Boondocking in the Uinta Mountains, Utah

On August 27, 2020, we left for a three-night stay somewhere in Utah’s Uinta Mountains. We had no reservations but were open to staying in a campground, returning to the last location where we camped, or trying something new. As we headed up the mountain, we realized we would arrive just before dark. We determined to try a new boondocking spot we had investigated during our last trip. We ended up staying right on the Hayden Fork of the Bear River at 40.806183, -110.874523. The view from our trailer was phenomenal, as pictured. The site was quite sloped towards the river, but some previous occupant had dug a hole for the left trailer wheels that brought us close to level. A few blocks under the right wheels, and we were all set.

We fished the Hayden Fork for a few hours on Friday and Saturday and caught some small trout. We also took our float tubes and kayaks to Butterfly Lake on Friday. At the lake, my son and I were completely schooled by our mother/wife. The fish were larger and more plentiful than on the little river. On Saturday we fished the Stillwater Fork of the Bear River where we had great luck last year. The three of us only caught one fish this time around. The Stillwater Fork was much lower, being a month later than last year’s visit.

While at this location, we checked out a few of the surrounding sites. Our favorites are at 40.805357, -110.875007, 40.804432, -110.875664, and 40.807726, -110.873388. All three are within walking distance of our campsite. Our favorite is the first of the three, and for a group of two or three trailers, we liked the last of the three.

This was a quick and relaxing trip. We slept in each day, fished, hiked, played board games, watched movies, and ate great food. It was the last of summer in the Uintas. The highs were in the mid 70’s and the lows in the high 30’s. While I don’t think it has yet frozen at this location, there were very few insects, and virtually no mosquitos. It was simply beautiful and relaxing.

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Boondocking in the Uinta Mountains, Utah

On Wednesday, July 22, 2020, we decided to get out of the valley heat and go camping for a few days in Utah’s high mountains. We determined to go to Washington Lake, believing there would be some walk-up sites available if we arrived early. We arrived at noon, and there were plenty of walk-up sites with nothing and no one in them but had reserved signs hung on their posts. Evidently, the camp hosts in this area routinely reserve these sites for people who drive up and pay for their site days in advance. I think this defeats the purpose of walk-up sites, but who can argue with camp hosts that believe they’re kings of their realms. We tried nearby Trial Lake Campground and Lost Creek Campground but found the same behavior – reserved walk-up sites. No worries, we went over the 10,000-foot summit and headed for Sulfur Campground. It had a few sites available, but just north of Sulfur are a few dirt roads that offer boondocking opportunities, so we went there.

This place was quite nice. It had a great view of a vast meadow, distant mountains, a huge forest, and had a few trees of its own that provided shade and a great place to hang the hammock. Obviously, it was much less crowded than the nearby campgrounds, and the price was right!

On this outing, we tried our new pop-up screen room. It literally took a minute to put up, and it was easily moved afterward. It does take a few more minutes to insert some stakes in case of wind, but in less than five minutes, you can have a shelter that protects you from the rain and the mosquitos. However, when the sun strikes the roof of this beast, it radiates inward and cooks you alive. You can choose to be a bit too warm, but protected from the mosquitos, or enjoy the cool mountain air and get eaten alive. Fortunately, on this trip, we enjoyed a nearly constant gentle breeze that kept the bugs away.

Just north of our camping site on Highway 150, there are a couple of more dirt roads that offer excellent camping opportunities. These locations are closer to the river than we were camped, and we’d like to return and give them a try. Near one of the campsites, we discovered this beautiful beaver pond complete with a lodge. We use to enjoy fishing these ponds and would like to come back and give it a try.

We traveled a short distance south to Moosehorn Lake, where my son, wife, and I fished for a couple of hours. We’ve never had much luck fishing this lake, but it looked inviting. The campground associated with Moosehorn is nice but better suited for tent campers or very small RVs. The lake is quite small; I fished its length several times from my float tube.

The last couple of nights of our five-night adventure were shared with our daughter, her husband, and their beautiful children. We had fun playing with their children, playing board games, shooting BB guns, starting fires, etc. One of the best features of boondocking is no campground rules. There are no quiet hours, no occupancy limitations, no vehicle limitations, etc. Obviously, it is essential to be polite to others, but there is generally so much space between campers, nothing you do bothers others, it’s great.

As always, being in the mountains makes me appreciate life more. Being home makes me look forward to the next time I can go camping in the mountains.

