Backpack Amethyst Basin

Utah Christmas Meadows Trailhead

  • Activities:

    Fishing, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    12 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    1900 Feet

Forest
River
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Enjoy incredible scenery, rugged terrain, and Ostler Peak, which towers above a classic alpine meadow. There is also excellent fishing in the meadow below the lake.

Directions: The trail leaves from the Christmas Meadows Trailhead.

From Mirror Lake Scenic Byway (US 150) turn on Christmas Meadows Rd. The campground and trailhead are around 3.5 miles down the road dirt road. The road is suitable for low clearance vehicles.

Trip Length: 6 miles each way + optional day-hikes.

Total Elevation Gain: 1,900' to the lake (It's only 1,500 to the camp at the meadow)

Leaving from the Christmas Meadows area at 8,800 feet, the trail meanders through wildflower-filled grasses gaining little elevation. The first two and a half miles of the hike go down quickly. Once you hit the fork in the trail (make sure to stay left at the fork to stay on the amethyst basin trail. Although, it's clearly signed) things get a little steep. The trial gains over 500'+ in the next half mile or so with the remaining elevation gain spread out over the next two miles. The cascades alongside the trail keep your mind off your burning calves, however.

Once you reach Amethyst Meadow, the large alpine meadow below Ostler Peak, find your campsite for the weekend. There are plenty of previously used sites in the woods surrounding the meadow so there's no need to make a new one. The camping at the meadow is better than the camping at the lake just a little bit further up the trail. From camp you can watch the evening light scrape the face of Ostler Peak as the sun disappears below the horizon. Make sure you bring your camera because this place is a photographer's paradise.

The following day there are a few day-hike options available. You can head up the trail to Amethyst Lake, or one of the other smaller lakes in the area. If you're feeling ambitious, you can even try for the summit of Ostler Peak. There's no defined trail to the summit so route finding skills and a map are needed.

The fishing in the small stream that cuts through amethyst meadow is quite good. The fish are all pretty small but they seem to be very hungry. You'll have to be a little sneaky if you want to catch any, though, The water is shallow and slow-moving so the fish can easily see you standing on the bank.

If you're a photographer, you might be interested in packing a tripod to get some images of the night sky. The night skies are very dark and full of stars.

When you're all done enjoying the amazing-ness that Amethyst Basin has to offer, tear down camp and head back out the same way you came in.

Pack List

Overnight Gear: (This varies a lot depending on your style of spending the night, but this is what I pack)
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag (it gets pretty cold at night so bring a warm one)
  • Sleeping pad
  • Stove and cookware
  • Water filter
Other Gear:
  • Headlamp
  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Food
  • Surdy shoes
  • Down jacket
  • Waterproof jacket and pants
  • Beanie
  • Gloves
  • Knife
Read More

Reviews

Overall rating: 

Leave a Review

The beauty of anywhere in the Uintas is always a 5/5 stars, but the amount of people up Amethyst Basin was kind of a bummer for somewhere this far from civilization. Expect even more people if it's a holiday weekend like Labor Day. And there were a ton of barking dogs running around ruining the peace and quiet the whole time. But definitely an awesome experience if that kind of thing doesn't bother you.

21 days ago
21 days ago

We backpacked to Amethyst Basin on 9/1/17. It was hot in SLC with zero chances of rain, so the Uinta's were packed. I estimate there were people in approximately 50 campsites, but the basin is large with lots of great campsites, so it didn't feel crowded. Bugs were non-existent. @Isaiah Ort - there is an overnight fee of $6 for stays of 1-3 days, $12 for stays of 7-14 days, or $45 for an annual pass, or free if you have a National Parks Pass.

22 days ago
22 days ago

DO you need any sort of permit to camp overnight?

4 months ago
4 months ago

Did this hike on 8/22/16. This is definitely a must do hike in the Uintas. Did this as a day hike. But, wish I would have taken the planning to back pack into amethyst basin and make it an overnight trip because this place is truly magical. Started at about 6:30am and got up to amethyst lake at 9:30 ish. That was with a lot of stops and sight seeing along the way up. Amethyst lake is amazing. A lot bigger than I thought it would be. The water, especially with the sun shining, is an intense clear, aqua color. Set up some hammocks on the east side and relaxed for a bit. On the way down we decided to explore over to Ostler lake. From what I had researched, there is no actual trail to it. So, we bush whacked our way there and back from the trail. I am surprised there is no official trail to Ostler lake because it is a pretty lake. Not as awesome as amethyst, but with Ostler peak in the background, Ostler lake makes for some pretty sweet photos. My brother and I also took a dive in Ostler. It was probably the coldest water I have ever been in but definitely worth it. This hike has it all. Definitely take the time to do an overnight trip. Starting off at the amazing Christmas meadows, following a river, seeing a few water falls on the way and amazing peaks keeps your mind off the burning legs. There really isn't much difficulty to this hike other than the 0.5 miles right after the turn off to amethyst lake.

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

This place is absolutely magical. We backpacked in and stayed at the Meadows and from the moment we arrived, it was a transcendent experience. The hike isn't too hard but does gain a lot of elevation. With that said, there was not a dull moment on the hike. The two lakes up there are crystal clear with small trout in each of them. The weather was a little bit volatile with sporadic rain and wind but overall, the area is amazing.

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

Hike in was amazing, not too strenuous but for the one section of steep up hill. We wandered around to all 3 lakes, each one with it's own unique beauty! Bugs weren't too bad, were up there late August.

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

This area is about as beautiful as it gets. We got caught in an unexpected Uintas storm, but the hike in was mild and the views were stunning.

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

This area is pretty well-trafficked with most trees stripped of low hanging branches. The peak is beautiful with the occasional mountain goat playing on the cliff face. Ostler Lake was definitely my favorite.

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

Went in June, tornadoes of flies everywhere. Lots of people had camped there the weekend before we got there. Human poop around the campground. Aside from that, It's really pretty, good for exploring and going up to the peak which has some rocky and steep spots so be careful.

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

Nearby Adventures

Hike Mount Ellen in Utah's Henry Mountains

Utah / Mount Ellen Peak Trail

Mount Ellen is considered an Ultra Prominent Peak. What's that you may ask? Well, Ultra Prominent Peaks are determined by how high the summit rises above its surroundings.

31 Saves

Camp at McMillan Springs In The Henry Mountains

Utah / McMillan Springs Campground

McMillan Springs Campground is south of Hanksville, Utah and within the Henry Mountains, which run north and south between Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Parks.

28 Saves

Climb West Slabs of Mount Olympus

Utah / West Slab Starting Point

Park at the top of Thousand Oaks Drive, and make your way to the dirt path heading east.

59 Saves