The High Uinta Wilderness Area is an expansive piece of nature crisscrossed with adventurous hiking trails and filled with glittering lakes populated by beautiful trout. The most scenic part of it has to be the trail to Amethyst Lake. Given that the distance to the trailhead (at Christmas Meadows) is within two hours from Provo, Utah, you might expect to see more crowds. However, it’s likely that this short but steep hike keeps away many of the tenderfeet, saving this gem for the more intrepid hikers.
The first three miles are not difficult as the trail follows the edge of a picturesque meadow and then crosses a babbling stream several times before taking a left turn at the trail junction. This junction is the beginning point of the second half of the hike, and it will test the stamina of most hikers as the trail climbs nearly 2,000 feet over the final three and a half miles to Amethyst Lake. The trail makers must have been in a hurry here because the ascent has a challenging switchback. However, as you huff and puff your way up the trail, you are pleasantly rewarded with gorgeous views of the stream next to the trail, which cascades beside you into turbulent swirling pools.
Eventually, the trail levels off in a high alpine meadow and follows the course of the stream as it meanders along. Two and a half miles from the trail junction and after another short ascent, the trail leads to a nameless lake referred to on maps as B-24. If you are camping, pitch your tent here. At B-24, there are enough campsites for several groups, in addition to nearby natural springs for obtaining cool and refreshing drinking water (you should still filter the water) and seeing beautiful mountain vistas. Perhaps most importantly, campfires are allowed here but not farther up the trail at Amethyst Lake.
The last mile of the hike takes you on a short climb above B-24 and into an open, rock-strewn meadow where the chiseled mountains will draw your gaze upward to where they form a cirque around the far side of Amethyst Lake.
The trail ends at the shore of Amethyst Lake, and it is evident that nature’s forces have been at work here as the cliffs surrounding the lake are made up of piles of rock worn away from the high peaks above spark ling turquoise water.
If you like fishing, try your luck in Amethyst’s crystal-clear, blue green waters. At almost any time of the day, you should be able to hook into a few of the brook trout that inhabit the lake. If you want fish for dinner, carry a few back to camp as the trout near B-24 are far more cautious.
The hiking season is fleeting in the High Uintas (late June to early September), so before making your way back to civilization, make sure to take a long look at this stunning natural jewel.
Feature photo by Bill Abbott.