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Cherry Campground, Utah

On June 19, 2020, we traveled a very short distance to Cherry Campground near Springville, Utah. We occupied site 5 and enjoyed it for Friday and Saturday night, and most of Sunday. We were accompanied by our daughter, son-in-law, and their three young, and fun, boys. They occupied site 3, a double site, that gave their family plenty of room to play and enjoy the stream. It was a beautiful place to spend Father’s Day.

Hobble Creek, is very small at this point in the canyon. It’s perfect for children to wade, build dams, and even fish. My wife caught a few small fish, but due to the shallow water, the fish were very skittish and require a stealthy approach. Sites 3 and 7 have a nice beach sort of entry into the creek. The other sites along the creek are a bit more abrupt. Surprisingly, there were very few mosquitos or other insects. We set up a netted table covering expecting mass amounts of bugs this time of year and this close to a slow-moving stream, but it was entirely unnecessary.

We spent most of our time in site 3 with our family. Our site, site 5, fit our trailer nicely but was awkwardly close to site 6 with little underbrush or trees between the sites. Each time we walked out of our trailer, it felt like we were stepping into the neighbor’s camp.

If you’re looking to camp with others, the two best neighboring sites are sites 3 and 4. Site 3 has plenty of space for tents, games, or socializing and site 4 is a short distance away. If however, you’re looking for a single site, site 7 is a gem. Site 7 is the last site on the creek and there are no campsites to the west or on the door side of most RVs, just woods and the creek.

This is a very nice campground for being 15 minutes from a city. On the weekends the road is busy, but tolerable. We look forward to returning.

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Riverside Campground, Idaho

On June 10, 2020, we traveled to one of our favorite campgrounds, Riverside in Idaho. This was our first outing of 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we haven’t dared to leave the house and go camping. In addition, my new job has taken a lot of my attention and time. We’ve been to Riverside Campground many times. On this trip, we had reservations for site A3. It isn’t our favorite site, but at the time of our reservation, it was about the only site left. It was perfectly adequate, and we would stay in it again. It is such a lovely place and the weather was great. It was a bit windy at times, but while that impeded the fly fishing it also swept away the mosquitos.

Site A3 is across the campground road from the Henry’s Fork River, but there isn’t a campsite across or near A3 to block the beautiful views. The site has plenty of room and is very private. In this campground, loop A, and B are paved while loop C has gravel roads and parking spots. Loop C is a bit more primitive and that’s intriguing, but the forest is a bit thinner resulting in less privacy between sites. Just writing about the place makes me want to return.

On the first night of our stay, we got in quite late, having dealt with a flat tire on our trailer, and were invited to dinner at the cabin of our dear friends. We leveled the trailer in record time and joined them for dinner. That was a beautiful gesture and made our evening very nice. Having been isolated since mid-March, due to COVID-19, we ate, laughed, and talked until after midnight. On Saturday night we had dinner with the same couple at the Trout Hunter Lodge. The Trout Hunter entrees weren’t great, but the appetizers and desserts were very good.

While at Riverside we spent a little time each day fishing. The fishing wasn’t great, but we had fun and enjoyed passing time doing something we love to do together. All of us caught at least one fish. Due to the wind each day we didn’t make it to Henry’s Lake, but we’ll get that another day.

On June 14th the forecast was for 20 mph winds on our drive home. To get out before the wind we arose at 5 am and pulled out at 6:15. The wind was already blowing at 15 mph, but we were just ahead of the stronger winds. We dumped the trailer and arrived home at about noon. I can’t wait for our next journey.

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Indian Creek Campground, Utah

On August 30th, 2019, we gathered for a large family reunion at the Indian Creek Campground in Utah. This campground consists of seven large group sites. There is water, pit toilets, a tiny stream, quite a bit of shade from Aspen and other trees, a large fire pit, a couple of large tables, and a large dutch oven table. There are a lot of decent tent spots and ample parking for several RVs. The high altitude setting makes this campground reasonably comfortable even in the summer. During our stay, it was warm in the sun, nice in the shade and chilly in the evenings.

It is eleven miles of dirt road to get into this campground from either the north or the south. The road from the north is pretty good but so narrow in a few spots that one of our party had their trailer hit someone else’s trailer going on the road in the opposite direction. It took a lot of effort to get them by one another. Perhaps the road from the south is wider, but we don’t know.

During the weekend family members rode 4-wheelers, side-by-sides, and went fishing at nearby Potters Ponds. In addition, we participated in board games and outside tournaments. I spent a couple of late nights capturing starlight through my telescope that resulted in an image of the Western Veil Nebula.

