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Ryder Lake – Uinta Mountains

North Eastern Utah, in between Kamas and Evanston.


Alpine Mountains, snow, rivers, fish, moose, deer, lakes, and many many mosquitos.


10.4 miles one way to Ryder Lake.

Parking Lot Elevation

8,775 ft

Summit Elevation

10,700 ft

Elevation Gain/Loss

1,925 ft

Time Required

5.5 - 7.5 hours one way.




$5-10 for a week

Water Info

Streams for Filtering.

Best Season

Late Summer to early Fall.

Sun Exposure

Moderate. At high elevation you sun burn quicker...

Trail Condition

Clear trail, with some muddy and rocky parts.


At Trailhead. Burry waste 6 in deep, 200ft from water.

Visitor Center

Kamas, or Bear River


Yes, groups of 14 or less.


No (but fish, and many edible plants)


Not a complete list of all I took.

Stoic Stash rain jacket
Stoic Hadron down pullover
Asolo TPS 520 boots
Leki Corklite Antishock trekking poles
REI / Columbia quick dry hiking pants
REI nylon spandex shirts
Smart wool hiking socks
Outdoor Research Halo Sombrero

Mountain Smith 100L backpack
REI Nitelite tent
Stoic 15º Sleeping bag
Thermorest (old and heavy design)
MSR Whisperlite International
Platypus Gravityworks Filter
MSR nonstick cookset

Ryder lake is a peaceful getaway in the Uinta Mountains. Due to the hike distance, and it being farther in than two other very pretty lakes, there are generally not too many people in the Ryder Basin. No, you will not be alone. But you should be able to find a nice camping spot out of sight and away from the noise of others.

GPS Coordinates:

Trailhead:  40.822496° -110.801114°
Ryder Lake:  40.726459° -110.825959°

Trail Map

Driving Directions

The Trail:

On the warm 2014 July 4th weekend, a group of us decided to head up to Ryder Lake. This was the first time in these mountains for one in our group. It was about time they experienced the Uintas.

The trail begins in a wide valley that runs along the marshy Christmas meadow. The stream screams to be fished. Sightings of black bears are common in the meadow, though I have not even come across tracks in my wanderings.

Taking to the trail.

Taking to the trail.

Fording the mud

Fording the mud

The trail is clear and pretty well maintained. There are many raised walkways to dodge the swamps and mud, but there are still numerous mud holes to cross.

The first two miles are flat and nice. Then the trail quickly enters a tight stretch just after you pass the Forest Service sign. The trail becomes very rocky. After another mile and a half or so, after passing Ostler creek on the left coming down from Amethyst and Ostler Lakes, the canyon opens back up into a nice valley.

Hiking up the Middle basin near the West Basin turn off.

Hiking up the Middle basin near the West Basin turn off.

At about 4/5ths of the way you come to the Stillwater Ford. The overheated and adventurous can remove their shoes and cross the river (creek).

Crossing Stillwater Fork.

Crossing Stillwater Fork.

The others can take the far more technical, but dry, log crossing.

The Alternate Crossing.

The Alternate Crossing.

The trail is a steady but gradual up hill climb until about 2 miles from the lake. Then there is a steep climb to the top of the basin shelf. You’ll notice once you are on top of this shelf, that the Middle Basin is just one shelf on top of another. This is a result of the way the glaciers carved out this valley.


Campfire fun.

Campfire fun.

We made camp far off the trail, on a ridge overlooking what I named Ryder Pond. You are not allowed to have fires within a quarter mile of Ryder Lake, so here we could. The view was spectacular. We were right below Agassiz. We never saw anyone else near our campsite. The fishing was very good. And of course, the mosquitos were terrible.

Chasing the fish in Ryder Pond, the lake just below Ryder.

Chasing the fish in Ryder Pond, the lake just below Ryder.

Enjoying the tranquility of Ryder Pond.

Enjoying the tranquility of Ryder Pond.

