National Forest gears up for a busy season in Summit and Wasatch counties
As the snowline recedes in the mountainous Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest east of Park City, visitors begin to arrive in droves.
The Heber-Kamas Ranger district portion of the forest encompasses a large swath of Summit and Wasatch Counties and offers numerous summer activities
Hiking: This early in the spring, only the first few miles of State Road 150, also known as the Mirror Lake Highway, are open, restricting access to the High Unitas on the Kamas side. According to the district’s Recreation Manager Virginia Daniel, they are hoping the road will be cleared by Memorial Day but there is no guarantee. Once the road is plowed hikers will be able to explore all of the area.
- Beaver Creek Trail: The Beaver Creek Trail starts from the Beaver Creek Picnic area, which is about 8 miles up Mirror Lake Highway from Kamas. Daniel said hikers should expect to encounter patchy snow on the trail.
- Scenic way Trail: This trail runs parallel to Mirror Lake Highway on the south side of the road and can be accessed from two locations along the highway. Daniel said people should keep dogs on leashes while hiking along the trail since it is so close to the highway.
- Crystal Lake: The Crystal Lake trailhead isn’t open for the summer yet, but it is one of the most popular trails in the area. Daniels said that people should consider coming up from Gardeners Fork to see the trail from a different angle.
- Strawberry Reservoir: Most of the Strawberry campgrounds are in the final stages of opening for the summer and should be ready for Memorial Day.
- High Uintas: Campgrounds such as Butterfly, Mirror Lake and Moosehorn are not open yet but will likely fill up fast during the mid-summer months.
- Dispersed site camping: There are many available spots for campers wanting to go slightly off the beaten path, however Pollock said campers should be no more than 150 feet off the side of the road.
- ATVs: First, ATV users should grab a map of areas showing where motorized vehicles are permitted. They are available at the Ranger Station or online. Daniels warned riders to be especially cautious on muddy roads during the spring.
- Fishing: Strawberry, Soldier Creek and Current Creek Reservoirs are all open for fishing, but visitors should anticipate muddy roads for the first few weeks of the season.
- Biking: Most of the trails that are open for hiking are also open for mountain bikes, however there are certain restrictions on lake country trails. Cyclists should call the Ranger Station for a complete list of closed trails where bikes are not allowed.
- Volunteering: The Ranger District is putting together a volunteer activity for National Trails Day on June 4. Anyone interested in participating should call (435)783-8711 and ask for Caitlin Campbell or Brett Jeppesen.
- Be prepared for the unexpected. Pack lots of water, food and warm clothes in case of bad weather.
- Bear safety: The Heber-Kamas Ranger District is considered bear country which means visitors should be prepared to encounter a bear at any time. Visitors in the area should consider carrying bear deterrents, clean their campsites and stay alert while recreating.
- Pack out what you pack in. Visitors can throw away all their garbage in the bear-safe area dumpsters, however if the dumpster is full visitors should take their trash home with them.
When it comes to hiking, Daniels said the best advice is to spread out and see as much of the area as possible.
"The High Uinta Wilderness gets pretty busy, but drop down onto the Evanston side, go out to Strawberry, discover some of these lesser-known places," she said.
Camping: The Heber-Kamas area offers both campground sites and dispersed sites for people looking to camp during the summer. Some of the campsites are first-come, first-served, but most can be reserved at http://www.reservations.gov . According to Wasatch-Cache National Forest Supervisor Kathy Joe Pollock, there are no restrictions on campfires currently, but campers should make sure the fire is cold to the touch before vacating a campsite.
Other: Beyond hiking and camping, the Heber-Kamas District also offers opportunities to ride ATVs, fish, bike and more in the area.
Rules to remember: Before venturing into the wilderness keep in mind basic safety and etiquette.
Daniel said they are anticipating a busy season in the area and visitors should do their part to make everyone’s experience enjoyable.
"We want them to come," she said, "Come up prepared with the equipment that you need to take part in the activity you are participating in and be aware that we are in bear country."
Fees:The District offers daily, weekly and annual passes and also honors the America the Beautiful Pass, which is an annual pass for all National Parks, Forests and Bureau of Land Management areas. The day-use fee for all of the forest facilities along the Mirror Lake Highway, which is valid for three days, is $6. A week-long pass is $12 and an annual pass is available for $45. Camping fees vary from $16-21. Senior citizens receive a 50-percent discount on camping fees and are exempt from the day use fees provided they have a National Parks Senior Pass.
No matter what time of the summer visitors get out to the area they can expect beautiful views, but Pollock said the spring can be a unique time to see new life in the district.
"Wildflowers are blooming in the lower elevations, the aspen are leafing out it’s just kind of a regeneration of everything on the forest," she said. "You might see wildlife, they are out and roaming around more in the spring. It’s just a fantastic forest to get out and visit."
The Kamas Ranger station is located at 50 E Center Street in Kamas and can be reached at (435)783-4338. The Heber Ranger station is found at 2460 S U.S. 40 in Heber and can be reached at (435)654-0470. For more information about the area visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/uwcnf .
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