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Riverside Campground, Idaho

On August 14th, immediately after work, we traveled to one of our favorite campgrounds, Riverside in Idaho. We’ve been here several times, but this time was unusual. First, for the first time, we didn’t have work at Brigham Young University – Idaho. Second, we stayed in site number two that we’ve wanted to try for some time. Finally, we camped with three couples we consider to be great friends.

On one of the days, my wife and I escaped upstream to do a little fishing. The Henry’s Fork River always produces some fish and captures you with the hope for the occasional big one. On this particular day, we caught a few, and while no huge fish were landed, I caught a decent one early on. These early catches sustain you on the river for quite some time, but eventually, we gave it up and returned to our friends.

On Thursday, August 15th, we planned a potluck sort of dinner. I had volunteered to acquire and cook ribs for everyone, so I brought our Traeger smoker along. The ribs cooked for roughly six hours and I thought they turned out fantastic. Regardless of the quality of the ribs, the cooking location couldn’t be beaten, outdoors with a great view of the Henry’s Fork River. I want to acquire a more portable smoker and do this more often. During the cook, I used up my 33 Ah battery, then my 20 Ah battery, and finally connected the inverter to our trailer. Our solar panels kept the trailer batteries fully charged while smoking.

On Friday, many of us floated down the river downstream from Big Springs to the bridge over the highway. After arriving at the bridge, several of us stayed to eat Mexican food. The next day several of us floated down the Henry’s Fork River from the Osborne Bridge to Riverside Campground. Both floats were rather slow, but fortunately, we were in kayaks and paddling sped us along. The very last stretch of the second float was faster and a lot of fun.

On August 18th, most of us returned home. The weekend with friends was terrific. I hope we’re able to go camping together again soon. I love camping, and it is even better with friends and family!

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Washington Lake Campground, Utah

July 2019 Trailer Trip

On July 31st, 2019, we traveled from Porcupine Campground in Idaho, through Evanston, Wyoming, where we acquired supplies and arrived at Washington Lake Campground in Utah. Our family has been camping, backpacking, fishing, and even snowmobiling in the Uinta Mountains for more than 30 years, making it a fitting place to end our journey. If this wasn’t enough to draw us to this picturesque lake, we had our oldest son and his family joining us in their RV a few days later.

We arrived at Washington Lake at about 6 pm and found site 40 available. It’s right near the entrance to the campground and away from the lake. While we first thought it wasn’t great, we learned to like being away from others and out of the pedestrian traffic to and from the lake.

After being in this site a few days, we decided that while I had to go back to work on August 5th, my wife and young son would remain for the remainder of the week. I would rejoin them on the weekend of August 9th. In my absence, our daughter and her three sons joined my wife and stayed in our trailer. When I returned on the 9th, Washington Lake Campground was host to my wife and me, two of our sons, one daughter, a daughter-in-law, five grandchildren, and a friend of my youngest son. It was a great 11 nights of camping. Washington Lake Campground has a 7-day limit, so we had to leave the camp and return. While gone, we dumped the trailer and acquired freshwater. We, fortunately, retained site 40.

On August 1st, we were outside looking at the stars about 10:30 pm when I noticed an unusually bright and new star in the Big Dipper. Then I realized this star wasn’t a star at all, but a satellite. Looking up likely candidates in an astronomy application on my phone indicated that it was the International Space Station. It was amazingly bright.

The Uinta Mountains contain many lakes and streams, and decent fishing in most of them. On August 2nd, my wife and I and our youngest son fished the stream that flows out of Christmas Meadows on the north side of the Uinta Mountains. It was the first time our 13-year-old put together his nymphing rod, tied the line, and chose a nymph to use. We walked down to the river together, and I asked him to pick a fishy spot. He identified a slow run of water near a fast-moving piece of water and indicated he would fish it. It looked like an excellent seem and a sweet hole. On his first cast, he pulled out a beautiful fish and the largest I had seen in this river. He walked downstream a few dozen feet and after just a few more casts caught a 23-inch brown trout, the catch of the century on this little stream. I think he’s hooked!

While at Washington Lake, we enjoyed walks with our children, grandchildren, and of course, our favorite dog, Leo. Leo loves the water and goes nuts when someone catches a fish. He loves to wade and swim and doesn’t mind looking like a wet rat.

The grandchildren inevitably find a way into the water. Whether it is intentional or unintentional is sometimes hard to tell. On at least one occasion, I witnessed a young grandchild playing blissfully near the water’s edge when an older sibling snuck up behind them and, while parents were distracted, gave them just enough of a push to plunge them into the lake. Grandpa doesn’t tell!

