Kermsuh Lake

Wild Bluebells

Wild bluebells (Campanula rotundifolia) glisten with raindrops after a storm in the Stillwater Drainage of the Uinta Mountains.


Hoping to squeeze one more backpacking trip out of the summer months, my wife and I threw our packs into the trunk of our car and headed for the Uintas. Heavy snows tend to limit backpacking in the Uintas to a small summer window. Some of the high passes are snowed in until late June, and serious snowfall can resume as early as September.

Past Kamas, Highway 150 climbs through some of the most scenic territory in the state. About ten miles shy of the Wyoming border, a winding and washboarded dirt road diverges from the east side of the highway. Eventually this road ends at Christmas Meadows trailhead.

We began hiking with clear skies, but the weather had other ideas. Within a couple of hours, dark clouds gathered overhead. They began looking thicker and more angsty by the minute. As lightning stabbed downward, thunder rolled around the basins, rippling the air between the peaks. The mountains seemed to play ping-pong with the thunder, bouncing it back and forth. This prolonged what might have been a mediocre crackle into a minutes-long roar. The lightning flashes intensified, until they were jolting the forest every few seconds. Just then, we stumbled onto the edge of a large, open meadow. Becca, being the brains of our operation, suggested that we wait for the lighting to ease up before tromping through the clearing. I looked down at the four-foot long aluminum tube housing my fly rod and decided she was probably right. I’ve been known to do stupid things in the name of adventure, but parading across a meadow holding lightning rod wasn’t high on my list of priorities.

Wildflowers blooming in a meadow

Wildflowers bloom across a rain-soaked meadow in the Stillwater Drainage of the Uinta Mountains.

In a vain attempt to get dry, we pitched our tent where the trail forks below Kermsuh Lake. Luckily we had packed books and a deck of cards just in case the weather turned nasty. We spent about five hours in the tent playing cards, reading books, and napping. The storm finally broke in time for dinner. We had heard that camping sites are hard to find up by Kermsuh Lake, so we decided to stay put for the night.

The next day we left our tent and bags to air out and hiked the rest of the way up to the lake. Following the previous day’s storm, the whole area was soaked like a sponge. This sort of weather is typical for the north slope of the Uintas. The constant sogginess can be frustrating if you’re trying to start a fire or keep your clothes dry, but it also nurtures a lush carpet of wildflowers and green growth.

Kermsuh Lake hides in a small basin up the west fork of the Stillwater Drainage. Ryder and McPheters are the other big lakes in this part of the Stillwater Drainage. These other lakes draw much more attention than Kermsuh; if you go on a weekday you can expect to be alone after leaving the main trail. The Kermsuh Lake trail switchbacks a thousand feet up in the first mile or two, before eventually leveling out and reaching the lake. After the storm the previous day, the air felt crisp. The colors around us looked vibrant and clean. Wildflowers bloomed everywhere. After spending a few hours exploring the area around Kermsuh Lake, we returned to pick up our still-wet gear on the way back to the trailhead.

Getting There

If you plan on hiking any trail on the western end of the Uinta Mountains, bring a few dollars in cash. All trailheads along Highway 150 require a permit, which can be obtained at a self-service station. The first station is located a few miles up the road from Kamas.

Follow Highway 150 to Christmas Meadows Road, 48 miles northeast of Kamas. Turn right and follow Christmas Meadows Road about 4.3 miles to the trailhead. Christmas Meadows Road is not paved, but it is usually quite accessible for two-wheel drive vehicles.

GPS Coordinates

Christmas Meadows Trailhead: 40.8225° N 110.8010° W
Kermsuh Lake: 40.7486° N 110.8303° W

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