Northeast Utah: Uinta Mountains South Slope.
Lakes, pine trees, gentle alpine mountains, people.
4.2 miles round trip.
2 - 5 hours round trip.
No potable. Plenty to filter, though!
Late summer, fall
Raspberries in early fall. Currants in later fall.
Osprey Volt 75
Alps 3 man tent
15° Black Stoic Sleeping Bag w/ stuff sack
Sea to Summit Green Pillow
Platypus Gravity Works
Exped UL 7
Marmot PreCip Jacket
Stoic Hadron hooded Down Pullover
Unlike the name of the lake, the trail is short. And easy. Well, at least as many backpacking trails go. This is a quick hike from the Crystal Lake Trailhead on the south slope of the Uinta Moutains. Due to that, it sees a lot of use even during the week. People zip up from Salt Lake City looking for a quick getaway, or to escape the summer heat. However, the lake is indeed quite long and offers many campsites all the way around it. It can handle the crowds decently, except for on the busiest holiday weekends.
With scouts, family, or solo you will enjoy the alpine atmosphere of Long Lake.
Trailhead: 40.681804º, -110.963264º
Overflow Parking: 40.674942º, -110.959948º
Lake: 40.684399º, -110.990476º
Park at the Crystal Lake Trailhead. Hike West out of the parking lot with the possible hoards of other people. Yes, the parking lot is often packed, and there can be a constant flow of people coming and going on the first part of the trail. This is easily the most popular trailhead in the Uintas. And sometimes you see very odd things.
But don’t be too alarmed. The trailhead serves several basins. You will hike around a third of a mile, gently up hill, when you come to a right branch marked with a sign. That branch leads to around 11 lakes. Plus or minus a few depending on how liberally you define a lake.
Just keep on going straight. The crowds will thin out noticeably.
The trail climbs modestly over the next mile. This is where you gain all your elevation. Adjust your shoulder straps and climb on. Near the high point there is a random sign nailed to a tree for Mount Watson. Keep your eye out for it; it is also a good photo spot for the mountain.
Steadily the trail drops down into the sprawling basin before you. This is the North Fork Provo River drainage. Long Lake is the one of the head waters of the Provo. The other, of the South Fork starts from Washington and Trial lakes which you left behind near the trailhead.
Around 1.7 miles in, the trail will start to have right branches that will lead through the trees to the north side of the lake.
Camping can be found along the main trail, with a few places on the left, and many on the right near the lake. There are many more sites around the lake, including our favorite (for small groups) on the backside near a small stream and waterfall.
The southwest side of the lake is bare and rocky. We have not found any good camping there.
Long lake receives heavy use, even when snow is on the ground. The crowds often drop lines in. As such I have been told the fishing is mediocre. I have only tried fishing there once and had no luck.
The streams around the lake can be far more rewarding. I’m a fly fisherman, so I prefer streams any way and I’ve caught a few small trout in the streams near Long Lake. But I’d repeat: this section of the basin is still only mediocre.
Head back the way you came. Or move on to one of the other lakes in the area. There is a loop trail you can do to Weir, Pot, and Duck, then loop back to Long.
Optional Side Treks:
Hey, since you’re in the area and this is such an easy hike in, you might want to visit some other places. A few that we will have treks for soon:
Three Divide Lakes. (We did this one by leaving Long lake (Day 01) and going around the backside of Watson to the three lakes (Day 02). Then Star Lake (Day 03). There are no trails around Watson or to Star, so bushwhacking is the name of the game.
While you may not find solitude at this lake, you will find beauty and fun. Even if you drive up after a long day in the office, this is a quick location to get to and well worth it.
One of my fond memories from this lake is sitting on the north shore late at night watching a dramatic thunderstorm roll across the lower Uintas in the distance. It was quite a show, and amazingly, didn’t result in any rain on us that night. While there were people camped around the lake, no fires were visible at that moment. As the lightning danced among the distant peaks, I felt alone in the raw wild. It was pretty nice for only having hiked two miles in.