With spring quickly approaching my family loves to start planning and anticipating our summer camping trips. Summer weekends fill up quickly at our house and we find that if we don’t schedule and plan a few camping trips in advance, they are less likely to happen. Even though the Uintas are still covered in snow and will be for a few more months, planning a summer backpacking trip to one of the scenic lakes in the Uintas is a great family outing to look forward to as the weather starts to get warmer.
Our family loves backpacking because it allows you to get away from the noise of the campground and really enjoy being in nature without any distractions. Backpacking can obviously present more challenges than campgrounds (no bathrooms, hiking with all of your supplies, etc) but overall the benefits are greater than the challenges.
One of our favorite backpacking destinations to enjoy with our kids, ages 3 and 6, is Kamas Lake in the Uintas. Kamas Lake is part of the Lofty Lake Loop. To reach the trailhead to Kamas Lake, drive 32 miles east of Kamas on Highway 150. Immediately after you pass the Mirror Lake Campground there is parking on the left side of the road at the Pass Lake Trailhead sign. The trailhead starts just left of the parking lot where the sign says “Holiday Park, Meadow Lake, and Cuberant Lake.” Follow the trail left for .3 miles and turn right at the fork. After .9 miles you will see a sign pointing you in the direction to Kamas and Lofty Lake. Kamas Lake is about 1.5 miles from the beginning of the trailhead and has a few steep sections but is doable for families with young children if you let the kids set the pace. The elevation of Kamas Lake is 10,400 feet.
We typically like to backpack to the lakes in the Uintas anytime between late-June and mid-September. During this time of the year you can often find beautiful wildflowers along the trail. It can get chilly and weather can surprise you at any point in the season so it’s always best to plan on dressing in layers. We always pack as lightly as we can because it makes the hike easier. We usually bring a tent, sleeping bags, pjs, a jacket/coat, warm socks, a light book, food, lightweight cookstove, fishing pole, enough water for the hike, and a water filter so that you can filter freshwater from the lake. We like to keep our meals simple while backpacking, usually something easy like instant rice or pasta with fresh fish, and for breakfast granola bars, oatmeal, and hot chocolate.
Some of the things that we do to help our kids enjoy hiking is play I-Spy, eat snacks, take plenty of water breaks, and keep their load light. Our six-year old carries her own clothes, water, and some of the food. Our three-year old carries her water. We are never in a hurry and love to look at flowers, trees, and other points of interest along the trail. We also make sure to wear bug spray (once we did not and it was awful) and sturdy shoes.
After camp is set up my kids love to spend their time exploring and going on adventures. There is always fun to be had near the water, whether it be fishing, wading, or skipping rocks. We’ve never gone swimming because the water is very cold, but have seen other people do so. Just be sure to dry off before the sun goes down or it gets pretty chilly. My kids love to use their imagination when we are wandering around. Usually our adventures involve palaces of rocks and trees, stone horses, and lots of dancing. Sometimes we will do a fire at night if the conditions are safe. Sleeping after a busy day of hiking and adventuring is usually pretty easy for my kids, and they are always ready to play the next morning the moment that the sun comes up. The hike out is usually not too bad because it is mostly downhill and we are all feeling refreshed after spending some time in nature. We also have the motivation of burgers and milkshake from the Uinta Drive-In in Kamas to keep everyone hiking when they start to get tired.
Thanks for the amazing photos and words Shelly! Check out more by Shelly at her website Canyons & Curls.