Naturalist Basin - Uinta Mountains

Kamas, Utah

Uinta Mountains
Naturalist Basin
Highline Trail
Butterfly Lake
Morat Lakes
Blue Lake
Agassiz Peak

6.1 miles One Way
1,350 Feet Elevation Gain
I got to finally got to check Naturalist Basin and Agassiz Peak off my list, and better yet, it I got to do it with a group of good friends. Great conversation, laughs, informative safety meetings and lots of fresh delicious fish will always make this trip stand out as one of my favorites.

Naturalist Basin
is a multi-tiered wonderland of lakes and alpine scenery. Nestled between two 12,000+ foot peaks (Agassiz 12,428' and Spread Eagle 12,540'), in the western end of the main 100 mile Uinta spine, Naturalist Basin is one of the quicker routes to get into the wilderness experience of the Uinta Mountain Range.

Over the years, the area has become extremely popular, over-fishing, destructive camping and too many campfires have taken their toll on some of the purity in the area, but it remains an incredible treasure just the same. The Forest Service has now permanently banned campfires in Naturalist Basin, and has shut down many campsites, especially around the first meadow in Naturalist Basin.

The Uinta Mountains are special in that they run east-west. Behind the San Juan Mountains in Colorado, The Uintas boast the most area above treeline of any mountain range in the United States. They are also special in the fact that they are one solid unbroken mass of quartzite, the granite below remains unfractured. Most of the lakes, ponds and streams get their water from springs year round.

To get to the Naturalist Basin Trail Head, Take Uinta Highway 150, east of Kamas, Utah. Park on the east side of the road by Butterfly Lake Campground, after Bald Mountain Pass, and Mirror Lake.


The trail to Naturalist Basin starts with the famous Highline Trail which traverses the entire 100 Mile Uinta Mountain Range.

Print Map : Naturalist Basin Map

About half a mile into the hike, you will reach a intersection with a trail going right, which goes to Mirror Lake, continue forward towards Rocky Sea Pass and Naturalist Basin. At around 2 miles, you'll see a sign for Scudder Lake, or if you miss the sign you'll see the lake to your right through the trees.

At about 3 miles you'll reach the trail to Packard Lake, which turns right and is 1.5 miles one way to the lake. Continue forward, from here the trail starts to steepen a bit. Around 4 miles in you will reach the trail to Naturalist Basin which turns left or north. If you continue on the Highline Trail, you will reach another trail to Four Lakes Basin or you could continue to the Rocky Sea Pass or continue down the Highline Trail.

After turning up the Naturalist Basin trail, the grade steepens. After walking through the wooded forest for a mile, you will drop down into a beautiful meadow with tall cliffs in front, with a junction of running mountain streams.

From here you can go right (East) to Jordan Lake, or you can go left to the Morat Lakes and beyond to Blue Lake. We chose the Morat Lakes because it was a crowded weekend and Jordan is much easier to get to, and is usually crowded.

On your way to the Morat Lakes, you will reach a meadow with a small pond in the middle, make sure you follow the trail on the right or east side of the meadow.
This section is the steepest part of the trail, don't rush it, you'll be there soon enough.

Many camping areas were closed, so be prepared to hike a little to find a suitable camping spot. You can also go up to the Blue Lakes area, it's a little higher, but you should find more solitude.

The trail from Morat to Blue gets confusing near the top, but it's short, stay close to the stream (The waterfall is dried up this time of year). Once on top of this plateau, walk toward the base of Agassiz Peak to find Blue Lake.

Saturday and Sunday, September 1-2, 2007

We found this sign at about 5 miles into the trail.
It was at the turn off from the Highline Trail to Naturalist Basin.
You can tell from the broken glass, that this had probably angered a few Kamas locals.
It would have been useful information at the Butterfly trailhead.
I heard the reason was the wood was getting scarce in Naturalist Basin.

From around 3 miles into the west end of the Highline Trail
looking northeast toward Agassiz Peak.

From near the turnoff to Packard Lake,
Looking northeast toward Agassiz Peak 12,428', from the Highline Trail

Looking northeast toward the meadow at the entrance to Naturalist Basin.
To the left is the trail to the Morat Lakes and to the right is the trail to Jordan Lake.

From the ridge between Agassiz Peak and Spread Eagle Peak,
looking east over Naturalist Basin. Shaler Lake is visible below.

From the East Morat Lake looking southwest toward Agassiz Peak.
The tier above is home to Blue Lake, and is only a 10 minute jaunt from the Morat Lakes.

Looking west toward Peak 11,641' from East Morat Lake.

Looking northwest up to Agassiz Peak Summit, 12,428 feet above sea level.

From West Morat Lake looking southwest towards the base of Peak 11,641'

From West Morat Lake looking north. Agassiz Peak is visible above.
It was a very placid, reflective lake.
Can you see where the bank ends and the lake begins?

From Blue Lake looking towards the ridge between Agassiz and Spread Eagle.
The Peak in the middle is unnamed 11,647', and according to my calculations,
should give the best view of Naturalist Basin, too bad I didn't make it there.

From the southeast end of Blue Lake looking northwest toward Agassiz Peak.

Looking west over Blue Lake toward Peak 11,641' and Agassiz Peak 12,428'

From Blue Lake looking south.

Looking south over Blue Lake 10,940', with Peak 11,641 reflecting in it's calm waters.

Looking south over Blue Lake

Looking west towards Agassiz Peak, 1,500 feet above Blue Lake.
After climbing the peak the night before, I unwisely took the scree route down the middle.
The cliffbands 1/3 from the top were difficult and required both hands and a little climbing skill.
The rain didn't help things either.

Quartzite cliff edges on the north end of Blue Lake.
Looking west toward Agassiz Peak.

Agassiz Peak 12,428', a better view of the cliffbands.
The little white pointy rock on the right is the two pillars to which you must pass.

East Morat Lake and West Morat Lake.
Both sit on a intermediate level between Blue Lake and Jordan Lake.
The hike from these lakes up to Blue lake is only about 10 minutes.

Looking south over West Morat Lake,
with the West Grandaddy Mountains to the south.

West Morat Lake from atop the Blue Lake tier.

Looking south toward East Grandaddy Mountain 11,659' from the ridge up to Agassiz Peak.
At the base, in front of this mountain at 10,300', is one of the biggest lakes in the Uintas.
You could call it the grandaddy of the Uinta Lakes, because it's called Grandaddy Lake.
Grandaddy Lake covers over 170 acres.
Between Grandaddy Lake and Pinto Lake (4 miles north of Grandaddy)
are probably 15 large lakes and 100 small ones.

Looking down from Agassiz Peak toward Blue Lake in Naturalist Basin.
The Morat Lakes are visible on the right of Blue Lake.
On the left is LeConte Lake, you can barely see Jordan Lake

For Pictures of a hike to the summit of Agassiz Peak above Naturalist Basin:
Agassiz Peak Uinta Mountains

For a Map of Naturalist Basin:
Naturalist Basin Map

For Pictures of a hike to nearby Amethyst Lake:
Amethyst Lake Hike

Special thanks to Jason, Lorin, Matt, Joel, Kira, Denise and Marley.


All pictures and content
© Copyright 1999-2019 Dale Meier, unless otherwise credited. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use is prohibited.