The Uinta Mountains are the crown jewel of all of Utah’s mountain ranges. The Uintas are the biggest, contain all of Utah’s 21 13ers, and have the largest alpine wilderness in the state. The Uintas also have the second most terrain above tree line terrain of any mountain range in the lower 48 states, and they are one of only two major mountain ranges in North America that run east to west. Simply put, the Uinta Mountains are extremely beautiful and unique, and they should be on every outdoor enthusiast's list.
Mount Watson stands tall at 11,527 feet and is one of the higher and more prominent mountains west of Bald Mountain Pass. Wall Lake, Trial Lake, Clyde Lake, and the Boundary Lakes rest east of the summit, making the views from Mount Watson truly astounding. From a skiers perspective, Mount Watson is a dream, featuring a very steep east face that attracts serious backcountry skiers of all types.
Getting to Mount Watson is almost more of an adventure than skiing it. Park at Soapstone Basin where the road closes, and hop on a snowmobile (or get towed) and drive up the Mirror Lake Highway 11 miles to the Trail Lake turnoff. From Trail Lake, wind your way through the forest to Wall Lake. This portion of the approach can be very difficult if you are being towed by a snowmobile. Be careful. Once at Wall Lake, Mount Watson will be to your west and will be towering over you. There are two prominent ridges (northeast and south), and both are viable ascent routes. The northeast is perhaps the shortest and steepest. Pick a ridge and skin/bootpack up it as you see fit. The climb to the summit from the base is roughly 1,000 vertical feet.
Skiing Mount Watson is truly an adventure and will require a full day. Come prepared and tread lightly in this wild landscape. Skiing 11 miles from the nearest road is adventurous, and one mistake could prove very costly.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.