16.1 miles (loop)
day 1: 5 3/4 hours
day 2: 5 hours
940 ft. gain/loss
Grandview Trailhead (start): 9,700 ft.
Hades Pass: 10,640 ft.
Grandaddy Lake: 10,300 ft.
Governor Dern Lake: 9,980 ft.
The trails in Grandaddy Basin are extremely popular. Most
are well maintained and well marked with signs.
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 Duchesne Ranger
District, Ashley National Forest, at (801) 738-2482.
High Uintas Wilderness Area, between Heber and Duchesne
High Uintas Wilderness Area is a paradise for sport fishermen.
More than a thousand lakes lie within the boundaries of
the wilderness area, of which Utahs Department of
Wildlife Resources reports some 650 contain significant
populations of game fish. The 170-acre Grandaddy Lake
is one of the largest of the Uintas lakes, and also one
of the most popular. It is very scenic, easy to get to,
and generally well stocked with cutthroat and brook trout.
Unfortunately, there are
usually so many campers around Grandaddy Lake it is not
possible to enjoy a real wilderness experience there.
But there are many other less well visited lakes nearby.
There are over twenty lakes within a two-hour walk of
Grandaddy. The fishing is good in most of them, and excellent
campsites are easy to find.
There are also numerous
other trails in Grandaddy Basin, and many variations of
this hike are possible. The route outlined here is a loop
tour of nine of the better known lakes. The minimum recommended
time for the trip is two days, but one could easily spend
a week in the basin-especially if catching fish is on
the agenda. If you have more time to spare I suggest you
establish a camp at one of the lakes and explore the other
lakes on day trips.
From Grandview Trailhead
the trail climbs gently upward through the lodgepole pine
and Engelmann spruce forest for 2.2 miles before reaching
Hades Pass, the entryway into Grandaddy Basin. At 10,640
feet above sea level-940 feet above the trailhead-Hades
Pass is the highest point on the hike. The slope on either
side of the pass is so gradual, however, that you will
scarcely know you have reached the summit. Just beyond
the pass Heart Lake comes into view, nestled at the foot
of East Grandaddy Mountain, and soon afterward you will
reach Grandaddy Lake. Dont be discouraged at the
number of hikers you encounter between the trailhead and
Grandaddy Lake. On some summer weekends there may literally
be hundreds of hikers on this trail, but the great majority
of them never go beyond Grandaddy Lake, 3.4 miles from
On the northwestern side
of Grandaddy the trail splits, with the right fork going
to LaMarla Lake and beyond, and the left fork continuing
north into Grandaddy Basin. Bear to the left here and
continue northward along the eastern shore of Betsy Lake.
Then, after 0.4 mile you will reach another junction.
This is the beginning of the loop trail to Governor Dern
Lake. The direction in which you walk the loop doesnt
matter much, but for the sake of discussion I will assume
that you turn left here onto the Pine Island Lake Trail.
Notice the side trail going
to Mohawk Lake as the main trail leaves the north end
of Betsy Lake. Mohawk is a little larger than Betsy, but
still only about a third the size of Grandaddy. The spur
trail is only 0.4 mile long over level ground, and there
are some nice campsites near the lake. It is a good alternative
if you are looking for a secluded spot near Grandaddy
From Betsy Lake, the main
trail continues north for 1.1 miles to Fish Hatchery Lake.
The abundance of grass along the shore of Fish Hatchery
is a good indication of the reduced number of campers
here as compared to Betsy and Grandaddy. Just before you
reach Fish Hatchery you will also see another spur trail
leading to Farney Lake, 0.6 mile away. There are some
fine camping sites around Farney Lake, but unfortunately
it is too shallow for fish to survive the winter. Two
other small lakes, Sonny Lake and Marsell Lake can also
be reached by walking from Farney Lake through the timber
for about 20 minutes along a bearing slightly west of
magnetic south. The forest floor is quite level here and
quite open, so the lakes are easy to find. They are both
nestled against the north side of a low ridge that runs
east of West Grandaddy Mountain.
Back on the Pine Island
Loop Trail, the route next passes between Pine Island
Lake and Lily Pad Lake. Again, Lily Pad is too shallow
for good fishing, but this is not true of Pine Island
Lake. Pine Island (80 acres in area) is the second largest
lake in the basin and the fishing is good. Unfortunately,
Pine Island Lake is a favorite destination for groups
with pack horses, and the best camping area on the southern
end of the lake is littered with horse manure.
