Backpacking in Grandaddy Basin

Grandaddy Lake
Grandaddy Lake

For our annual backpacking trip to the High Uintas Wilderness Area this year we decided to go somewhere where we had never been before. We have been wanting to check out Grandaddy Basin for awhile, but I was always put off by how popular it is. But in reading one of my guidebook, I learned that it is a very large area and even with lots of people you can find solitude. Also, this area is pretty close to the Wasatch Front, so it would not be a long drive.

We left on Tuesday morning and hiked into Grandaddy Lake. The hike was pretty straightforward, only 3 miles, albeit the first 2.5 was uphill over Hades Pass. Grandaddy Lake is the largest natural lake in the Uintas and really is big. We found a very nice campsite in a heavily wooded area on the north side of the lake on a peninsula.

Near our campsite
Near our campsite
Afternoon nap
Afternoon nap

Grandaddy Lake is not that good for swimming as the shoreline, at least where we were, was shallow and marshy. We did find the outlet to the lake where a small creek tumbles down a steep hillside on its way to Lodgepole Lake below. There were some nice small waterfalls.

The next day we packed up and hike the 3 or so miles to Pine Island Lake. This was a beautiful lake with several pine tree covered islands in it. Seeing all the logs littering the shoreline, Lars decided he wanted to build a raft and paddle out to one of the islands. He found some old cord and spent about an hour unraveling the three strands so he would have more rope to lash the logs together. I have tried making log rafts in the mountains before when I was a kid and knew that the lashing part was not easy. But I encouraged him anyway. He found six logs and we did our best to lash them together with the very thin rope. Once he got on the raft the logs separated and he struggled to not get swallowed up between the logs. Finn was particularly amused. Needless to say, he didn’t make it out to the island, but we had fun playing around in the very cold water.

Completed log raft, sort of.
Completed log raft, sort of.
Not very seaworthy
Not very seaworthy

Shortly after lunch it began to rain and then rained steadily for three hours. We retreated to the tent where I slept, Finn read poetry, and Lars pestered both of us bored out of his mind.

Waiting out the storm
Waiting out the storm
Water droplets on the tent wall
Water droplets on the tent wall (outside)

After the rain stopped it cleared up and we had a nice time exploring the lake and surrounding area. We had a nice campfire that night as well.

Evening campfire at Pine Island Lake
Evening campfire at Pine Island Lake

The next day we packed up and headed back toward Grandaddy Lake. We planned to stay at Mohawk Lake or maybe Betsy Lake. On the way we explored a large boulder field and did some bouldering as well. We all brought rock climbing shoes and a couple chalk bags. Finn loves boulder hopping.

Boulder hopping
Boulder hopping

As we neared the turn off toward Mohawk Lake, Finn suggested we try Heart Lake. It is the first lake you see coming off Hades Pass descending into Grandaddy Basin. He liked the looks of it and liked that fact that there were lots of rocks and boulders around it. So we headed for Heart Lake. There were not many flat spots to camp there, but we found a nice spot pretty close to the water. And the best part was that there was nice deep clear water just off the rocks close to where we camped. After setting up the tent we immediately put on our shorts and went for a nice refreshing swim. I went first, then Finn, followed by Lars after lots of coaxing (the water is pretty cold in these high mountain lakes, elevation here was 10,500′).

Finn taking the dive
Finn taking the dive
Lars with a graceful cannonball
Lars with a graceful cannonball

After our swim we headed up to the boulders on the west side of the lake and spent a couple hours climbing around. Lars and I then went back in the water. Finn and Lars then walked to the other side of the lake to check out some more boulders and I explored the east side of the lake looking for more suitable campsites.

Finn and Lars bouldering on the other side of the lake
Finn and Lars bouldering on the other side of the lake

We had a really good time at Heart Lake. It was our favorite camp of the whole trip. The water was clear and deep and tasted good (after filtering, of course). The water from Grandaddy and Pine Island tasted pretty bad). We hiked out to our car from Heart Lake in only an hour (pretty fast hiking). This is an area that we would really like to return to. In fact, the boys said they would rather come back here than to Kamas Lake. I’m getting tired of Kamas Lake myself.

As a father it is really nice to spend time in the mountains with your boys where there are few distractions. It is nice to just sit around the campfire, or in the tent and talk. I think this will build good positive memories for them, as it is for me.

Bluebells
Bluebells
Dragonfly
Dragonfly
Pond, Heart Lake, Grandaddy Lake
Pond, Heart Lake, Grandaddy Lake
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