Contact info for more info and current conditions:
Duchesne/Roosevelt Ranger District (435) 738-2482
PO Box 981
85 West Main St. Duchesne, UT 84021
Heber/Kamas Ranger District (435) 783-4338
PO Box 68
50 East Center Street Kamas, UT 84036
Evanston/Mountain View Ranger District
(307) 789-3194/ (307) 782-6555
PO Box 1880
1565 Highway 150 South #A
Evanston, WY 82931
The Uinta Highline Trail is a beautiful and worthwhile adventure, however it's much more rugged and remote than trails like the John Muir Trail. Our cast and crew were composed of VERY experienced backpackers. We also did a substantial amount of research including contacting locals who knew the area. Even still, we had challenges that you should be aware of before attempting this journey.
Water is scarce the first 20 miles from the East (Starting at hwy 191).
We had information from a local about small springs just off the trail (see GPS tracks above). We also had backup plans to venture further off trail to East Park Reservoir and Oak Park Reservoir in case the springs were dry. The small springs worked out, however water quality was questionable due to local cow activity. Filtering is essential. Luckily, high quality water is plentiful on the remaining western 80 mile section of the trail.
Many points on the trail, there is no trail. You are hiking from rock cairn to rock cairn, or following blazes on the trees. We found ourselves lost several times, especially on the eastern section. So GPS, a map and compass are highly advised.
On the John Muir Trail, you climb as high as 14,505ft. On the Uinta Highline Trail, you peak at only 13,534ft. So its easier right? WRONG. We learned that the hard way. Trails like the JMT take you high, but you usually take a few days to get there, and you sleep below 9K ft. Most of the Highline Trail never drops below 10K ft. This had a profound effect on our group. 2 of our most experienced hikers experienced severe altitude sickness. Both had been at much higher elevations in the past. Be prepared, stay hydrated, take your time to acclimate to elevation by camping at the trailhead before you start. If you're sensitive to elevation, talk to your doctor before attempting this trail.
We had some close calls with lightning. On the Highline most of the trail is high, and sometimes very exposed. Even in late Aug, we had lighting most days. Plan to camp low whenever possible, and hit passes earlier in the day when storms are less likely.
On the Highline Trail, you will likely go several days at a time without seeing anyone. While the peaceful solitude is nice, it also means you're on your own if there's an emergency and bailout points are infrequent. There is virtually no cell service anywhere on the trail, so we HIGHLY recommend carrying a sat phone or GPS beacon device. Here's the one we used. But there's plenty of other options on the market.