0.3 miles after leaving
Pine Island Lake you will come to the Palisade Lake Trail
that heads south to Palisade Lake and Brinton Meadows.
This trail offers a shorter return loop for those not
wishing to continue to Governor Dern Lake. Palisade Lake,
located 0.4 mile from the main trail is a very pretty
lake with some good camping sites.
1.4 miles farther north
from the junction with the Palisade Lake Trail is another
shortcut trail leading to Rainbow Lake. Dont even
consider taking this trail, because if you do you will
miss Governor Dern Lake, which in my opinion is the prettiest
of all the Grandaddy Basin Lakes. Governor Dern is much
more open than most of the other lakes, with fine views
of Mount Agassiz on the main ridge of the Uintas, 4 miles
further north. The lake is also completely surrounded
with grass and has many fine campsites. Unfortunately
Governor Dern Lake is rather shallow, and the fishing
is not as good as at Pine Island and some of the other
lakes in the vicinity.
There are a number of nice
day hikes in the vicinity of Governor Dern Lake if you
have the time to spend a few nights there. Pinto Lake
is only 0.4 mile north, and the Highline Trail is only
2.5 miles farther along the Pinto Lake Trail.
One particularly interesting
day hike from Governor Dern involves walking around a
loop, past Pinto Lake, Margo Lake, Pine Island Lake, and
back to Governor Dern Lake. A primitive trail leads to
Margo Lake from the north side of Pinto. After you reach
Margo, work your way around to the south side of the lake
and then walk cross country for about 0.4 mile along a
heading slightly east of magnetic south until you reach
the top of a wide saddle. Pine Island Lake is 0.2 mile
below the saddle on the south side. Once you reach Pine
Island, it is an easy walk around its eastern side back
to the Pine Island Lake Trail and on to Governor Dern
Lake. The total distance of this loop is 5.5 miles.
Another nice day hike from
Governor Dern Lake is along the trail to the Four Lakes
Basin. The trail leaves from Rainbow Lake, 0.8 miles south
of Governor Dern, and proceeds along a gentle uphill slope
for 2.5 miles to Jean Lake (10,753 ft.) and its three
companion lakes: Daynes, Dale, and Dean. Nestled against
the southern side of the Uintas ridge amidst scattered
stands of Engelmann spruce, these glacial lakes are very
picturesque. The fishing is also good and there are plenty
of good campsites in the basin, but it is difficult for
most people to get a good nights sleep at this altitude.
If you dont want to return the same way you can
go north another 1.2 miles to the Highline Trail, then
west to the Pinto Lake Trail, and south again, past Pinto
Lake, to Governor Dern Lake. Total distance: 8.7 miles.
When you leave Governor
Dern Lake you will be walking back to Grandaddy Lake via
Rainbow Lake, Lost Lake, and Brinton Meadows. Bear right
at the two major trail junctions near Rainbow Lake and
head due south on the Hades Trail towards Lost Lake. Just
before reaching Lost Lake you will notice another spur
trail leading to Powell Lake, about 0.6 mile away-another
possible side trip.
1.2 miles after passing
Lost Lake you will arrive at Brinton Meadows and the Palisade
Lake Trail junction. For twenty years the Forest Service
maintained a guard station at Brinton Meadows, but under
pressure from the Sierra Club they were forced to remove
the station in 1995. The law forbids permanent dwellings
within a designated wilderness area, so, although the
guard station was little more than a tent with a wooden
floor, it had to go. This is a shame because rangers staffing
the guard station during the summer months provided a
valuable service in cleaning up camp sites, monitoring
and controlling damage to the ecosystem, and providing
emergency assistance. Grandaddy Basin is so heavily impacted
by backpackers and pack horses that the absence of the
Brinton Meadows Guard Station will be sorely missed.
From Brinton Meadows it
is another 1.2 miles back to Betsy Lake, from where you
can retrace your steps past Grandaddy lake, over Hades
Pass, and back to your car at the Grandview Trailhead.
provided by David
Day of utahtrails.com. Click here to order his book
Favorite Hiking Trails.