Island Lake Cliff Jumping & Camping
Updated: Aug 2, 2021
Starting Elevation: 10,000
Elevation Gain: 587
Distance: ~3.7 miles
Moving Time: 1:53
Date: August 10, 2020
Going cliff jumping at Island Lake has been on my to list since I moved to Park City in 2016. The summer that we moved here, my boys wanted to go cliff jumping so we went to Wall Lake and then camped at Long Lake since hiking to Island Lake was a bit too far for them at the ages of 13 & 9. Fast forward 4 years and the boys are bigger and stronger so Island Lake was now in play!
This was a last minute backpacking trip that we planned with our neighbors, Paul, Monty and Miles Krakovitz. We were car camped with the Krakovitz's at Wasatch Mountain State Park two days before and they said they wanted to do some “real” camping. I suggested backpacking to a cliff jumping spot in the Uintas and the boys were immediately hooked. The allure of cliff jumping is the only thing that would have motivated the boys to carry heavy packs 3.5 miles in the heat of the summer.
From Kamas, drive 25 miles on the Mirror Lake Highway until you see a sign for Trial Lake/ Lake Washington. Turn left and look for the Crystal Lake parking area. This might be the most popular parking lot in the Uintas during the summer so get there early or go mid-week. We went on a Monday and to my surprise - it was about 90% full. At the north end of the parking lot, you will find the Cylde Lake & Long Lake trailhead.
It is just over 2 miles to Long Lake and about 1.7 miles to Island Lake. Follow this trail for about .5 miles and you will then see a Cliff Lake sign that directs you to the right but DON’T take that trail- stay to the left. The trail will start to climb up here as you go over a small pass (10,330) before you descend to Long Lake. The trail passes the eastern edge of Long Lake and you will see a sign for Island Lake that says 1 mile but it is more like 1.5+ miles so be prepared.
After passing Long Lake, the trail descends to the west towards Duck Lake. When you see a sign for Duck Lake- stay to the right and you will hit a few switchbacks just before arriving at Island Lake.
There are several good camp spots along the western and northern side of the lake. Our crew was getting rather impatient with hiking so we took one of the first open sites on the west bank.
There are many sites with pre-established fire pits and gathering areas. If you are willing to walk just a little further around the lake, you will be rewarded with some grassy/flat spots but to be honest- all of the spots are great. After a hot 2 hour hike, everyone was ready for a refreshing plunge and for some cliff jumping action! The cliff jumping spot is located on the north side of the lake and it is very obvious. As always, they don’t look that big from across the lake but once you get on top- they are quite imposing. What is great about these cliffs is that they offer something for everyone with spots as small as 5 feet up to about 45-50 feet and the water below is very deep (we never touched the bottom).
We started out small to test the water and the temp was surprisingly pleasant (probably in the mid-60s) given that the lake is 10,100 feet. Despite having two broken arms, my son, Fletcher, did a back flip off a 5 & 10 footer and sent it from the 35+ spot. Monty did a couple of jumps off the 10-15 foot cliffs and after much encouragement on the 2nd day - he got the nerve to launch off the 35 footer and he was so fired up. I thoroughly enjoyed Monty’s pre-jump routine. He would spend about 10 minutes getting his “adrenaline up” by going through multiple iterations of countdowns that would lead to, “I almost went that time”. In the end, he overcame his fear and walked the plank. Miles enjoyed a few jumps and Paul, being a world class swimmer (at least in my book), swam across the lake. I took a few leaps off the 40 footer on the first day and on the last day, I launched from the top spot which was about 45.
Fletcher and Monty definitely caught the cliff jumping bug so on the way out- they swung by the northern cliffs on Long Lake for a quick jump.
Island Lake is a great spot to escape the summer heat and even a day hike to do some cliff jumping is achievable.