Hiking Ruth Lake in the High Uinta Mountains, Utah

December was a long month. I promised in my last blog that I’d continue with some new trails from the Uintas and here we are at last. As is the case with many people during the Christmas season, I lost track of time and focused on things other than my blog. Now, after a nearly 2-week break, I’m renewed, refreshed, and ready to start 2023! We’ll get into some quick beta in a second, but firstly, I’d like to talk about this trail! I’ve driven past it for a few years now and it’s been on my to-do list, so knocking it off was fun! As a gentle reminder, the mountains’ weather can change very drastically, especially in the summertime at elevation. The High Uintas are notorious for afternoon rain and thunderstorms, so always remember to pack a raincoat and a rain cover for your backpack. You’d probably want to be dry in the event of some unexpected rain!

Quick Beta

  • Mileage: 2.0
  • Elevation gain: 262 ft.
  • Highest Point: 10,368 ft.
  • Best time to visit: Late May through mid-September
  • Total hiking time: 1 hour
  • Kid-friendly: Yes.
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, must be on-leash
  • Bathroom at trailhead: Yes, vault toilet.
  • Gear I brought: 35-liter hiking backpack, map, compass, small knife, large knife, headlamp, Osprey 3.0 liter water reservoir, 0.6-liter water filter, snacks, raincoat, rain-fly for my backpack, extra long sleeve layer, hiking boots, pants, long-sleeve shirt, Canon EOS R camera.
A small pond before Ruth Lake gives a picture-perfect view of Hayden Peak.

The hike

This gentle, 2.0-mile hike rises slowly from the parking lot on a well-marked trail. It’s hard to lose it! As you rise on the trail, the area becomes more wide open as the trees start to thin out. After just under 0.8 miles, you’ll reach your destination! From there, hike about a half mile around the lake and enjoy the scenic views from the shore as well as a beautiful view of Hayden Peak from the west side of the lake (facing east). It quickly became one of my favorite views in all of the Uintas! Once you’ve completed the loop, hike another 0.8 miles back down the gentle trail to your car. This trail can easily be done in the early morning or late afternoon/evening as a way to see another lake in the Uintas!

You’ve reached Ruth Lake! Well done!
Downed logs are a staple of many Uintas lakes.

Need to Know

You are in bear country.

Remember to keep a clean trail and clean camp. Always pack it in, and pack it out. The Uintas are dotted with black bears, so sightings are possible. If you see a bear, make yourself large and shout! Gather any small children near you to help yourself appear bigger and to prevent a bear from isolating them. Take out your bear spray and prepare to use it if necessary.

Please adhere to the wildlife safety rules. Stay at least 25 yards away from moose, elk, deer, and other non-carnivorous animals. Stay away at least 100 yards away from bears, cougars, and other carnivorous animals. It’s for your safety and theirs!

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs about the Uintas, I’ve never seen a bear, nor signs of bears. Common signs of recent bear activity are feces and claw scratches on trees. Make sure you’re packing out what you’re packing in, keep a clean camp, and keep your eyes on the lookout! The bears are out there but are often skittish in nature.

Afternoon Thunderstorms frequent the Uintas. Be Prepared.

In high-elevation mountain areas like the Uintas, afternoon thunderstorms happen on a near-daily basis. Because of the unpredictability of the weather, and the fact that storm clouds can move in quickly. it’s imperative to always be prepared for changing conditions. Most new hiking backpacks will include a rainfly for your pack, and if not, many will have the option to purchase one for your backpack. Make sure you’re always carrying one, even if the weather is forecasted for sunny skies! A raincoat is always a good idea too, especially if you can see stormy clouds anywhere on the horizon. Winds change fast, and temperatures drop fast at 10,000 feet. Stay prepared!

This is a high-traffic trail.

The Uintas are highly trafficked by visitors, and as a result many shorter hikes, such as Ruth Lake, see high volumes of traffic. Parking is often limited, and many cars park across the street or curbside. When driving through this area, make sure to slow down when you see cars parked along the roads. People and animals may pop out unexpectedly!

Since this is a popular trail, arrive early in the morning or later in the evening for the best chances of seeing more views and wildlife and fewer people on the trail. Morning and evening is also the best time of day for anglers to be wandering the banks. Give them space!

Since this lake is only about 0.8 miles from the parking lot, bringing a kayak or an iSUP to this lake might give you a different perspective! Personally, I’d consider hiking in my iSUP as long as someone else was able to carry some water and food for me. It’s large enough to explore from the water!

Some of the views at this lake were unbelievable! Many lakes lack thick trees which makes way for beautiful views!
A few horses grazed near the west end of the lake.

Justin’s Suggestion

If you’ve got some spare time and need to rest up from a harder hike, this is a great trail to still get out and see something and save your lungs. The elevation is high, but the gain is very minimal, especially for a Uintas trail. As stated before, mornings and evenings are the best times to do this hike, but there are often parking spaces dotted throughout the day.

The main issue is this trail is near the end of the Mirror Lake Highway; it’s not something you’ll drive by every day you’re camping here, so you won’t be able to look at the parking lot and gauge whether or not you’ll want to hike it right then.

My suggestion is this: wait on this trail. There are far better trails in the Uintas that are more rewarding, offer more lakes, and have similar views. With that being said, this is one of the few lakes in the region that has a spectacular view of Hayden Peak and offers minimal elevation gain. It’s just short! There are some longer ones that loop together two, three, four, and even seven lakes together. For me, those are more worth my time, which is why Ruth Lake has been put off for so long. My friend John and I knew we would be limited by the incoming storm, so we opted for this 2-mile trail instead of our original 6-mile trail. That turned out to be a good idea, as on the way back, we got rained on!

It’s a great hike for families with young children, but for the college kids and the twenty-somethings, it’s one you might pass from until you’re out of lakes to hike.

Near the southwest part of the lake.
Green pastures dotted the lake, especially on the west side. It was beautiful!
Lilypads dotted the west shortline; Hayden Peak looms in the background in the shadow of the storm clouds.

Take A Hike!

If you’ve got the time, if you’ve hiked most other lakes in the Uintas or if you have small children, this is a great little lollipop to do! It’ll tire out your kids and offer some great views. The lake is one of the prettiest I’ve been to! If you’re looking for something a little harder, try out Notch Lake Loop (3-4 lakes, depending on your route), and Hoover Lake Loop (3 lakes). In my mind, those are more worth your time! Stay tuned for my Lofty Lakes Loop trail, and another lake that’s less than 2 miles. There’s more to come in the Uintas!

Parting shot:

I got a little artsy shot. I really love it!

Next blog: Wall Lake or Lofty Lakes Loop. Both are on the agenda – it’s more of, “Which will Justin want to write first? Find out on the next blog!”


6 thoughts on “Hiking Ruth Lake in the High Uinta Mountains, Utah

  1. Gorgeous shots all around! I think this hike would be perfect for my family, as we enjoy an easygoing kind of trail with rewarding views! I’m sure if I were to solo it, I’d tack on a few more lakes besides Ruth Lake. Thanks for sharing, and I’m looking forward to the next installment!

    Liked by 1 person

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