Friday, July 28, 2017

Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas

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Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
Priord Lake sits high in the Uintas in Ashley National Forest at roughly 11,000 ft. The water is an incredible turquoise color, with the Prior Cirque, Priord Peak, and Yard Peak as a beautiful backdrop. The scenery here is unreal, however it takes some advanced navigation skills to get there. The trail has the three bad "Ms" - marshy, mucky, and moist. Horse and cow poops also lines the trail. The trail is also either very faint, or non-existent at times, therefore, this is not a good trail for beginner backpackers.

However, if you are willing to put in a little effort with route finding and a poor trail, the destination is totally worth it! I highly recommend downloading the Gaia GPS app. You can download maps ahead of time, track your route, create routes, etc all without needing internet or a signal. I had to keep looking at my app the last 4 miles of the trail, since the trail started to fade and it was getting dark. It's also a good idea to have a paper map of the Uintas or backup charger in case batteries run out on your phone. 

Backcountry camping follows the same rules for all the Uintas - no camping with 200 ft of any trail or lake, and no fires with 1/4 mile of any lake. Leave no Trace rules apply!

Use this map if driving from SLC. Once you turn off the Mirror Lake Highway, follow the brown signs for East Fork Bear River, where the TH is located. Small, passenger cars can make it but slowly. 

Distance: 10 miles one way to Priord Lake
Elevation gain: 1,900 ft
Time: 5-7 hours one way
Dog friendly? Yes, off leash
Kid friendly? 12+ for kids who have backpacking experience and can carry their own weight
Fees/Permits? There is no permit, but there is a $6 fee (good for 3 days) for accessing the Mirror Lake Highway and trails. You can purchase the pass at the ranger station in Kamas, UT, or any of the self-serve stations along the highway. If you have an annual National Park Pass or annual American Fork Canyon Pass you can use either to park free. 

Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
The dirt road ends in a loop by a restroom. 
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
The trail starts in the SE corner of the parking area.
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
When you get to the first trail split, stay straight. The Bear River Smith Fork will take you over Deadman Pass and eventually to the fun trailhead for Red Castle Lakes.
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
Cut through the small gated area.
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
The boardwalks only last for the first 3/4 mile or so.
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
You should pass by this old ranch cabin on the left. These old cabins could have also been for the lumberjacks. This basin was, and still is, a popular area for ranchers to herd sheep and cows. You can find a few remains of the old structures along the trail.
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
Passing by the cows.
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
Officially entering the High Uintas!

PS I'm loving my new Paria Outdoors Tri-Fold Carbon Cork Trekking Poles! Check out my gear review here.
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
You'll reach the trail split at about mile 4.5. Stay right for Priord Lake, and you'll cross the stream.
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
Crossing the stream. I was able to have good enough balance to get across the logs hiking in, but on the way out, I slipped and totally fell in the water! My pack was soaked. Be careful when crossing here - the logs are wet and it would have just been easier to cross the stream itself. All of the dogs needed help getting across because the current was pretty strong.
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
You'll cross the creek several times. At the second creek crossing I put my Tevas on and left them on for the last 4 miles. Since the trail got so mushy, my feet stayed wet almost the entire time. 
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
A section of "good" trail.
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
Since we started hiking later than we planned, we couldn't make it to Priord Lake the first night. We ended up hiking in the dark for about 45 minutes until we reached the Norice Lake area, and found a dry spot to set up camp around 10pm. We were only a mile away from Priord, but I was glad we didn't keep pushing because there was no way we'd be able to find the lake in the dark, since past Norice Lake there's no trail. I woke up to this awesome view though!
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
Continuing on the next morning, we only had to hike a mile to reach Priord Lake. Past this point there is no trail, and where you'll need to rely on your tracking app or device to get you there. 
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
Finally, we reached our destination!
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
Official sign.
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
I couldn't believe how turquoise this lake is!!! Definitely one of the prettiest lakes in the Uintas. The hard work to get there was totally worth it.
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
Since we had two nights at the lake, we explored the area and found these Elephants Head flowers. 
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
Hiking above Priord Lake, Yard Peak in the top left corner. Several people have asked me if I saw a trail going up and over that pass. No, there was no trail. However, if you are comfortable with steep, loose scree then you could make your own trail to get up there.
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
Hanging out in the hammock for some down time.
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
The Uintas are known for daily afternoon thunderstorms and cooler weather, so be prepared with rain gear and always bring a puffy and hat to stay warm. We all drank cup after cup of hot chocolate, since the temps were only in the 50s. It felt so refreshing!
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
We also did a little fishing. Mostly we caught these Tiger Trout, no bigger than 4-5 inches.Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
Yard Peak during alpenglow.
Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas
One of my favorite photos from the trip. I love the contrast of Charlie's gold coat with the turqoise water.

Trail map to Priord Lake, Uintas.


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Backpacking to Priord Lake, Uintas

3 comments:

  1. At first I had assumed those old cabin remains were from ranchers as well, but everything I've since looked up on those cabins says that they are "Tie Hack" cabins. Tie Hackers were people who cut down timber for railroad ties for the transcontinental railroad. Great pictures! I don't think we ever had to cross the river coming out of Allsop fork, so it looks/sounds like the trail up the Priord fork involves getting your feet even wetter. That turquoise color sure is pretty!

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    Replies
    1. Ahh that makes sense too for the old cabins! Thanks! -Alicia

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  2. Love seeing all the dogs with their packs. So cute:) Charlie doesn't look real excited about the High Unitas...haha! Love that photo of Charlie and the lake! Glad you didn't fall in on your way!

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