I’ve made this trip before, but we got stopped so short on the way that we never actually made it to the basin. That’s why when my friend Ashley mentioned that she wanted to go camping, I immediately suggested Amethyst Basin. At 13.5 miles round trip, the hike could be made in a long day, but we made the decision to spend the night and it was beyond worth it.

July 11, 2014

The forecast was a chance of rain, but the skies were clear (enough) and we were determined so we set out bright and early in the morning.  About an hour and a half in, we stopped at Bald Mountain Pass to take in the view and stretch our legs.

Views: Bald Mountain Pass, Utah by Austen Clement

 

Finally arriving at the Christmas Meadows trail head, we rearranged our bags, took a selfie, and we were off!

Not too long into the hike, the thunder started. As the storm was rolling in we frantically grabbed for our ponchos; we weren’t going to let a little rain deter us.

As we worked on putting our packs back on we saw a moose cross the trail in front of us. It was moving too fast to get a picture, and it disappeared completely upon entering the trees. It was a very peaceful moment.

Up until this point, the trail was fairly easy. There were only a few mud holes to climb around and for the most part there was very little elevation gain. This only lasted about two miles though, because once we hit Ostler Fork things got rough.

The hike to Amethyst Basin is about 6.5 miles long. During that 6 and a half miles there is a 2000 foot elevation gain – much of which is condensed into a single grueling mile just after the fork. Pair that with a raging thunder storm and it makes for one hell of a hike.

The Hill from Hell, Christmas Meadows Trailhead

The nice thing about this part of the hike is the fact that it runs along Ostler Fork, a river cascading down the side of the mountain in truly magnificent fashion.

Finally nearing the top, the rain slowed to a stop and the mountains started peeking through the clouds. It was a magnificent view.

Surprisingly enough, the going didn’t get much easier once the path leveled out. The raging storm caused some streams to overflow, sometimes making the trail into something more akin to a riverbed than a real path. In other places, the forest floor turned into wetland with water several inches deep and mud you could really sink your feet into. We both ended up with muddy shoes and even muddier socks before it was over.

Views: A mountain meadow on the hike along Ostler Fork by Austen Clement

 

At this point we were more than ready to set up camp in any meadow we could find and just relax until bed time. Passing through several promising meadows, we trudged on to reach the basin.

I can’t express how glad I am that we held out just a little longer. Nearing the top of our last big hill, we looked up to see a mountain with sheer cliff sides appeared directly overhead.

Amethyst Basin, Lower Shelf

The view from our tent.  |  Amethyst Basin, Lower Shelf

And that was it! We had reached the basin, and the meadow was so picturesque it was almost absurd. Naturally we had to set up camp. We had a great freeze-dried dinner, and sat in our own private meadow as day turned to night.

The moon was out above the meadow, brightly lighting entire scene. Clouds from the storm earlier poured over the mountain and formed as a low-lying mist over the grass and river, revealing the stars high above. It was truly a sight to behold, and quite possibly one of the most beautiful things I’ve experienced in the entire state of Utah. It’s really a shame I didn’t pack my DSLR to capture that perfect night.

 

Around 2 AM we peeled off our many layers of soggy clothes, changed into dry socks and climbed into our mummy bags to await a (hopefully) dryer morning.

July 12, 2014

Morning came, and overall the day was pretty uneventful. Some light mist hung near the ground and in the trees when we woke up, giving the whole area a surreal wonderland. As we were filtering some water from the nearly 6 foot deep creek, another group of campers emerged from the forest headed home. It was amazing to think that there were others up there, especially considering the extreme solitude we thought we had experienced the night before.

Views: Near our Campsite, Amethyst Basin Lower Shelf by Austen Clement
One last selfie with our meadow, and we were on our way!
Despite looking like we could pass out at any moment, the hike back was pretty uneventful and took about half as long. Before we knew it, we were back at my car safe and sound.

We made it! | Christmas Meadows Trailhead