is being used as a reservoir by the nearby inhabitants, and its shores are marred by the presence of dead trees, killed by fluctuating water levels. Also, ATV trails now climb the ridge east of the lake, and before too many more years they will almost certainly reach the lake itself.

     From the parking area the trail heads northeast through the aspen trees for 0.2 miles before reaching Dry Fork. In spite of the name, Dry Fork is seldom dry and must be forded (usually not a problem). The trail then climbs a few hundred feet above the north side of the creek for the next 1.3 miles, finally dropping back down to the stream in the middle of a small clearing for another crossing. Don’t be confused at this point by the presence of another primitive trail that continues along the north side of Dry Fork. The trail up to the lakes lies on the south side of the creek.
     After crossing Dry Fork, the trail leaves the water and begins a long slow ascent for the next 2.1 miles to Round Lake, the smallest of the three lakes you will pass on this hike. At 9,950 feet, Round Lake is 230 feet lower than Fish Lake and well below timberline. It is situated in a grassy meadow, surrounded by lodgepole pine and spruce, with a nice camping area on its northern shore.
     From Round Lake the trail climbs higher to Sand Lake (larger, but no grass around the sides), and finally, after 1.2 miles, to Fish Lake. Fish Lake is the source of the Dry Fork, and there is a small dam on its eastern side where the trail meets the lake. The flow through the dam is regulated to assure that there is always water running down the Dry Fork. The L-shaped lake is scenically situated at the base of a rocky ridge with one side of the L parallel to the ridge. The shores are also very rocky, but there are a few good camp sites on the northern side.
     The trail seems to end at the dam, but if you proceed along the northern shore to the western end of the lake you will see another obvious trail starting up the ridge in a westerly direction from the corner of the L. The trail climbs 200 feet to the top of the ridge and then follows the crest back towards the road. The upper part of the trail is not well used and may occasionally seem to disappear. But don’t be concerned if you have trouble following the trail. Just continue along the top of the ridge. Walking is very easy through the open forest, and as long as you stay on the ridge you can’t really get lost. After 3.0 miles you will come to a saddle where the trail drops off the ridge’s western side. Beyond the saddle the ridge heads abruptly upward to the top of a small peak. But the trail is very distinct as you approach the saddle, so you really don’t have to worry about missing the route down.
     The last 1.3 miles of trail, from the ridge to the road below, has been seriously degraded by ATVs driving up and down the mountain. The trail is occasionally completely obliterated by the ATV roads. About 0.5 miles before reaching the bottom you will encounter a steep, narrow gravel road which is part of the Alpine Acres Subdivision. Just follow this new road downhill until it reaches the main access road near the Weber River. When you reach the main road turn right and walk 0.3 miles back to your car.


The book includes more text, more photographs, and trail maps.

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If you are interested in a supplemental map of the Fish Lake area, we recommend:
High Uintas Wilderness (Trails Illustrated, map #711)

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