Christmas Meadows is located about 4 miles off the Mirror Lake Highway between Kamas, Utah, and Evanston, Wyoming, in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. The dirt road, which can be a bit rugged, ends at the secluded Christmas Meadows campground at an elevation of 8,800 feet.
The Stillwater Fork of the Bear River meanders through the meadow, and on a windless day, you’re rewarded with a reflection of the 12,718-foot Ostler Peak looming in the background. Visitors are required to purchase a recreation pass to use the facilities along the Mirror Lake Highway.
Weather At Christmas Meadows
Mirror Lake Highway is a seasonal byway; it’s open through the fall until the snow is too deep to plow. and then it opens again once the snow has melted off the road. The dirt road to Christmas Meadows is passable from June to September/October, and its accessibility is completely dependent on that year’s snowfall. Summer and fall are good times to visit. Summer brings wildflowers and mosquitos (which dwindle later in the season) and rainstorms. Fall brings deeper colors to the meadow floor and the occasional snowstorm.
Christmas Meadows is one of my favorite locations. It’s a serene little valley with breathtaking views. When you’re facing Ostler Peak from the meadow you’re facing south, so you get beautiful side light on the peaks behind the meadow and deep shadows on the lower surrounding mountains and the valley floor. I took this photo just before sunset in October. When I first arrived on this fall afternoon, the breeze was ruffling the water of the river, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I found the spot that suited my eye and chilled out for a few hours, hoping it would all come together, perhaps even a Shiras moose would wander into the meadow. No such luck this time, but clouds started forming in the distance and moved over the meadow.
Best Times To Visit
Christmas Meadows is only really accessible for about 5 months out of the year, so anytime you can get there during summer and fall is a good time. It’s a popular camping and hiking destination (Amethyst Lake Trailhead starts here), and even though there are only 11 camping sites, the campground itself can feel crowded at times.
The meadow is green and lush in the summer, but I personally like fall better. There are less mosquitos, less people and the meadow floor has turned into a carpet of deep burgundy and gold. There’s also a chance that a bull moose with a big rack could make an appearance. In the late fall, you might get really lucky and be the only one there.
Contact: USDA Forest Service, fs.usda.gov.
See more of Stacy Howell’s work at howellnaturephotography.com.