Pioneer Day is a Utah state holiday in the United States. It is celebrated on July 24 annually to commemorate the entry of Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneer settlers into Utah’s Salt Lake Valley in 1847. There are grand celebrations across the state celebrating the society that has been built by Mormons and non-Mormons alike.
For Pioneer Day 2023 I jumped on an opportunity to do some wheelin’ with the fine folks over at Epic Jeep Rentals in Park City, UT and Sexton Offroad. We linked up near the Silver Lake Lodge of Deer Valley Mountain Resort for a brief orientation, discussion of route, review of some provided maps, then they turned the 2021 Jeep Rubicon keys over to me and after that it was game-on!
Our adventure takes us to the Wasatch-Cache and Ashley National Forests. It was just me and my Bill Withers: Greatest Hits album, setting-off for an action packed half-day in the beautiful backcountry of the Uinta Mountain Range.
First stop, Kamas, Utah, 15 miles east of Park City and a small ranching community known as the “Gateway to the Uinta’s”. After I filled up at the local grocery to pack up the cooler provided by Epic Jeep Rentals and grabbed a bite to eat at the Mirror Lake Diner, it was time. My plan for the day was pretty simple… head up the 42-mile road known as Mirror Lake or U.S. Highway 150 toward Wyoming, get some sun/fresh air, scout out a few campgrounds, and have a good time.
Just before reaching the summit (nearly 11,000 ft.) of Bald Mountain Pass, I sighted a pair of massive Bull Moose. Yes, two large moose together casually hanging out in the alpine, right off the scenic byway. So, watch your speed! Utah/Wyoming Mountains are home to a wide variety of wildlife. What a sweet way to start the trek! Yew!
Shortly after, off the starboard side, I took in a view I’ll never forget… Mirror Lake itself. Ah, yes, the beauty of clear blue mountain lakes. Next I pit-stopped at Beaver View campground in the Aspen, Fir and Spruce forest near Hayden Fork.
I continued on another 15 miles or so to the Christmas Meadows/Wolverine ATV trail. Things got a little bumpy/aggressive here. However, the 4-door JLU Jeep I was driving with its upgraded ICON suspension and 37″ off road tread tires handled every road/trail thrown her way like a champ.
On our return trip, I had beautiful scenic views of the massive peaks that loom above the tree line, including the highest point in Utah, 13,528 ft. Kings Peak, and gained new perspectives on many of the 1,000 breathtaking lakes in the Uinta range.
I drove towards one of the previously mentioned beautiful lakes, known as Crystal Lake, for a quick detour… and was pleasantly surprised to discover clean restrooms and easy access right down to the water for fishing (500 of the local lakes support game fish.)
Lastly, I took a short hike down to the jagged rocks surrounding Slate Gorge and then packed it all up. Would totally do it all over again, so much to experience here, I definitely need another week or two!
My Pioneer Day adventure across this unforgiving terrain made me think of this life leading quote from my intuitive coworker in Jackson Hole:
“Amongst the trees is where we belong. Our reciprocal relationship with them is what draws us nearer – they give us breath, and we return one back. This mutual exchange comes with a sense of comfort; knowing that while they give us shelter in times of the storm, they seek us out to share the age-old wisdom of the forest.”
A day to remember, Muito Obrigado to Laura, Dusty and Epic Jeep Rentals in Park City, Utah