Unnamed Lake, East Basin
33.5 miles (loop)
5 3/4 hours
4 3/4 hours
6 1/4 hours
6 1/2 hours
4,320 ft. gain/loss
Lake Fork Trailhead
(start): 8,200 ft.
Atwine Lake: 10,160
Cleveland Pass: 11,200
Tworoose Pass: 10,660
The trails are generally well maintained and well marked
Midsummer to mid-fall. Because of the high elevations,
the trails are usually covered with snow from mid-November
until July. For current conditions call the Roosevelt
Ranger District, Ashley National Forest, at (801) 722-5018.
High Uintas Wilderness Area, near Duchesne
hike is perfect for fishing enthusiasts looking for an
extended trip into a high alpine wilderness area. The
trail passes by no fewer than nine good fishing lakes,
with short side trips leading to at least ten more. The
route circles Brown Duck Mountain (11,866 ft.), passing
through Brown Duck Basin, East Basin, and Squaw Basin,
and features many fine views of the mountains rocky
peaks and cold, clear lakes. Most of the lakes lie at
elevations of around 10,400 feet. The highest point is
at the top of Cleveland Pass where the trail climbs out
of East Basin and drops down into Squaw Basin. Cleveland
Lake, frozen most of the year, lies near the top of the
pass at an elevation of 11,172 feet.
Brown Duck Mountain is a
favorite destination for horseback riders, so if you are
put off by piles of horse manure along the trail and in
the meadows then this is not the best hike for you. The
most popular location for campers with pack animals is
East Basin (day 2), a lush, green area with gorgeous meadows
and a half dozen small lakes. It is not unusual to see
twenty or thirty horses and mules grazing in the meadows
beside the East Basin lakes. Fortunately there are other
off-trail places to camp in the basin that are just as
pretty, but without the livestock.
As explained earlier, the
easiest place to begin this hike is the lakeshore access
parking area adjacent to the Moon Lake Campground. From
there a small trail leads west along the side of the lake
for 0.2 mile to the Lake Fork Trail. Soon after you reach
the Lake Fork Trail you will see a small sign marking
the beginning of the Brown Duck Trail on the left.
If you are starting from
the official Lake Fork Trailhead, 0.8 miles down the road
from the campground, you will see another sign directing
you along an old jeep road that eventually meets the Brown
Duck Trail higher up the mountain. Dont take this
route. You will do better to follow the Lake Fork Trail
in a direction parallel to the road for 0.8 mile, then
turn left onto the Brown Duck Trail when you reach the
trail junction just described. The hike along the jeep
road is 0.2 mile further and the scenery is much less
The first 0.5 mile of the
Brown Duck Trail, from where it leaves the shore of Moon
Lake, is the steepest part of this entire hike. After
making two long switch backs and climbing about 400 feet
above the lake the trail settles down to a gradual incline
that will continue for most of the first day. Initially
the trail is immersed in a forest of lodgepole pine, but
as you gain elevation you will see the trees gradually
replaced with Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir, which
seem to do better above 10,000 feet.
After 1.0 mile the trail
merges with the old jeep road that originated at the Lake
Fork Trailhead and follows it for another 1.3 miles. Then,
almost immediately, the road ends and a foot trail begins.
If you are observant you will see the tell-tale signs
of mining activity above the end of the road-an indication
of what the road was originally built for. Thank goodness
the High Uintas is now a protected wilderness area, and
prospecting is no longer allowed.
Just beyond the end of the
jeep road the trail swings east to cross Slate Creek and
soon afterward crosses the official boundary of the High
Uintas Wilderness Area. From that point on the Brown Duck
Trail never strays far from the south shore of Brown Duck
About a half hour after
leaving the wilderness boundary you should see a trail
junction marked by a small wooden sign nailed to a tree
on the right. This is the beginning of the trail to Atwine
Lake and you must leave the Brown Duck Trail here. You
will have to cross the river at this point-the only place
on the entire hike where you must get your feet wet. Be
sure to find a good strong stick to help with the river
crossing. The current is often strong, but it is seldom
more than knee deep.
The Atwine Lake Trail is
not nearly as well frequented as the Brown Duck Trail;
consequently it may be difficult to follow in places.
