We love the Mirror Lake Highway in the Uintas, so Lofty Lake Loop has been on our list for a while. At just 4.4 miles, it doesn’t seem too daunting, even for our 8 year-old, but as it turns out, this hike was pretty difficult.
- Distance: 4.4 miles roundtrip
- Rating: Moderate (difficult for small children)
- Elevation Change: 961 ft
- Dog-Friendly: Yes, on leash
- Fee: Mirror Lake Highway $6 fee
The mileage is doable for many families, but it turns out this lake is truly lofty. There is a nearly 1,000 foot vertical climb on this loop. We chose to do it clockwise, which meant that we climbed over the first 3 miles and dropped straight down for the last 1.4 miles. Of course, the alternative is hiking straight up for 1.4 miles and dropping for the last 3 miles.
The trail starts just past Mirror Lake at around mile marker 32 at the Pass Lake Trailhead. There is a fairly large parking lot with trailhead restrooms. Still, the parking lot is full on weekends and often at midday. If you are going to hike the trail clockwise as we did, it starts at the far end of the parking lot. The trail starts out along the Weber River Trail, and then splits off after a short distance.
At first the going is easy, though it is extremely rocky and dusty. The trail, which is a popular day hike is long enough to spread out a lot of people, but you’ll pass dozens of folks. It took us a little over four hours to complete the entire loop.
The trail (clockwise) drops down to a meadow at the foot of a beautiful bald peak. This short section is steeply downhill, and the meadow represents the lowest point on the trail, but it’s still around 10,000 feet. The name of the meadow is Reid’s Meadow, and over the next mile, the trail climbs consistently up to Kamas Lake. This lake is large and beautiful, and we saw only a few people fishing there. It is a gorgeous alpine location, and we would love to set up camp there some day.
Continuing around the loop means more climbing. Eventually, the trail comes to an overlook, and you can look down on two unnamed lakes far below. A ghost trail would take you down to these smaller lakes, but the climb back up would be strenuous. Instead, the trail zigzags up the hill behind you, though it doesn’t climb up much more. After a short distance, it comes around a bend and Lofty Lake appears. This lake is much smaller, and likely busier than Kamas lake. It is an idyllic little patch of green in the high rocky mountains.
There is one final climb out of the Lofty Lake basin. As you crest the south rim, you reach the highest point of the hike, around 10,900 feet. Then the trail drops very steeply. This is the reason you didn’t hike counter-clockwise. It is a steady drop for almost all of the last mile and a half of the hike.
The trail is rocky and steep all the way down to Scout Lake, which we brushed by with barely a look as we had been hiking for so long. A little way farther is Picturesque Lake, which seems nearly hooked onto Scout Lake. There are also some “ice caves” though we saw only a deep hole in the rock, and no ice nor caves.
Finally, there is one last descent to the trailhead. The Lofty Lake Loop hike took us much longer than we anticipated, and was more difficult than we expected. The scenery was wonderful, and the distance was reasonable. But the up-and-down on this hike requires us to rate this hike as difficult for families. Unless your kids are pretty experienced, choose one of the dozens of other beautiful hikes in the Uintas to start out on!