High Uintas Backpacking – Amethyst Basin

Amethyst Lake Wildflowers 2

Amethyst Basin in Utah’s High Uinta Wilderness is another popular destination for impressive mountain scenery. It’s a short 13.2 mile round-trip hike, so it can easily be done over a weekend or even as a day-hike. However, I recommend spending a night near Amethyst Lake since that will give you more time to explore and take photographs with good light. The hike starts at Christmas Meadows Trailhead. The gravel road is a little rough but certainly passable for passenger cars. The trail parallels the large open expanse of Christmas Meadows for several miles. Stillwater Creek runs through the middle and is popular with fly-fisherman. In addition, you’ll likely see moose out in the willows, so keep your eyes open! When you get to a fork in the trail, bear left. The trail climbs steeply from here up to Amethyst Meadows. Along the way, you’ll pass some small waterfalls.

Ostler Peak

Once you get to the meadow, you’ll get a dramatic view of Ostler Peak in the background. There are numerous water channels through the meadow where you can find reflections if the wind isn’t blowing too hard. There’s also a lot of fish in these channels and they’re fun to sneak up on. When we arrived at Amethyst Meadow, there was a cow moose grazing with her calf. Once she saw us, they retreated back into the woods.

Amethyst Meadow Pano

One of the water channels in the meadow makes a complete u-turn. The shot above is a pano of several vertical images to show the full expanse. It was difficult to properly expose the bright mountains against the darker foreground grass. We camped that evening near the meadow. The next morning we got up early and hiked the last mile up to Amethyst Lake. This lake is a true alpine gem, especially during the first week of August when all the wildflowers are blooming. There are a few campsites near the lake but better camping can be found down by the meadow. I liked the campsite below which was covered in wildflowers. Fortunately, people had good sense not to camp here while the flowers were blooming.

Wildflower Campsite

The best wildflower displays were found on the far end of the lake. I highly recommend walking around the lake and exploring. The shots below show some of the wildflower beauty we were treated to. The Indian Paintbrush were especially vibrant. I could also see lots of fish in this lake, so bring your fishing pole if you’re an angler.

Amethyst Lake Wildflowers 2

Amethyst Lake Wildflowers

We had a great time on this short jaunt into the High Uintas. This trip would make an excellent first outing for a beginning backpacker.

Amethyst Meadow

High Uintas Backpacking – Amethyst Basin