Bald Mountain (11,942 ft) in the High Uintas Wilderness is one of my favorite peaks to summit. Not only is this peak one of the easiest to summit in the area, but it also offers grand views of the Mirror Lake Highway, surrounding lakes, several peaks, and on a clear day you can see Mt. Timpanogos. Along the Bald Mountain trail you may see mountain goats, pika, squirrels, and an abundance of wildflowers in early summer. As with any high altitude terrain, start this hike early in the day to beat the daily afternoon thunderstorms, the afternoon heat, and crowds.
This trail contains no obstacle, expect for left over snow that remains well into mid-July depending on snowpack from Winter. This can sometimes frustrate hikes, making then turn back. However, you can easily skirt around it, by dropping a little lower, then climbing back up the rocks (keep an eye out for cairns). When snow is not present, hikers of all abilities have have little problem with this route. Keep in mind that when you begin hiking you are already at 10,500 ft, so some people immediately feel elevation sickness. To prevent this, drink plenty of water, and again, start early to beat the heat. If you feel sick, take your time hiking up to the summit, but of course, listen to your body and if it’s saying to not continue, listen to that voice. I’ve dealt with my fair share of elevation sickness and it’s not fun!
Since Charlie and I were just down the road in Christmas Meadows after Backpacking to Amethyst Lake, we decided to head over to Bald Mountain on July 4th for a holiday summit! We had already hiked 6 miles that morning, what was another 4 miles?
From SLC drive East on I-80 through Parley’s Canyon and past Kimball Junction, UT. Take exit 146 for HWY 40, then take exit 4 towards Kamas, UT. At the first stop light, turn left. At the next stop light (at the Chevron), turn right, which will put you on the Mirror Lake Highway. Drive 29 miles until you reach Bald Mountain Pass, and look for the small dirt road to the left with a sign that says Bald Mountain Picnic area & Trailhead. There is one vault restroom.
Here is a driving map.
Distance: 3 miles RT
Elevation gain: 1,100 ft
Time: 2-4 hours
Dog friendly? Yes, off leash
Kid friendly? Yes
Fees/Permits? There is a $6 fee for a 3 day pass on the Mirror Lake Highway, which you must display in your windshield at all times. It’s FREE if you have the annual National Park Pass, American Fork Canyon pass, or Mirror Lake Highway pass. No permit is required to hike Bald Mountain.
The parking lot in summer is almost always full. Don’t let it make you think the trail is packed – this parking lot serves as the TH for several other lakes and as a shuttle lot for backpackers to drop a car on their multiday trips.
When you start, the trail immediately splits – right for Bald Mountain, left for the other lakes.
Work your way up the rocky trail, which starts gaining elevation right away.
As you work your way up, you can see the Mirror Lake Highway and Bald Mountain parking lot.
You will hike up three small switchbacks, then the trail aims straight. At this point you will still be hiking on the East side of the mountain.
This is the snow that usually remains well into Mid-July. Don’t let this prevent you from summiting! Simply walk to the left of it, and catch the lower trail that has formed over the years from people skirting around this section. Keep you eyes open for the cairn, that will lead you to turn right, and climb up the rocks so that you can get back on the main trail. I highly recommend that you do NOT walk over snowfields in summer – you can easily fall through, depending on how shallow the snow is. I’ve fallen through snowfields a few times and scraped my shins pretty bad, because underneath all that snow are sharp rocks. Be careful!
We found our cairn, and Charlie jumps up to the rocks to get back on the main trail.
Back on the main trail, it now cuts through low brush, but only for about 5 minutes.
Purple Phlox flowers dot the entire trail in early summer.
As you can see, there is zero shade and water on this trail. Even at a high elevation you can get easily sunburned – bring plenty of sunblock, a hat, and a minimum of 2 L of water with you.
The trail will wrap around to the east side of the mountain again. You will see what looks like a trail split here, but stay left. Going right just leads to an overlook.
Charlie squints his eyes in the summer sun, overlooking Mirror Lake, with Hayden Peak in the distance. Turn left (south) at this big cairn.
More squinty eyes as we work our way up the small boulder field along the trail.
As you get up higher in elevation, you will notice that is gets pretty windy. Even in summer I bring a long sleeve shirt with me on this hike – you never know how cold it can be at the summit from the wind.
Crossing the narrowest part of the trail. Almost to the summit!
Off to the left, you will have amazing views of Reids Peak.
The trail continues up what is normally large rock steps. However, because snow was lingering here, I didn’t feel safe hiking up it – Charlie seemed ok. I decided to skirt around this little section on the dry rocks.
After an hour, we reached the summit of Bald Mountain!
It seemed appropriate that this was my 4th time summiting Bald Mountain, on July 4th, 2016.
July 20, 2019
On the summit once again, looking down to Murdock Peak.
Looking to Hayden Peak, and Mirror Lake below.
My route via Gaia GPS – the best tracking app!
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