On August 11th, 2019, our 31-night journey through three states came to an end. We hauled the trailer home and began to adjust to home life. It was hot, there were lots of errands to run, and work was relentless. It took us no time at all to wish we were back in the mountains. We’ll have more camping trips in 2019, but the big one is over until next year.

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Riverside Campground, Idaho

On July 21, 2018 we returned to the Riverside Campground in Island Park, Idaho. This is the campground we visited just last month. For this visit my wife and I were alone and chose to stay in site A-5, but had to stay in B-11 for the first evening. Both are pull-through sites, but A-5 is right next to the Henry’s Fork River; it’s a beautiful site. We stayed here for eight nights and returned home July 29, 2018.

This trip was pure vacation with lots of fishing. In fact, we fished every day except Sundays when we attended Church. We fished the Henry’s Fork below the campground, just above the campground, and in Box Canyon.We also enjoyed a day on the Eagle Ridge Ranch fishing their small lake. We’ve had great luck on the lake in October, but the fishing in July was rather slow.

Best Sites

For our best site selection for this campground, see our previous post about Riverside Campground. In short, site 21 is the best and never available.

We keep coming back to this campground because it is spacious, quiet, well maintained, has water, and easy access to the river. It’s a great place. We have driven through every other campground between Riverside and Island Park and are happy returning here.

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Trial Lake, Utah

From July 13th to July 20th, 2018 we camped at Trail Lake Campground in the Uinta mountains of Utah. After a winter seeing little snowfall, the lake was quite low. I’d guess the water was 20′ lower than normal. With the gentle slope of the shore near the campground that resulted in the lake being an extra 100′ or more from the campsites.

The campground is at 9800 feet of elevation and has forested and open meadow sites.  We stayed in site 59 which is a pull-through site near the beginning of the campground. The pull-through site was protected from the campground road by several large pine trees and provided ample shade. There were also trees throughout the site making it beautiful and easy to find shade from the afternoon sun. The site also had a nice view of the lake.

The site did not have many good tent spots. There was a small site near the table suitable for a four man tent. Large tents must be placed closer to the lake in the meadow area, but these sites are a bit sloped.

We were worried about two issues getting into Trial Lake with our truck and trailer. The first was the spillway you must cross to get into the campground. There is no water in the spillway, but it is a significant dip and I was a bit worried about bottoming out. We have a 27 foot trailer with about a 3 foot tongue for a total length of about 30′. We had no difficulty with the spillway and had likely a foot to spare before we would have rubbed the hitch or bumper.

The second obstacle was the tight turn near the end of the campground on the main loop. However, taking the turn wide and slow made it easy. I don’t think I would take a trailer the size of ours in the other two loops of the campground, but the main loop is not a problem.

While at Trail Lake we were joined by our daughter and her family. In addition, we had a friend of our son stay with us for several days. The nine of us were also joined for one day by two other sons and two of one son’s children. It was a bit tricky keeping track of who was there and who was coming and going, but it also made it really fun. One of our grandsons caught a fish which repeatedly “slapped him”. He loved telling everyone that he was slapped by a fish.

One night it was beautifully clear until about 11pm when we put out the fire and prepared for bed. We noticed lightening on the horizon and prepared our camp for a thunderstorm and associated wind and rain. The lightning got closer and closer, then we could hear the wind coming through the trees, and finally the rain began. For a couple of hours we enjoyed watching the storm come, linger, and then pass.

Other evenings began with spectacular sunsets over the lake. The clouds were thin and the sun shined through them just before setting. What a beautiful sight from a float tube while fishing.

With our new batch of guests we again hiked to Ruth Lake. It was fun to watch the little kids have fun in and near the water. Our dog jumped right in and swam out to his owner, our son, and his friend. That’s the first time we’ve seen him simply jump in and swim. He usually plays by the shore and doesn’t mind getting wet and muddy, but never before has he voluntarily swam.

We had so much fun hiking Bald Mountain that we sent our daughter and her husband and two of our older sons to try it. They said they enjoyed it, but I don’t think they liked it as much as we did. I guess we have to be careful not overselling things.

On July 17th our family departed and on the 18th the parents of our son’s friend arrived to take him home. The three of us were left alone for the first time in over a week. I was worried our son might be lost without others, but we had fun playing games, watching movies, and fishing at night until dark. One night he out fished both my wife and I and was very proud of himself. We were proud as well and were very happy that he’s learned to enjoy fishing. We had a great time and worked together well on the 20th to return home.

Two straight weeks in the Uintas was great. We added 48 gallons of fresh water to our initial 80 gallons, but we made it. We’ve been wanting to do two weeks in these mountain for decades; we finally did it!

