This hike has been on my “to do” list for a long, long time – as long as when my own sons were working on their Hiking merit badge and completed the Smith & Moorehouse Trail back in 2010. I don’t know why I haven’t done this trail before now, but I finally did it with my troop! As mentioned earlier, we’ve done a lot of fun hikes this summer and saw this as an opportunity to knock out two goals in a single trip: Notch Mountain Trail for me, a 10-miler for my troop. I also think September is the best time to hike or backpack in the mountains and this trip did not disappoint! The weather was ideal, the fall colors were incredible and the overall experience rewarding… another great experience for everyone. If you want a great hike in the Uintas to satisfy a requirement for the Hiking merit badge, you might look into this one.
For this trip, we chose to go from the Crystal Lake trailhead to Bald Mountain Pass. The primary reason to travel this direction was based on logistics with the shuttle car. I have a small troop right now and only needed one car to get everyone to this weekend outing, so I invited our 11 year old scouts to join us. The plan was to camp together near Bald Mountain and then have each group drive separately to the trailhead that next morning to begin our respective adventures. Since I had previously backpacked to Wall Lake in 2014 and then up to The Notch in 2015 (both with scouts), I knew the EYOs would have something achievable to do with a great view by starting at Crystal. More specifically, Wall Lake is only 1 mile in with the Notch another 1.5 more if they were up for tackling requirement 3b of the Second Class rank (2016 rev). Either way, they’d be done way before us and agreed to help by dropping off my truck back at the Bald Mountain trailhead for when we reached the end. The other option was for my group to come up in two cars and do the back-n-forth shuttling ourselves (since it’s only a 5-mile drive from TH to TH), but this was much more fun for all and the younger boys got to see the older boys in action around camp – and hear what they can look forward to when they come of age. It all worked out perfectly!
This route wasn’t too difficult for my group of first-year scouts who attended. There were really only two spots I’d say were challenging for them for different reasons. The first one is right before you top The Notch. It’s a section of switchbacks we call “the stairs” because, well, it’s like climbing stairs. If your boys are struggling here, just shy of 2.5 miles along your 10 mile journey, you might take that as a sign to reconsider their readiness. A short push from the stairs to the actual notch could still earn them a 5-miler before turning back.
For those who press on, you will crest The Notch and find yourself with a beautiful view of Lovenia Lake and the Weber River drainage to the north. This is just awesome country and I crave to see it all! Take a few minutes to snap some pics, look for the geocache close by and then move on… you still have a long day ahead of ya.
The next 3 miles is a gradual downward slope as you lose 1,000 feet of elevation around the backside of Notch Mountain. You will pass an unnamed lake and Ibantik Lake along the way. I had wished our plan was to set up camp here and explore around or fish for the rest of the day. Maybe next year…
As the trail continues to drop toward the valley below, you will reach an intersection with a trail that continues down to the Weber River. This is the lowest point of the Notch Mountain Trail and about your half-way point. We got here in 2.5 hours. We also think it’s a great spot to rest and refuel before hitting your 2nd challenge…another climb.
The 2nd climb up isn’t terribly difficult but you will regain 600 feet of elevation in a little over mile. My young group did good here but were definitely starting to feel it by then. The trail soon flattens out as you come up on the 7-mile mark and Bench Lake shortly after that. The last 3 miles go without too much noticeable gain for the last leg of this route. Stopping to look at Notch Lake and Clegg Lake were nice mental distractions and served as a visual landmarks to reinforce that “we’re almost there”.
As with any hike I do with scouts (or all beginners for that matter), we travel at a pace set by the group since my goal for them is to enjoy the experience and not go home hating it. That said, it took our group 5.5 hours that day to complete this 10-miler. 4 of the 5 raved about it and now looking forward to a 15 mile attempt on Timpanogos next month…sweet!
Here’s a Google Earth file of this trail with waypoints for reference and route planning.