Over the last month or so, I’ve found myself rather impressed with the North Slope of the Uintas. It’s weird, because I’ve long neglected most of the drainages on the north side, and I’m not quite sure why. Most likely, it’s because it’s hard to create loop hikes out of most of them, and the idea of 10 mile out and back trips really doesn’t appeal to me. I’m not a particular fan of the livestock grazing and above average number of horsepackers up there either.
However, I had seen many pictures from the sister drainages in the East Fork of the Bear River, and so I was determined to link up the two drainages in one trip and hopefully catch some nice light at Allsop Lake and Priord Lake. The problem is linking the two without too much work. I had found a couple of options online for getting between the two lakes, and the most popular seemed to be what I call “Yard Pass,” the small pass between North Yard and Yard Peak. It was certain to be a massive scree scramble up, and a loose scree-ski slide down on the west side. But, with a little effort, it was sure to go. That is, until we got up to the lake, and realized the entire gully was still deep in snow, and neither of us had spikes or an axe. We’d have to figure another route.
After a nice evening catching countless fish and a reasonably colorful sunset sans clouds, I poured over a map trying to figure out if anything else would go. Lots of cliffs, and little potential I thought. I decided we’d hike up to the base of the cliffs in the morning and see if we could pick our way through. There was a small break that looked promising, just north of North Yard peak. It was steep and full of big boulders down low, but up high, it looked particularly good, and the topo looked like it might even go on the other side too. We decided to head up and see what we could find.
Apparently, we weren’t the only ones to have ever tried that pass. About halfway up the slope, I started seeing signs of use, but I couldn’t figure if it was a game trail or what. A few hundred yards higher, and it became obvious. Signs of a constructed trail were everywhere, and there was at least one obvious switchback to the top. Who the hell would’ve used this route? And how long ago was it built? Those cattle ranchers must’ve been crafty fellas, for sure. Once on top, the trail cut back to the left, under a cliff band, and continued west into a hanging valley, where it eventually skirted North Yard’s flanks and descended directly to Norice Lake. I couldn’t believe it. The trail was non-existent in a few places, difficult to find in others, but in some stretches, it was as good as any trail around. We made the crossing from Allsop to Priord in less than 3 hours, and avoided the dreaded in and out route on the same trail. I was stoked to find such easy passage, and wonder what the history of the trail is. If anyone has any ideas, let me know in the comments.
The East Fork of the Bear River definitely delivers the goods, with great scenery and awesome fishing at both lakes. Surprisingly, Allsop had almost no mosquitoes. But Priord was absolutely unbearable, perhaps the worst I’ve ever seen the mozzies in the Uintas. And of course, both drainages were full of cows, Allsop being particularly bad. There was probably 100 head near the lake itself. But if you can look past the cows and horsepackers, the scenery is spectacular.