The Last Days of Summer

The end of my second week in Park City, Utah was rapidly approaching, and with it the final days of summer, and the end of another multi-week road trip. 2018 was another banner year for wildfires, and a major blaze was burning to the south of me. Fortunately, about an hour to the east, in the beautiful and scenic High Uintas, the air was free of smoke.

Since I was staying in a time-share in Park City, my previous ventures into the High Uintas had been day hikes. To be sure, the forays were beautiful and fun, but I longed to spend another night under the stars. One of the more important lessons I learned in economics was the concept of sunk cost. My week in Park City was already paid for, and whether I spent a night in a hotel room bed or in my sleeping bag, the cost was the same; it would be foolish to let the price already paid, rob me of the satisfaction of a night on the ground.

But where to go? That decision was the hardest part of the overnight trip. There were so many options. Ultimately, I opened the map and found a route that looked like an upside-down lollipop leading to a high altitude lake in an amphitheater-like setting, a perfect place to set up camp.

With my choice made, I packed my gear and drove out to the Crystal Lake trailhead. I headed west, then north on the Clyde Lake trail, passing several nice lakes, any of which would have been a great place to camp.

Cliff Lake

My goal though was to head over The Notch and make my way to Ibantik Lake. The afternoon air was crisp; autumn was already here in the High Uintas. I stopped for a break at Clyde Lake, the last water before traversing The Notch.

There is a good trail going over The Notch. Once on top, the view opened to the north. I was so focused on the scenery ahead that I almost failed to see the fauna above and to the left of me. Only the sound of small rocks tumbling down the cliffside alerted me to the presence of a pair of mountain goats.

Mountain Goats above the Notch

Heading down the pass, I passed several lovely alpine tarns and lakes before arriving at picturesque Ibantik Lake. There was no one else nearby (I had only seen a couple of other hikers all day), and I had my choice of campsites. I picked a site on a bench above the lake, with an easy path to a small, flowing creek. After pitching camp, I spent the remaining daylight hours exploring the area.

Camp at Ibantik Lake

The temperature quickly dropped as the sun set; being above 10,000 feet meant I was in for a chilly evening, and, after dinner, I sought the comfort of a warm sleeping bag.

Dinner at camp

The following morning was the last full day of summer. I rejoiced as the morning light illuminated the cliffs above the lake, and celebrated, even more, when the warm rays of the sun shone on my tent. After breakfast, I packed up and headed back over The Notch and completed the loop past Wail Lake and on to my waiting car.


If this were California, I would need a permit to camp at such a spectacular location; but being Utah, no permits are required, and there are no quotas. One more reason to add Utah’s High Uintas to your list of adventure destinations.

View from the Notch