Basically it heads uphill for a half mile until it reaches
the rocky base of Round Mountain, and then turns northwest
along more level terrain towards the lake. The trail passes
by the north side of two small meadows before reaching
the lake. Try not to make noise as you approach the meadows
and you may be lucky enough to see an elk, deer, or moose.
If there are any large grazing animals in the meadows
they will usually be found along the perimeter near the
edge of the forest.
The trail first reaches
Atwine Lake on its northeastern shore, which is also the
best place to make camp. If there are any other campers
at Atwine they will probably be on the west side, near
the better used trail to East Basin. Atwine is a large,
relatively undisturbed lake with heavy timber growing
right to the waters edge. The lake has never been
dammed and it appears to be in pristine condition. Furthermore,
since there are no good pastures around the lake it is
seldom used by campers with pack animals. Most visitors
to Brown Duck Basin prefer to make camp at the better
known Kidney, Island, Brown Duck, or Clements Lakes, but
Atwine Lake is by far the prettiest of the basins
five major lakes.
From the trail junction
on the northwest side of Atwine Lake continue northward
towards East Basin. After only a half hour you will come
to Clements Lake, a large lake about twice the size of
Atwine with an earthen dam across its eastern side. Clements
is a popular fishing lake, well stocked with cutthroat
and brook trout, but it is not a particularly scenic lake.
Like all dammed lakes its water level fluctuates with
the seasons and the shoreline is marred by dead trees
and mud flats. All of Brown Duck Basin eventually drains
into Moon Lake Reservoir, an important reservoir used
by the farmers of Duchesne County, and most of the Brown
Duck Basin lakes have been dammed in order to increase
the water storage capacity of Moon Lake. It is now illegal
to build dams in a designated wilderness area, but these
dams were built long before the 1984 creation of the High
Uintas Wilderness Area.
1.3 miles beyond Clements
Lake the trail climbs out of Brown Duck Basin, crosses
East Basin Pass (10,630 ft.), and drops down again into
the East Basin. The climb to the top of the pass is so
gradual you will scarcely know you are going uphill. As
you start down the other side, however, the trail gets
much steeper and more rocky. Then, when you break out
of the trees you will suddenly be confronted with a marvelous
view of fifty square miles of Uintas wilderness. Cleveland
Peak (12,584 ft.), the next days destination, is
clearly visible four miles to the northwest, and beyond
that is the long line of 12,000- and 13,000-foot peaks
that form the Uinta Crest.
From the bottom of East
Basin Pass it is an easy 3.4-mile walk to the center of
East Basin. Along the way you will pass by a small meadow
wedged between the trail and the steep rocky slopes of
Brown Duck Mountain. The last time I was on this trail
I saw a moose cow and her calf grazing in this meadow-they
must have felt a sense of security knowing that their
habitat was protected on at least one side by the mountain.
I am sure the young moose calf would have made a tasty
meal for a mountain lion.
Before starting up the slope
towards Cleveland Pass the trail passes by the east side
of an exceptionally pretty group of small lakes surrounded
by the lush green East Basin Meadows. This area is a fine
place to stop for the night, but unless you are very lucky
you will probably find the meadows filled with pack horses
and the best camp sites already occupied by their owners.
As mentioned earlier, the East Basin area is an extremely
popular destination among campers with pack animals.
If you crave solitude, dont
despair. Just 0.8 mile off the trail is a seldom visited
lake that may be the prettiest spot in the entire Brown
Duck Mountain loop. It is called Picture Lake, and it
is well named because it lies in a setting that is truly
picture perfect. The lake is surrounded by timber with
a small, wooded island in the center, and it lies just
below an 11,789 foot peak of Brown Duck Mountain. There
is usually snow on the mountain until late in the summer,
sometimes extending down the slopes almost to the water.
Best of all, horses cannot easily get to the lake, and
since it is not on the main trail you are likely to have
the lake all to yourself.
Although there is no path
leading to Picture Lake, it is only a twenty-minute walk
from the main trail. Just follow the drainage uphill from
the southwest side of the lower group of lakes. After
skirting around the last meadow and climbing 130 feet
you will cross a low ridge, just beyond which is the lake.
