Popular Uintas trailhead slated for improvements | ParkRecord.com

Popular Uintas trailhead slated for improvements

Crystal Lake parking lot to more than double in size

The popular Crystal Lake trailhead, which is at the gateway to lakes country in the Uinta Mountains and is often filled beyond capacity, is set for renovations this summer.
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

The Mirror Lake Highway sees more than two million visitors annually, offering the promise of an escape into nature for sight-seers, hikers and campers alike.

But at one of its most popular trailheads and parking areas, solitude can seem hard to find, with parked cars overflowing sometimes a mile or more and improvised parking spots heading into the underbrush.

U.S. Forest Service officials recently announced plans to revamp the Crystal Lake trailhead, more than doubling the size of the parking lot, providing a designated area for search and rescue personnel and improving miles of nearby trails.

The Crystal Lake trailhead is at the gateway to lakes country, said U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Dano Jauregui. It’s about 20 miles into the forest at one of the first developed turnoffs along the highway, near the popular Washington, Trial and Lily lakes about 8 miles west of Mirror Lake itself.

“You go up there on the weekend, there’s cars filled up in the parking lot, down the side of the road,” Jauregui said. “It’s something we needed to address for some time.”

The $231,000 project uses funding from the federal Great American Outdoors Act, which was signed into law last summer.

The act was intended to address what the U.S. Forest Service says is $5 billion in deferred maintenance in the nation’s forests and grasslands. The Crystal Lake project is one of a half-dozen improvements slated for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

Others include work at the Causey and Pineview reservoirs and in the Cottonwood Canyons.

In addition to increasing the Crystal Lake parking lot to 123 spots, the project will improve miles of highly traveled trails accessed from the site, said Loyal Clark, a Forest Service spokesperson. Those include the Notch Mountain, Clyde Lake and Wall Lake trails.

Clark said the project will also attempt to heal some of the damage caused by the area’s heavy use.

“When people drive up to an area and they don’t see designated parking, they have a tendency to just park anywhere,” she said. The project is slated to revegetate areas that have been disturbed by human activity and counteract erosion.

The goal, Clark said, is to sustain more use without impacting the natural resources in the area.

Jauregui said the Forest Service would seek contracting bids shortly and that construction could begin early this summer. He said he hoped the work could be accomplished in one season.

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