Ryder Pond Sunset.

Ryder Pond Sunset.

The next day we hiked around and fished and had a good time. We hiked around Ryder Pond and found some really cool hollow trees, and a small pond at the foot of Agassiz that was milky azure. Then we hiked up to Ryder Lake.

Taking a break on our hike around Ryder Lake.

Taking a break on our hike around Ryder Lake.

We climbed the next Glacial step up toward McPheters, which gave us an incredible view of Ryder Lake, the basin, and Mt Spread Eagle in the distance.

Ryder Lake from the cliffs on the North-west side.

Ryder Lake from the cliffs on the North-west side.

I love waterfalls so I followed the little McPheters runoff stream and was rewarded with many picturesque cascades. Plus, it is more entertaining than just following a trail.

Cascade from McPheters lake.

Cascade from McPheters lake.

Sunset over Mnt. Agassiz with Ryder Lake in the foreground.

Sunset over Mt. Agassiz with Ryder Lake in the foreground.

We did this as a three night trip. We drove up Thursday evening after work and hiked a few miles and camped. Friday we hiked the rest of the way and fished. Saturday we hiked around the lakes, though we never quite made it to McPheters. Sunday we hiked out and drove home. Done this way, the trip was relaxing and casual.

The stars at night , are big and bright...

The stars at night , are big and bright…

Oh, and we had incredible weather. It sprinkled on us only twice and very briefly.

The Return:

This Basin has options. You can obviously go back the way you came. Or you can go over Hayden Pass to the Highway. Read more below in the Optional Side Treks.

Optional Side Treks:

Hayden pass, an unofficial-but-now-somewhat-offical trail, shaves off 7 miles to Ryder lake. Access it from the Highline Trailhead and climb straight over the saddle between Hayden and Agassiz. WE HAVE NOT DONE THIS yet. I’ve talked to many who have, and they say it is not too bad without packs on. I have not talked to anyone who has done it with a backpack. The pass is loose scree and very unstable. So bring good ankle protecting boots, and trekking poles.

This pass allows you to make Ryder lake a through hike instead of a circuit. Hitch hiking is a possibility if you end at the Highline Trailhead, or Mirror Lake. These are the busiest areas of the High Uintas.

Spread Eagle Summit

For the adventurous, add a summit or two. Many years ago I summited Spread Eagle. It was challenging and fun.

I want to summit Agassiz and Hayden as well. Interested? Let me know.

Personal Thoughts:

I love this basin and will definitely be back. The hike is long but not bad, and the views and fishing are well worth the effort. This is strenuous enough that I would rate it as an intermediate friendly backpacking trip. If a beginner is in good shape, though, they will do fine. Someday I’ll have to tackle Hayden Pass.

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The Bottom Line

Difficulty is basically the length, duration and stress of the Trek. If the Trek is really long then it will receive a higher rating. If the Trek is short then it won't receive that high of a rating. However, difficulty rating also includes how tired we were at the end of the Trek.

Technicality is how strenuous the Trek is. If there is lots of bouldering or if there is bushwhacking involved then the rating will be higher. Technicality also includes if there are steep inclines or the need for ropes and other equipment.

Enjoyment is strictly how much fun we had doing the Trek. Regardless of how tired and exhausted we were, if we had a ton of fun doing the Trek then it will receive a higher rating.

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About The Author
A man of adventure and generally swell guy. He was born, and has been winging it since then.

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1 Comment on "Ryder Lake – Uinta Mountains"

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Thanks for the pictures and information. I have hiked over Hayden 3-4 times with a backpack. It is challenging and difficult with a pack, but if you are a strong hiker then no problems per say. HOWEVER, if you take anyone that isn’t either a good hiker or isnt very coordinated, then you will have problems. I took a youth group up over the pass several years ago. When we left our trucks it was blue sky. But because 2 of the boys were out of shape and not very coordinated, we were too slow getting over the pass and… Read more »