Backpacking to Grandaddy Lake in the Uintas

Grandaddy Lake, located in the Uinta Mountains, might be the perfect weekend backpacking trip. After a short hike over Hades Pass, the view of the basin below filled with alpine lakes is unforgettable. And once you reach the shoreline of Grandaddy Lake, you will get to choose from a nearly unlimited number of areas to camp for the weekend. And having gone up there on the Labor Day weekend, which I thought would be busy, turned out to be completely empty, making it the perfect weekend of backpacking.

The roundtrip hike to Grandaddy Lake, via the Grandview Trail, is a 7.2 mile hike with only 1,300 feet of vertical to climb. Not difficult by most hike or backpacking standards, but this trail starts at 9,730feet and goes up to 10,645feet in elevation. The air is thin and the trail is steep, making it shockingly more difficult than I expected, especially with a heavy backpack on. But the adventure starts long before the trailhead, because once you turn off main road, there is 6.2 miles of bumpy dirt road that has to climb up over 2,000 feet.

The plan for our backpacking trip was to head up Saturday morning, spend two nights, then return home on Monday morning. We brought with us our dog, fly fishing rods, and most importantly, our Kokopelli Packrafts! And as we left the trailhead, heading uphill, we felt ever ounce of weight we were bringing with us for a weekend of adventure and fun. Luckily, the approach hike was beautiful and went by rather quickly. We left the valley behind us, passing other backpackers and day-hikers using the trail. And once we climbed up to the top of Hades pass, we could see we were going to be in for one incredible weekend.

From the pass, we could see the entire basin below, filled with alpine lakes surrounded by 10,000foot mountain peaks. The most stunning of these, of course, would be the largest lake in the Uintas, Grandaddy Lake. And we cruised on down to the water’s edge to see it up close and personal, and of course to find a campsite for the weekend. The lake was bigger, and more stunning than we could have ever imagined, and the best part was it was completely empty! So after we found a flat spot, with a fire ring, 200feet away from the water, we setup our camp! Starting with getting our heavy packs off our shoulders, followed by setting up our 10 year old 2-person backpacking tent. To which, we broke the zipper in the progress.

We didn’t let that slow our weekend down! The rest of that evening and the following day were spent perfectly slow. We inflated the packrafts and paddled out onto that empty lake with the dog in tow. We explored a few of the island on the lake, paddling from one to the other, getting off to hike around and imagine camping on one of them one day. The water was calm, soothing, and blue! Contrasting perfectly with the green pines that surrounded the lake’s edge and below the tan and white rocky ridge lines above.

We took our shot at fly fishing at the bank of the lake, with not much luck. Because even when we don’t catch anything, we still love to cast the fly into the water. Courtney had at least some luck with her choices of flies, getting the fish to hit, but not much luck getting them to bite anything. Maybe we’ll have to switch over to bait casting, because other fishermen we passed on the trail in had caught.   A ton of fish they sustained on for the entire weekend. It didn’t matter, we still had fun.

Each night ended the same way, with a mountain house meal, cooked with our JetBoil camp stove. We ate them sitting on rocks at the lakeside, as we watched the setting sun crest over the mountains to the West. The orange and red light beamed off the mountains above, reflecting off the water below. And with the setting sun, came the dropping of temperatures, plummeting from the warm 70s of the day, down to the cold, upper 30s throughout the night. I was not packed for those temps, foolishly I had only brought shorts and didn’t pack anything warmer than a mid-layer! Regretting that decision when I awoke with frozen toes, but at least Gregor seemed to get a great night’s sleep between us in that small 2-person tent.

The last morning, we woke to the view of a glassy lake surface, almost as reflective as a mirror. It almost made us forget how heavy the backpacks were when we put them back on for our hike out. But luckily, the hike uphill was short to the top of the pass, then it was all downhill back to the trailhead. On the way down, we reminisced about drinking the beers at camp that we had chilled by sitting in the stream that ran through camp. We talked about how the stars shined bright in the cloudless night’s sky. And how perfect of the Labor Day Weekend hiking to Grandaddy Lake was. And like every beautiful, destination in Utah we’ve been to, I can’t wait to go back.

