The Mirror Lake Highway is one of the most beautiful roads in the United States. Due to large amounts of snow and low visitation numbers, only the first 14 miles of the road are plowed in the winter months. This excludes most of the big mountain terrain in the Uintas, though there are plenty of winter recreational opportunities off of the first 14 miles of the road for those who are willing to venture into the Uintas in the winter.
Pine Valley is roughly 11 miles up the highway and is a large, open meadow. This valley is a great place for winter recreationalists as it has a plowed parking lot and a bridge that crosses the North Fork of the Provo River.
From the parking lot, cross the bridge and enjoy the open views of Pine Valley. You will be able to see rolling forested mountains in all directions, and if you listen closely perhaps the coyote pack that lives across the Provo River will make some noise. This is a wild area. Skirt the left (east) side of the valley and quickly descend into the Provo River floodplain whenever possible. This will be a steep wall that gives you access to the flat floodplain that is truly a unique area.
Walk the floodplain for a while heading west and enjoy the unique scenery, the big mounds of frozen marsh plants, and the trickling of the Provo River through its thick coat of ice. This area is truly sublime. Walk this area in the spring (March through May) and you will be treated to a firsthand show of the raw powers of nature. Melting snow from all over funnels down to the river, creating strong temporary creeks and numerous ponds. This is perhaps the most unique time of year to do this hike.
Once you have your river fix, climb out of the floodplain and finish the loop through the big open meadow that is Pine Valley. Please note that if you are here during warm weather, tread carefully while hiking near the Provo River!
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.