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Mirror Lake Scenic Byway

High Mountain Adventure

Deanna Devey | Photos by Kevin Kiernan Jul 1, 2019
Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake

From beautiful scenery of pine forests, mountain lakes and waterfall cascades to outdoor recreation like hiking, kayaking and fishing, the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway and Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest offer adventure for all ages and ability levels.

Winding for approximately 80 miles through the Uinta Mountains from Kamas, Utah, to Evanston, Wyoming, the scenic byway is a favorite destination for locals and tourists alike.

“It’s one of the top five busiest forests in the country,” says Brenda Bushell, customer service representative for the U.S. Forest Service’s Heber-Kamas Ranger District. “People from all over the country and all over the world come here.”

Starting in Kamas means you’ll head east on State Route 150. The two-lane highway follows the Provo River while climbing into the Uinta Mountains. About 30 miles up the highway is Bald Mountain Pass. At an elevation of approximately 10,700 feet, it’s the highest paved road in Utah.

After the summit, the road descends to the highway’s namesake, Mirror Lake, and eventually to the Wyoming border.   

Because of its high elevation, the route is only open about half the year but provides a wealth of activities and sightseeing opportunities.

Small pond next to trees
One of many unnamed ponds along the Mirror Lake Highway.
Provo River Falls
Provo River Falls
fish caught in a net
Tiger Trout is a local fish breed to the Uintas.

Mirror Lake

The iconic gem of the region is Mirror Lake, known for crystal-clear reflecting waters. There is a campground and picnic sites as well as a 1.5-mile trail and boardwalk around the lake.

“It’s really pretty,” Bushell says. “Hikers of all skill levels can walk around the lake, and there are some fun, educational things for kids.” 

Just above Mirror Lake, the aptly named Bald Mountain reaches nearly 12,000 feet into the sky. An overlook at the mountain’s base provides panoramic views of the region’s peaks, ridges, lakes and trees.

Hike to the summit to see even more. The trail is 2 miles one way with an elevation gain of more than 1,000 feet. “You’ll have a full 360-degree view as you hike the trail,” Bushell says. “In the Heber-Kamas Ranger District, up the Mirror Lake Highway, we have more than 400 lakes. And from Bald Mountain, you can see a lot of them. It’s fun to hike up there and count them.”

Just off the highway are countless other trailheads alongside streams, through forests and meadows, and ending at various lakes. Visit the U.S. Forest Service’s Heber-Kamas Ranger District website for a list of hiking trails. 

lake in the mountains with lily pads floating
Ruth Lake

Mountain Recreation

Mirror Lake and Bald Mountain are only two of the region’s many sights. Another popular spot is Provo River Falls, just off the main highway about 24 miles from Kamas. There are three different waterfalls with walkways to each.

“The Provo Falls are fantastic,” says Grady Pace, Kamas resident and owner of Hi-Mountain diner. “There are some shallower areas our kids like to splash around in later in the year when the water isn’t as rough.”

Other popular spots include numerous lakes for boaters and fishermen, the Crystal Lake trailhead for hikers, and Murdock Basin, Soapstone Basin and Spring Canyon for off-roaders.

“There’s a recreation adventure for everyone,” Bushell says.

While a fee is not required to drive the highway, you must purchase a pass to participate in the activities. Passes are available in Kamas at local stores, at the Heber-Kamas Ranger District office or at self-service fee tubes along the highway. Federal America the Beautiful interagency passes are also accepted.

Burger with onion rings and bacon on it
Gonburger from Hi-Mountain

Dining Options

The drive from Kamas to Evanston may take two to three hours through remote areas, so it’s a good idea to have a bite to eat before you depart.

One option is the Mirror Lake Station Chevron on the corner of Main and Center in Kamas, known for its fresh doughnuts and apple, raspberry and blueberry fritters made from scratch.

“The fritters are definitely our most popular item and what makes us famous,” says Kristin Wade, owner of the Mirror Lake Station. “They’re the size of paper plates. They’re huge.”

If you want one of the giant fritters, arrive early or place an order beforehand. The tasty treats often sell out before noon in the busy summer and fall seasons.

Or step back in time at Hi-Mountain on Main Street. Founded in 1918, the diner/ice cream parlor/novelty store serves burgers, homemade fries and scones along with dozens of milkshake flavors.

“It’s cool because it’s old-fashioned and super eclectic,” Pace says. “It’s kind of like a dying breed, the Main Street pharmacy lunch counter. Even though we don’t have the pharmacy any more, we’ve kept that nostalgia.”

Other dining options include Summit Inn PizzaThe Gateway Grille, Dick’s Burgers, Mirror Lake DinerTacos El SombreroEl Jalisciense 2 and The Notch Pub

Fall Colors

While the drive is beautiful any time, it’s particularly enjoyable in the fall when the trees burst into an array of colors. Bushell recommends heading up the last two weeks of September.

“The colors are pretty unique,” Bushell says. “We get a lot of yellow aspens, but we also get some pinks and oranges I don’t see other places.” She suggests looking for the area’s one-of-a-kind aspens near the Shady Dell campground. You can also find colorful maples near Kamas and traditional aspens past Mirror Lake toward Evanston.

“It’s picturesque with the pines and yellow aspens and oak areas with bright reds,” Pace says. “We get a lot of people in the fall who drive up just to see the colors.”

wildflowers in a meadow
Wildflowers near Mirror Lake.

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