13.2 miles (round trip)
4 1/4 hours
1,950 ft. gain/loss
Trailhead: 8,790 ft.
Amethyst Lake: 10,740
Reasonably good trail most of the way, but very rocky
in places. Can also be muddy in spots, especially in the
early summer before all of the snow has melted. A compass
is useful for finding Ostler Lake.
Midsummer through mid-fall. The higher parts of the trail
are usually covered with snow until July. For current
conditions call the Evanston Ranger District, Wasatch-Cache
National Forest, at (801) 642-6662.
The High Uintas Wilderness Area, near Kamas and Evanston,
accessible from Salt Lake City, the hike to Amethyst Lake
and Basin is probably the most popular hike into the rugged,
north-slope drainages of the High Uintas. The Uinta Mountains
are bisected by a long, winding spine of Precambrian rock
that runs for about a hundred miles in an east-west direction
across northern Utah. The north and south facing slopes
of this ridge are punctuated by a dozen or so glacier-carved
valleys which end abruptly against the quartzite cliffs
of the central spine. It is in the back of one of these
glaciated valleys, the Stillwater Drainage, that Amethyst
Basin and Amethyst Lake, are located. There are several
other alpine lakes within the Stillwater Drainage, but
Amethyst Lake is the largest.
For the first two miles
the trail to Amethyst Lake meanders along the east side
of Christmas Meadows, a pleasant, open grassland surrounding
Stillwater Creek. This is a popular fishing area, and
there are usually a few fly fishermen along the creek.
The meadow is also favored by grazing animals, and it
is not uncommon to see deer and moose grazing nearby.
So many people visit Christmas Meadows now that in the
last 20 years the moose have become almost tame.
Shortly after leaving Christmas
Meadows you will encounter a forest service sign informing
you that you are entering the High Uintas Wilderness Area,
and five minutes later the trail forks. A smaller sign
has been nailed to a tree at the fork instructing hikers
that they should take the left fork, leading away from
Stillwater Creek, to reach Amethyst Lake.
Soon after leaving Stillwater
Creek the trail abruptly becomes much steeper, gaining
600 feet in the first half mile. The route is also very
rocky here, and hikers carrying a backpack should take
care not to twist an ankle. The monotony of the tiring
climb is broken by several picturesque cascades along
Ostler Creek only a few feet from the trail. After the
first half mile the grade decreases, and the trail settles
down to a more gradual but steady climb upward. Occasionally
the path breaks briefly out of the trees to give hikers
fine views of Ostler and LaMotte Peaks, which lie just
above the lake. Then, 2.5 miles after leaving Stillwater
Creek, the trail passes Amethyst Meadow, a picture-book
wetland with a stunning view of Ostler Peak on its south
Amethyst Meadow is an ideal
place to make camp, and I suggest you pitch your tent
here. Although the lake itself is only another mile up
the trail, it is much harder to find good camp sites at
Amethyst Lake. You are more apt to have a good nights
sleep at the meadow, which is 400 feet lower and better
protected than the lake. In consideration of others, however,
please pitch your tent at least a few hundred feet from
the trail and away from the water.
You will probably have a
little time left for some afternoon exploring after you
have selected a camp site and taken off your packs. I
suggest you save Amethyst Lake for the morning and check
out Ostler Lake. If you have your camera along you can
get a magnificent picture of Ostler Peak from across Ostler
Lake in the late afternoon sun.
At the edge of Amethyst
Meadow, just beyond the point where the trail crosses
Ostler Creek, you will see a sign that says Ostler
Lake, 1/2 mile. Unfortunately there is no reliable
trail to Ostler Lake, but it isnt too hard to find
if you have a compass. From the sign, head straight into
the woods along a compass bearing of about 240 degrees
(slightly south of magnetic west). After walking about
0.4 mile and gaining about 240 feet of elevation you will
cross a rocky ridge and be greeted by Ostler Lake. The
lake is roughly circular in shape, about 700 feet in diameter.
If you can arrange to be on the east shore of the lake
about an hour before the sun goes down, and if the wind
is calm, you will see an unforgettable reflected view
of Ostler Peak in the shaded water.
After breaking camp, you
will want to visit Amethyst Lake, the highlight of the
trip. Leave your packs in the meadow-the lake is only
30 minutes away, and you can pick them up on the way back
down. After the trail crosses Ostler Creek it continues
south for about 0.2 mile along the west side of a smaller
stream. Dont cross the stream until you arrive at
the unnamed lake from which the stream flows. This small
but scenic lake (400 feet in diameter) is also a good
place to camp if you prefer to spend the night next to
a lake. Upon reaching the unnamed lake the trail crosses
the stream and heads east into the basin. Amethyst Lake
is about 0.8 mile further. The trail may be hard to follow
in the early summer when snow covers parts of it, but
dont worry too much about staying on the trail.
Just proceed into the basin, keeping the talus slopes
of Mount Ostler on your right, and as the valley gets
narrower you will soon run into the lake. Amethyst Lake
lies in the extreme southern corner of Amethyst Basin,
at an elevation of 10,740 feet. The lake is quite large-850
feet across and a half mile long-and is enclosed on three
sides by the rocky slopes of the 12,000-feet-high Ostler-LaMotte
provided by David
Day of utahtrails.com. Click here to order his book
Favorite Hiking Trails.