Return to Amethyst Basin

Five years after my first backpacking trip to Amethyst Basin, a friend and I repeated the trek. It was over 100 degrees in Salt Lake City when I picked Chris up, but at the Christmas Meadows trailhead in the Uinta Mountains it was only 80 degrees. We began hiking at 6:30 in the evening. My pack felt great on my back–I’d gotten the weight down to 33.5 pounds, which is the lightest I’ve ever had for a two-night trip. At around 8PM we reached the junction with the Amethyst Basin trail and camped nearby, having hiked just over two and a half miles. We had dinner around a small camp fire and went to bed relatively early.

Ostler Peak and Spread Eagle Peak from Christmas Meadows
Ostler Peak and Spread Eagle Peak from Christmas Meadows


Christmas Meadows trailhead
Christmas Meadows trailhead


Beginning of the trail
Beginning of the trail


Sign along the trail
Sign along the trail


Christmas Meadows
Christmas Meadows


Mucky trail
Mucky trail


Chris on the boardwalk
Chris on the boardwalk


New wilderness sign, about 1,000 feet beyond the wilderness boundary
New wilderness sign, about 1,000 feet beyond the wilderness boundary


Setting up camp
Setting up camp


Colorful clouds through the trees
Colorful clouds through the trees


Colorful trees around the fire
Colorful trees around the fire


After breakfast and packing up camp on Saturday morning we hit the trail, which immediately began climbing. For half a mile it was steep and rocky, paralleling Ostler Fork and its many cascades. The trail leveled out and it was a pleasant walk through the forest after that. We passed a guy going the opposite direction wearing a day pack, with a dog on a leash, and two pack goats following obediently behind him, and I realized that I’VE BEEN BACKPACKING ALL WRONG! We reached the beautiful Amethyst Meadow at noon and had to cross Ostler Fork on a couple of flimsy logs. After a quick visit to Lake BR-24 we found a nice spot away from the trail and any lakes to set up camp.

Sign pointing to Kermsuh, Ryder, and Amethyst lakes
Sign pointing to Kermsuh, Ryder, and Amethyst lakes


Ostler Fork falls
Ostler Fork falls


Trail climbing to Amethyst Basin
Trail climbing to Amethyst Basin


Wild rose alongside the trail
Wild rose alongside the trail


Hayden Peak
Hayden Peak


Blazed pine tree and steep, rocky trail
Blazed pine tree and steep, rocky trail


Many fallen trees that have been cleared
Many fallen trees that have been cleared


Pack goat
Pack goat


Avalanche path
Avalanche path


Lush green trail surroundings
Lush green trail surroundings


Nice try
Nice try


Ostler Peak over Amethyst Meadow
Ostler Peak over Amethyst Meadow


Improvised creek crossing
Improvised creek crossing


Reflection in Lake BR-24
Reflection in Lake BR-24


Tents in the trees
Tents in the trees


With our loads lightened, we went on a tour of Amethyst Basin. First we hiked to Amethyst Lake. On the trail we encountered two forest rangers and endured an awkward 10-minute quiz/lecture about Leave No Trace ethics. Like, WTF? Amethyst Lake was just meh. It’s a big lake with choppy water and not terribly scenic, and there were quite a few large groups camped there. However, there was barely some cell service! ­čśÇ Next we hiked to Ostler Lake and bushwhacked around the entire perimeter. There were only a few people around Ostler Lake, including those two rangers we’d seen near Amethyst. They appeared to be moving some rocks around, possibly making a fire pit? Not sure what was going on there.

Trail to Amethyst Lake
Trail to Amethyst Lake


Inflow to Amethyst Lake
Inflow to Amethyst Lake


Amethyst Lake
Amethyst Lake


Amethyst Lake
Amethyst Lake


View out of Amethyst Basin
View out of Amethyst Basin


Patterns in the quartzite
Patterns in the quartzite


Ostler Fork below Amethyst Lake
Ostler Fork below Amethyst Lake


Ostler Lake
Ostler Lake


Ostler Lake
Ostler Lake


Ostler Lake reflection
Ostler Lake reflection


Chris and I returned to camp and started a camp fire just in time for it to begin to hail. At first it was sparse, but the hail grew in intensity until it was nearly marble-sized and covering the ground. We took shelter under some trees for what seemed like half an hour or so. The hail gave way to rain, and I was beginning to worry that we’d end up sheltering in our tents all evening. I was slightly embarrassed when I realized that the storm had subsided about five minutes earlier and that the water dropping on my head was coming from the trees I was standing beneath. Chris was barely able to get the fire going again after using his last fire starter and then some toilet paper and hand sanitizer to get the wet wood burning. We were able to dry out a little before eating dinner and going for a sunset walk around Lake BR-24. Two guys on horseback had set up camp between us and the trail and we had to walk past their horses along the way, and luckily the horses were pretty calm. We retired to our tents before 11PM and I slept pretty well considering the dampness.

Hail on my tent
Hail on my tent


The hell is this?
The hell is this?


Drying a chair over the fire
Drying a chair over the fire


Lake BR-24 and Ostler Peak
Lake BR-24 and Ostler Peak


Lake BR-24 reflection
Lake BR-24 reflection


Lake BR-24 reflection
Lake BR-24 reflection


Fire at night
Fire at night


We were awake early on Sunday and were quick to eat breakfast and pack our gear away. By 8:30 we were on the trail descending out of Amethyst Basin, hoping to stay ahead of the crowds still camped in the basin. Three hours later we arrived at the trailhead, having hiked a little over 16 miles total for the weekend. I don’t often like repeating hikes–and I’m sure there are equally beautiful locations in the Uintas that would have been new to me–but sometimes a familiar and comfortable trip hits the spot, especially when one hasn’t been backpacking for two years!

Camp on Sunday morning
Camp on Sunday morning


Horse neighbors
Horse neighbors


Stream crossing
Stream crossing


Ostler Peak over Amethyst Meadow
Ostler Peak over Amethyst Meadow


Curve in the trail
Curve in the trail


Very pale Indian Paintbrush
Very pale Indian Paintbrush


False Hellebore (Veratrum californicum)
False Hellebore (Veratrum californicum)


Blue sky reflected in marshy trail
Blue sky reflected in marshy trail


1929 aspen carving
1929 aspen carving


Photo Gallery: Return to Amethyst Basin
GPS Track and Photo Waypoints:
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