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Backpacking the Escalante River Trail with Dogs

First off, I had no idea a backpacking route like this could ever exist here in the Utah desert! A trail that snakes below the steep walls of the desert plateau along a winding river. And over the Memorial Day weekend, a group of us decided to do an overnight backpacking trip down the Escalante River trail, and it couldn’t have been a more adventurous trip! We experienced everything from high energy to exhaustion, and dried river beds to wading through waist deep water! The Escalante river originates in the town of Escalante, UT, flows nearly a 100 miles through …

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Grandeur Peak Trail West Face | The Hardest Hike in the Wasatch Mountains?

There are two pinnacle hikes that every Salt Lake resident can see from the city and eventually should do. The two are Mount Olympus and the West Face of Grandeur Peak. Having done both of them, and many other peaks in the Wasatch, I think it’s safe to say, the Grandeur Peak via the West Face is the hardest hike in the Wasatch. In typical Wasatch trail fashion, right out of the parking lot you immediately head straight up. With little reprieve at the bench, you have the option of choosing between trails that ascend up two different ridges that …

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Overlooking the tiny beach town of Manzanita, cut off from the ocean by the Oregon Costal Highway, is one of the most surreal mountains I’ve ever hiked. Is it some alpine peak requiring ropes and ice axes, no. But does it hold some of the most incredible, panoramic views of the Oregon coastline, you bet it does. I’m talking about Neahkahnie Mountain. And on our road trip through Oregon this past summer, we stumbled upon this hike one morning, and couldn’t have been more surprised. Growing up on the east coast, and doing a fair amount of growing up while …

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Hiking Mount Elbert | Colorado’s Tallest Mountain

Summiting a 14er, the coveted goal of most hikers in the USA and around the world. Similar to hiking a 4,000 footer in New England, a 14er is any mountain whose summit stands over 14,000 feet in elevation. But don’t let that staggering elevation discourage anyone from trying. Most 14ers have trailhead that start at 10,000 feet or higher, making the elevation gain only around 4,000 feet, similar to the hikes in New England. Well, Courtney and I are just like the rest of the ambitious hikers in Colorado with a goal of summiting Colorado’s tallest mountain, Mount Elbert! On …

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Trip Photos | Kanab, Utah

During the Covid-19 shutdown & quarantine, few places in Utah were still open for out-of-county visitors. In late April, we got lucky, and the county Kanab is located in opened up its doors for visitors to come camp and hike arounds its incredible landscape. We loved it so much, that we brought our friends back down the following weekend. But it’s mostly due to the fact that we found the ultimate campsite right on the East Fork of the Virgin River. First Trip to Kanab Courtney and I explored Huntress Wash Slot Canyon, spent the rest of the afternoon hanging …

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Yurt Trip in Monticello, Utah

Packs of coyotes howled just outside of the thin Yurt walls in the dark, moonless night. Wet aspen logs crackled in the wood-burning stove for hours and hours as we sat around, drinking beer and eating chili. And even though the temps only dropped further and further as the night went on, and the fire slowly died off, it was all worth it to experience desert yurt life, even if it was only for a weekend. But an epic weekend it was… even though I did crash my drone. Since both Courtney and I’s season ski passes had blackout dates …

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Zebra Slot Canyon

Squeezing through a slot canyon that was so tight, I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d ever reach the end. With my feet wedged into the narrowest section on the bottom of the canyon, shimmying myself along the wall, my hips would go no further. I was stuck… Zachary Kenney Hi there, my name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer.  My passion is to tell stories that will hopefully motivate you to go live a more adventurous life. Whether that is to experience the view from the summit of a mountain, or wandering through a new town …

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Our Desert Engagement | Ding & Dang Canyon

To say that I was nervous might be the understatement of the century. I couldn’t sleep the night before and my hands were shaking the entire hike leading up to the moment. Little did I know that the hard part wasn’t going to be asking Courtney to marry me, rather the descent through Dang Canyon turned out to be 10x more difficult. All said and done, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Zachary Kenney Hi there, my name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer.  My passion is to tell stories that will hopefully motivate …

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Mt. Timpanogos Hike

The summit of Mount Timpanogos can be view from nearly every direction whether you’re down in Provo, from the summits in the Cottonwoods, or just driving through Heber City. And ever since we saw its snow capped ridgeline when first visited Salt Lake, back in February of 2017, we knew we just had to hike it. On Saturday, September 14th, five of us, with two dogs, hit the Aspen Grove trailhead in hopes to be on the summit a few hours later. At 11,749 feet, Mount Timpanogos (or Timp), is the second-highest summit of the Wasatch Mountains. From the Aspen …

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