Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas

Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas

Hell Hole Lake (HHL) is located in the High Uintas Wilderness, and is a beautiful alpine lake surrounded by a bowl of mountains, including A-1 Peak and Kletting Peak. After a 3.5 mile walk along the road, the route follows the Main Fork Bear River Trail. The entire route is very gradual, only gaining 1,700 ft over 6.7 miles. The best time of year to hike/backpack this area is late Summer through Fall. This particular lake is part of a larger marsh, so the mosquitoes in summer are some of the worst in the entire Uintas range. Elk, coyotes, deer, and moose love this area as well because of this - plenty to eat and drink! Dogs are allowed off leash, but it is wise to always have a leash handy in case you come across wildlife.

There are two trailheads you can use to access HHL - the "short cut route" along Mirror Lake Highway (across from Gold Hill), which saves you 1 mile but requires crossing the river and a muddy, marsh. My friend has attempted this route twice and lost the trail both times. The route we took starts from the gated road, near Christmas Meadows, and we were okay to do a longer hike to avoid those things from the short cut.

From SLC head East on I-80 towards Park City. Take exit 146 for Hwy-40 south towards Heber. Take exit 4 towards Kamas. At the first light in Kamas, UT turn left, and at the next light turn Right, onto the Mirror Lake Hwy. Drive until you see the sign for Christmas Meadows, and turn right. Turn right again at the first brown sign that says "Road Gated 1".  Park at the gate. There are no restrooms at the TH. Keep in mind that the Mirror Lake Hwy charges a fee - 1-3 days is $6, 7 day pass is $12, or $45 for an annual pass. If you have an Annual National Parks Pass you get in free. Be sure to place your pass on your dashboard. Drive time from SLC is about 1:15-1:30. Here is a driving map. 

Distance: 6.7 miles to HHL
4 miles RT from the lake to A-1 Peak
Elevation gain:
 Hell Hole Lake 1,700 ft
A-1 Peak from HHL 2,000 ft
Time: 3-4 hours to HHL, 3-5 hours for A-1
Dog friendly? Yes off leash
Kid friendly? Yes, ages 12+ due to distance and gain
Fees/Permits? None

Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
Start by parking at the gate. This is where the road hike begins. Two hunters were ahead of us but branched off very quickly. Over the two days of opening rifle season we didn't see any other hikers, only a total of 10 hunters.
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
Yay, who doesn't love a good road hike ha!
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
At 2 miles you will see the short-cut trail junction come in from the right (west) side. 
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
At 3.5 miles you will reach the only bridge and see the trail branching off to the right (south). This is the halfway point, and a good spot for a snack/pee break.
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
The extra small trail sign. I didn't even see this until I was wandering around while the others took their pee break.
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
Finally on the actual trail! The first mile of the trail is pretty boring, but eventually the views get better. It's very rocky but the elevation gain is so gradual it feels flat. You will cross a few small streams.
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
You will hike through nice shaded sections, as well as very open areas.
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
Around the last 15 minutes of the hike, you will come to a giant meadow and have your first good look at A-1 Peak! The fire smoke was really bad though, so the views weren't the clearest.
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
Cross the meadow.
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
You will then reach the tiniest High Uintas sign I have ever seen. What's with all the small signs along this trail!?
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
Only a few minutes to go. There is only one steep section, right before the lake.
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
Made it! We saw one fisherman who warned us about hunters, and as we walked around the lake we ran into them. They asked where we were camping, so they knew where to stay clear of us. We said, "Well, that's what we are looking for right now. A good campsite." The pointed to some trees and told us about a site, so we picked that one. There are campsites around the whole lake, but the best are on the West and South sides of the lake.
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
Views from the South end of the lake, looking North.
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
I quickly found a good spot for my Six Moon Designs UL Lunar Solo tent. You can get 10% off your order from them using this link, and the code "GoWild19" at checkout!
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
Exploring around camp and the lake.
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
The low temperature was around 32-35F. My water filter had some ice in it, and I froze my butt off at night. I should have slept with more layers on, but I was afraid to get out of my sleeping bag and let all the heat out. So I just dealt with it, but I was ready for my hot tea in the morning! Charlie didn't shiver once, so I think he's getting used to the cold before me.
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
That morning, before we hiked back to the car, Amy and I hiked up to A-1 Peak. This peak has been on my to-do list for awhile. We just aimed for the saddle, but hiking up was so steep with loose rock. I hate scree, but we made it through safely.
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
Finally we got on the saddle. From camp, it took us 1 hour 15 minutes just to hike 1 mile!
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
Now, we just followed the ridge up.
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
From the ridge, looking back down to an unnamed lake.
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
Amy and Charlie lead the way. Slow and steady along these boulders to not get an injury.
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
Whew, are we almost there? This 1/2 mile was very slow going. At least the summit was in sight now.
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
What a cute picture! Charlie was really asking Amy if she had any water for him. 
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
Finally! Marked A-1 off the list. This is looking down to Kermsuh Lake and Hayden Peak to the right.
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
So proud of my baby! This is definitely not a hike for all dogs. Charlie is used to peak bagging in the Uintas with me, so his paws have toughened up. I carried 1.5 liters of water just for him, and 1 liter for me for this short hike.

Get 20% off entire order from Jack Wolfskin use the code "Alicia20" at checkout. I LOVE my Helium puffy jacket!
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
From A-1 looking more SW towards Bald Mountain and Reids Peak. I love seeing all the peaks I have done from up here!
Backpacking to Hell Hole Lake & A-1 Peak, High Uintas
We made our way back down the West ridge, and honestly neither route is easy nor "good". This side down from the saddle was all medium sized boulders, whereas the North saddle was the loose scree. The North side was steeper reaching the summit, and the West ridge was more mellow once you are on the saddle. Choose your poison! 

After we got down, we both said neither route up the saddles was fun or easy - just a scramble to reach the summit. I wanted also bag Kletting Peak, but we gave Ashley a time frame of when we would be back, and had already passed that by 1.5 hours. We were worried that she would be worried! So that's why we had to skip Kletting, otherwise I would definitely suggest doing both in a day form HHL. Plan on taking around 5-7 hours for both peaks. Hiking to just A-1 took us 3.5 hours RT from camp for 4 miles RT.


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Backpacking to Kermsuh Lake, High Uintas
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