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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Backpacking in the Uintas

“This place is incredible, why do we not come here every single weekend?” I remember asking Courtney just after passing Clegg Lake. Our friend Brett promptly reminded us that just two weeks prior, the bugs and mosquitos were so bad, they left bite marks through their pants and clothes. “Oh, yeah, that’s why we only get to spend a few months here every year. Nevertheless, the bugs were gone this weekend, and we had one of the best backpacking trips we’ve ever been on! With the long weekend ahead of us, we wanted to plan something new to do for …

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Backpacking & Camping Checklist

There’s nothing worse than after a long day of backpacking into camp, you realize you forgot a stove or fuel to cook your dinner. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten to campsites and realized I forgot everything from a sleeping bag and pad to cooking utensils and food itself. To help make this process easier for you (and me) the next time I head into the backcountry, I made this checklist. Download a PDF Version of this List here: Zachary Kenney Hi there, my name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer.  My passion is to …

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The Presidential Traverse

Iconic, euphoric, dangerous, beautiful, and gruesome are all adjectives that can be used to describe one famous hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Presidential Traverse. To complete this traverse, hikers climb all of the mountains in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains in one continuous hike that’s nearly 23 miles long with close to 9,000 feet of elevation gain. Our goal was to climb the 8 peaks over two days, getting there on a Friday night and finishing up on Sunday. Like mostly everything I do, it needed to be packed into a single weekend, and …

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Essentials for Backpacking Europe | What You Need

You’ve got your plane tickets purchased and maybe you’ve even convinced some of your friends to come with you to Europe, but now you need to figure out what to bring. There are millions of options out there, but here is my take on the essentials you’ll need to be able to efficiently navigate and backpack through most European countries.  Gear: All the stuff you’ll need to be ready for everything to Backpack (no suitcases obviously) A backpack is probably a key essential to actually backpack through Europe. It gives you the opportunity to still walk around with all your …

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Innsbruck, Austria

Just a 1.5 hr train ride away from the exhausting weekend we had at Oktoberfest in Munich, rests a city at the foot of the Western Austrian Alps. That place is called Innsbruck. And even though it was cold, cloudy, and the middle of the week,  Innsbruck was an incredible place on our trip. The city sits in a valley along The Inn river and is famous for hosting the Winter Olympics in ’64 and ’76. But you can find that stuff out via Wikipedia (since that’s what I just did). What you won’t find out, until you see for …

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Backpacking through Europe | How to Plan a Trip

We all have at one point, if not every single day, stared at our cubical walls and day dreamt about backpacking through Europe. You know, the way it’s been portrayed in novels and in cinema. You can picture yourself splitting a bottle of wine in the park at the base of the Eiffel Tower in Paris or wandering through the ruins of ancient Rome. Maybe even partying all night on the beaches of Barcelona or raising your liters of beer for a cheers in Munich. If not find yourself enjoying the vices on the streets of Amsterdam or feeling the …

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No New Updates: Backpacking Through Europe to Oktoberfest 

Hey there!  I appreciate all the viewers that check out my page, and hope that some of my content helps you or inspires you to get out and have your own adventure. For the next few weeks, there will not be any new updates. My friends and I will be backpacking through Europe on our way to Oktoberfest in Munich! Our plan is to fly into Amsterdam, make our way down through Germany, stopping in Düsseldorf, Colone, and Frankfurt along the way. Eventually celebrate Oktoberfest in Munich over the last weekend.  After the partying subsides, we plan to explore the …

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Diary of a Backpacker | Catskills | [Video]

Tried my best to capture some of the misadventures that we all experience while on the trail. From getting lost, going in the wrong direction, running out of food & water, struggles with being bear-proof, shitty views, you name it. But it wasn’t all bad, even though it was very humid and hot in NY, the Catskills have amazing mountains to climb and beautiful landscapes to admire. This hike took us on an overnight through the Burroughs Range which is highlighted by Slide Mountain. My friend Eddie and his girlfriend, Courtney, invited me to join them on an overnight during …

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