Picture Lake is about 150 yards wide by 500 yards long,
and it lies at an elevation of 10,731 feet. There are
a few small but pleasant campsites along its northern
shore. If you want to spend more time exploring the area
there is another lake of similar size and elevation called
Horseshoe Lake about 0.8 mile south of Picture Lake along
the base of Brown Duck Mountain. I have never visited
this lake, but it must also be very scenic. It lies directly
north of the highest peak on Brown Duck Mountain. On the
map it looks like an interesting cross-country hike would
be to walk south from Picture Lake to Horseshoe lake,
and then follow the drainage from the southern side of
the lake back to the East Basin Trail.
From East Basin Meadows
the trail climbs north for another 1.5 miles to the top
of Cleveland Pass , the highest point on the hike. There
is a small lake near the summit of the pass, but the most
notable point of interest is Cleveland Peak, just north
of the pass.
When you descend from Cleveland
Pass you will be following the Squaw Basin Trail which
follows Squaw Basin Creek down the west side of the mountain.
It is also possible to make another loop hike back to
Moon Lake by continuing north from Cleveland Pass on the
Ottoson Basin Trail. That trail eventually runs into the
Lake Fork Trail which follows Lake Fork River back to
Moon Lake. The hike described here is much more scenic,
though. Once you drop into Lake Fork Canyon there isnt
much to see except tall trees.
2.1 miles after leaving
Cleveland Pass you should see another sign where the Two
Ponds Trail joins Squaw Basin Trail. If you want to make
a side trip to Squaw Lake or do some exploring elsewhere
in Squaw Basin you should keep to the right at this point
and continue walking down the Squaw Basin Trail. Otherwise
turn left at the junction onto the Two Ponds Trail. The
Two Ponds Trail is basically a shortcut to the Brown Duck
Basin. It is a relatively new trail and is not shown on
most of the older maps, but it cuts about 2.2 miles off
the total distance to Brown Duck Basin.
The Two Ponds Trail is about
2.0 miles long, ending when it reaches the trail to Tworoose
Pass and Brown Duck Basin. Turn right when you reach the
junction and proceed towards the pass, 2.2 miles away.
Over the next 5.8 miles the Tworoose Pass Trail passes
by no fewer than 6 lakes, so this is a good time to start
thinking about where you plan to pitch camp for the night.
In my opinion the best choices for a small group of backpackers
are the first two lakes: Diamond and Rudolph. The short
spur trail to Diamond Lake is 0.6 miles from the Two Ponds
Trail junction. The trail is easy to see, but unfortunately
there is no sign marking it. Just proceed along the Tworoose
Pass Trail for about fifteen minutes and then start watching
the right side of the path closely for the trail junction.
The spur trail is about 0.3 mile long, and there are some
small campsites near the north end of the lake. The trail
to Rudolph Lake is 1.9 miles from the Two Ponds Trail
junction, or 0.2 mile before you reach the top of Tworoose
Pass. This short trail is marked by a small sign at the
junction, but it is easy to miss so keep your eyes open.
The trail to Rudolph Lake is 0.4 mile long.
From Rudolph Lake to Moon
Lake and the end of the hike is 10.6 miles, but it is
nearly all downhill and should be easy walking. Almost
the only part that is uphill is the 200-foot climb to
get from Rudolph Lake to the top of Tworoose Pass.
Beyond Tworoose Pass the
trail gradually descends into Brown Duck Basin, soon passing
by Tworoose Lake. Tworoose Lake is not easily visible
from the trail and there is no spur trail leading to it,
but it isnt difficult to reach. Just walk down the
trail from the top of the pass for 15 minutes, then turn
south and walk downhill through the woods for another
150 yards. From there you should be able to see Tworoose
The next lake the trail
passes is Kidney Lake, quickly followed by Island Lake
and Brown Duck Lake. All three of these lakes have been
dammed and made into reservoirs; hence they are not as
scenic as many of the other lakes on this hike. Like Clements
Lake, the fluctuating water levels have left their shores
marred with dead trees and lifeless, piles of bleached
white rocks. Nevertheless, the lakes are well stocked
with game fish and are very popular with campers. Leaving
Brown Duck Lake the trail follows the south side of Brown
Duck Creek for the last 6.4 miles before ending at Moon
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