One of the best lakes to backpack to in the Uinta Mountains, this trail is 8.6 miles long, featuring just under 1,100 feet of elevation change. This is rated as a moderate hike, as there is a steep incline to reach Island Lake at the end. This trail is commonly used for hiking and backpacking, with many people taking advantage of the short distance to get into the backcountry. This trail features a few lakes, including Long Lake, and of course, Island Lake.
The hike starts at the ever-popular Crystal Lake trailhead. Rise in elevation as you walk around a rim trail of sorts around Crystal Lake. When you come to your first junction, continue towards the left trail heading to Island Lake, not Cliff Lake. After about 1.5 miles, you’ll reach Long Lake! This is a great place to take a short rest, and grab some photos before heading out again.
From here, hike about another mile to the next mile marker sign; you’ll take the trail towards Island Lake, not Duck Lake, although both are pretty. From here begins a small ascent to Island Lake. You’ll gain approximately 300 feet of elevation change in about 0.4 miles, and then reach your destination. Campsites are plentiful around the lake, and if you arrive early enough, you’ll have time to choose your spot and setup before a swim in the lake!
Need to Know
As always, parking at the trailhead is limited, and is often full. There is a fee to pay if you haven’t already: $6 per vehicle for 1 to 3 days in the Uintas, or a National Parks Pass. Display one or the other on your windshield before you begin your hike!
This hike is common with backpackers, and is a great beginner backpacking trip for first-timers, families with small kids, or someone wanting to spend an easy night in the backcountry. Always remember proper bear storage containers for food and other scented items. Fires are usually illegal in the backcountry, but always check before heading out.
This is a longer day hike, and it feels longer due to the starting and ending elevation. Always hike prepared with the essentials like water, snacks, a first aid kit, and extra layers!
If doing this as a day trip, set out as early as you can in order to beat the rush. It should take about 2.5 to 3 hours to reach this lake, depending on how frequently you stop for breaks and water. Once here, take a dip in the lake! Bring water sandals, or go barefoot. There’s a jumping rock on the far side of the lake, or the north end. Enjoy some relaxation by this lake, and head out before the backpackers start showing up.
If doing this as a backpacking trip, most backpackers from the night before will vacate their sites anytime from 7am to 12pm, with most opting for the later time. Arrive in the early afternoon so you have time to plan your campsite and eating area, and provide time for a short swim or fish at the lake. Take all the time you need to do whatever you want!
You can continue on towards Duck Lake, which is a mile from Island Lake, but remember, you’ll have to climb about 700 feet of elevation once you’re done at Duck Lake.
Take A Hike!
I say this about all the lakes in the Uintas, and this lake warrants it: it is beautiful! This might actually warrant a backpacking trip for me, should one of my friends that’s newer to backpacking want to go here.
Once you’ve completed Island Lake, check out Hoover Lake! You can also paddle board on Mirror Lake or Trial Lake. And, if it’s peak bagging you’re looking for, Bald Mountain is the most accessible peak in the Uintas!
If you do this hike, let me know! I love talking about all things lakes and hikes and the Uintas!
See ya on the next one!
Next blog: Let’s head over to the Highline Trail. Can you guess what lake I visited next?