Best Sites

There are 60 sites in Trial Lake Campground. The campground is spacious and is stretched out down the lake shore. While we were camping there was no running potable water in the campground. To acquire drinking water you had to travel a short distance up the highway to Lost Creek Campground.

While we enjoyed site 59, if we were to return we would select site 57 or 58. Site 57 is a back-in site with no privacy from the campground road, but has beautiful views of the lake and an enormous meadow to the east of the site that makes it a great distance from other sites in that direction.

Site 58 is a pull-through site with little privacy from the campground road, but several pines have been planted and in a few years will provide ample seclusion. Obviously this site is between 57 and 59, but not over crowded.

Site 59 was great, but two different large families used sites 60 and 4 as if they were a single group site. These two together are very close to 59 and can get a bit loud. If a set of sites were wanted for such a gathering you couldn’t go wrong acquiring sites 59, 60 and 4. It would be a lot of fun.

Trial Lake Campground was a nice place to spend a week. The lake was fun to play and fish in. Can’t wait to be there again.

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Sulphur Campground, Utah

From July 6th to July 13th, 2018 we camped at Sulphur Campground on the banks of the Hayden’s Fork of the Bear River. The campground is at 9100 feet of elevation and has forested and open meadow sites.  We stayed in site 20 which is a pull-through site near the end of the campground. There was tall grasses and plants between the site and the river and a small forest on the south. The pull-through was a bit tight for our truck and trailer so we backed it in.

While at Sulphur we had family visit us and we participated in several activities. With our first visitors we went kayaking and fishing in Butterfly Lake. We caught a few fish, taught a few grandchildren to fish, and watched them have fun in and around the water.

Thunderstorms rolled in the next couple of afternoons and dropped lots of rain. The lightning was bright and the thunder was amazingly sharp and loud. We watched from within our home away from home and played board games.

With our next guests we hiked to Ruth Lake. The hike is short, but the lake is quite beautiful and the kids had fun playing in its icy waters. On our way out a thunderstorm rolled in and we quickly got into our rain gear. Fortunately the hike back to the car was only slightly over a mile and the storm was a short one.

The next morning seven of us hiked to the top of Bald Mountain. It’s summit is at 11,943 feet, but is one of the easiest mountains in Utah to summit. We were proud of our children and grandchildren for making the hike in just over an hour. Heck, we were proud of ourselves for making it! We have been enjoying the Uinta Mountains for over 34 years and had never taken the opportunity to climb this mountain, very happy we did.

At the summit there was a jar full of notes. The one I pulled out was from Ryan from Minnesota who asked that I send him a text message. Sure enough I had service, texted him, and received a friendly response. The message my wife pulled from the jar asked for a selfie, so she snapped one and sent it along. The response asked her to put the note back because the young lady is looking for a young and cute hiker guy 🙂

The area surrounding the Uinta Mountains has hundreds of small lakes, ponds, and rivers. From the top of Bald Mountain many are visible. The views were spectacular, but the gathering clouds and hunger drove us back down.

On July 11th our family departed, but we kept one of the grandchildren. In the afternoon we took our son and our grandson and taught them how to fly fish on the river. While we caught numerous fish earlier in the day, our afternoon training was unsuccessful in terms of catching fish. We did have a good time and we were able to pass on a tradition that was started 34 years ago when my wife’s grandfather taught us to fly fish on this very river and from this very campground. Perhaps these young people will remember this day and pass the lessons learned to their children and grandchildren. It was kind of an emotional experience for us as we reflected on our lives and those we miss, but praise for what they passed on to us.

On July 12th we had business down in the hot valley and used the time to shop, return our grandson to his family and pick up a friend of our son’s who will stay with us until the 18th. On the 13th we packed up and moved to Trial Lake for another week.

Best Sites

There are 21 sites in Sulphur Campground. The campground is spacious and is stretched out down the river. While we were camping there was running potable water in the campground.

While we enjoyed site 20, if we were to return we would select site 18. The pull-through of site 18 is far more usable than that of site 20, the fire ring and table are in great locations, and there is plenty of tent space. This site is closer to the river than site 20 and there is far less tall grass obscuring the river view.

Sites 19 and 21 are on the opposite side of the campground road, but offer a good alternative for two trailers and a plethora of tent spots. Site 16 is also a reasonable pull-through with a nice view of the river. Sites 7 and 9 are good options for a trailer and those using tents. Site 20 is pleasant, but better suited for a smaller trailer.

Sulphur Campground was a nice place to spend a week and for us to recall pleasant times past.

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