Mckee Draw Trailhead to Hacking Lake
The section of trail from McKee Draw Trailhead to Hacking Lake is the least talked about portion of the Highline Trail. Part of the reason for this is because it is a lot easier to skip this 25 mile section and go right to the "good stuff". However, there are some great reasons to consider this section of the trail as part of your overall Highline Trail experience.
Many people begin the Highline Trail having come from many parts of the country. And unless you are coming straight from Denver, you likely aren't completely ready to jumping into living 10,000 feet above sea level. The McKee Draw Trailhead sits at about 8,200 feet, which gives you a little time to ease into the higher elevations of the Uinta Mountains. The gradual climb towards Leidy Peak will allow your body to acclimate to higher elevations living a little slower, which can make your hike a lot more pleasant if you can avoid getting sick.
This section of trail is also completely different from what you will experience throughout the rest of the Highline Trail, but more typical of what the Uinta Mountains look like below 10,000 feet. You cross large sections of timber that are broken up by beautiful mountain meadows, see plants like sage brush and aspen, and it has a different feel than the rest of the trail. Hiking this section will give you a glimpse of everything the Uinta Mountains have to offer.
It's important to consider several additional cautions before you hike this section of trail. The biggest challenge is water availability; this is probably the only section of trail where you won't encounter water every mile or two. The first few miles of the trail will have occasional water sources, but after East Park Reservoir the options become less frequent. Make sure to carry plenty of water with you during this section.
You will also want to have a GPS to keep you on trail. There are multiple sections of trail that are nonexistent, and without a GPS you could easily become disoriented. Also, expect to have a limited view of your surroundings for most of this section. You will occasionally get to see a postcard-like scene, but for the most part you will be looking at forests and meadows.
Our biggest complaint about this section is that it isn't the High Uinta Wilderness that people come to see on the Highline Trail. You will be walking on roads, you will hear ATV's, and you will see people. So keep these things in mind so you will have realistic expectations about this section. It will make this part of trail a more pleasant experience if you know what you're signing up for before you start your hike.
Camping Potential - 5
Water Availability - 1
Difficulty - 2
Scenery - 2