Thursday, February 7, 2019
Shuttle? Arranging Transportation on the Uinta Highline Trail
The Uinta Highline Trail is a world-class adventure, and a trail that is getting more popular every year. But, as any aspiring UHT hiker will soon find out, transportation is a problem. Those 100 miles of untouched wilderness make it very difficult to get from one end to the other. Below are some current (2020 hiking season) recommendations.
Of course, the easiest way is to wrangle a loved one into shuttling you from one terminus to the other. But these days, there are a lot of people coming in from out-of-state to hike the UHT. The below guide offers the best shuttle/transportation option for those who don't have Utah connections whom they can lean on. Anyone coming from out-of-area will end up renting a car; the logistical challenge of the UHT is getting to the east end to begin your hike after leaving your car at the finish on west end. That conundrum is the subject of this article.
Note: older literature may reference a commercial shuttle service offered by the Wilkins Bus Line. Wilkins apparently went out of business in 2018-2019, but has been reorganized as Wilkins Shuttles. Check out their website for the latest status on their operations. It's not cheap, but it's a long shuttle. Those going with a group will find the shuttle to be reasonable, as the costs can be defrayed amongst the group. For solo travelers or those with more time or money? Read on!
TL;DR: Hitch from the western trailhead to Kamas. Catch the free #11 bus, transfer to the #12 bus, which drops you off in Park City. From Park City, take the Greyhound to Vernal, and hitch from Vernal to the eastern trailhead.
The Direction: These directions are intended for a westbound hike, which is the more common direction of travel, as well as the direction that I would recommend. You could reverse these directions if you wanted to do an eastbound hike, but would need to take care lining up the Park City busses with the Greyhound, time-wise.
The Route: The below instructions are for the 100-mile version of the hike. It would be very difficult to do the 70 or 80-mile versions of the hike using the method described below; the trailheads for those versions are located on seldom-traveled dirt roads. If you want to do the 70 or 80-mile versions of the hike, the only real option is to know somebody who will shuttle you. For a fuller description of the various route options, please see my UHT Overview page
You will need the following:
1) A car
2) A thumb
3) A Greyhound ticket from Park City, UT to Vernal, UT (approximately $17.00, if you purchase it far enough in advance)
Step 1: Drive to the Highline (Hayden Pass) trailhead (40.7230, -110.8636). This is about 90 minutes from Salt Lake City. On your way there, be sure to pay your recreation fee at one of the roadside kiosks. For current passholders, America the Beautiful Interagency Passes are valid here. Just leave the pass on your dashboard. MAP
Step 2: Hitchhike approximately 29 miles southwest on UT 150 to Kamas, UT. This is the world's easier hitch. All of the traffic on the road is recreational; and you are likely to catch a ride with a kindred spirit who is returning home after hiking, fishing, or camping. MAP
You will probably want to hitch to Kamas the night before and spend the night in/near Kamas*. Your #11 bus from Kamas to Park City leaves very early in the morning - early enough that traffic will be likely non-existant on UT 150 at that time of day.
Step 3: Walk from [wherever you get dropped off in Kamas] to the Kamas Park 'n Ride (40.6396758, -111.2837887). Your ride will likely drop you off right at main intersection in Kamas (Corner of Main and Center streets, aka the corner of UT 150 and UT 32). If so, it's a very short walk, just a few tenths of a mile, to the Park 'n Ride. MAP
Step 4: Catch the free Summit County Bus #11 at 6:17AM or 7:17AM toward Park City. #11 is the only bus that serves Kamas so if you see a bus, it's the right bus! Get off at the Park City Medical Center stop (40.6876142,-111.4689766). MAP
Step 5: At the Park City Medical Center bus stop, transfer to the free #12 Kamas-Kimball Link bus. Take the #12 to the end of the line at the Kimball Junction Transit Center (40.7238635, -111.5466347) MAP
Step 6: Walk a short distance to the Park City, UT stop for the Greyhound bus (40.7229474, -111.5395926). The bus is scheduled to depart at 8:25AM daily, however Greyhound frequently runs late, often by several hours. You will need to purchase your ticket online, in advance. The Park City stop is curbside pickup only; only passengers that have already purchased and printed their tickets will be admitted onto the bus. MAP
Step 7: Get off the Greyhound in Vernal, UT (40.4485673,-109.5520539). MAP
Step 8: Walk from the Greyhound stop to the intersection of US 40 and US 191 (40.4557, -109.5286). This is "downtown" Vernal, such as it is. Walk a little bit north on US 191 in order to get a nice hitching spot on the edge of town. MAP
Step 9: Hitchhike approximately 29 miles north to the Highline trailhead at McKee Draw (40.7894, -109.4708). MAP
Pack City Transit Routes & Maps
*The above recommendation offers legal parking for your car at the Hayden Pass trailhead. If legal and appropriate, it would probably be preferable to leave your car at the Kamas Park 'n Ride, essentially starting with Step #3. Then, once you conclude your westbound hike, follow Step #2 to get back to your car. This plan would eliminate the need to spend the night in Kamas. HOWEVER... I do not know whether or not it is legal/appropriate to park a car for a week+ at the Kamas Park 'n Ride. It's a small parking lot attached to a private business. If anybody does this, please let me know what your experience was!
No Car? It is certainly also possible to do the UHT without renting a car. Those flying into Salt Lake City would simply board the Greyhound in SLC and take it all the way to Vernal, picking up the directions at Step 9. When done with the hike, follow Steps 2-5. Several buses run daily between Park City and Salt Lake City, operated either by Greyhound or UTA transit. The main disadvantage of not renting a car is the uncertainty of it all - you have to hitchhike after getting done with your route, which always carries a little uncertainty - uncertainty that can be more than a little stressful if you have to catch a flight! Still, for the thrifty hiker willing to build a little extra time into their schedule, this can be a great option.