KAMAS — Summer is here, and Mirror Lake Highway reopened for the season Monday, after Utah Department of Transportation crews were finally able to clear snow off the roadway. However, some of the recreational areas in northeastern Summit County remain closed, according to U.S. Forest Service officials.
The seasonal highway — officially called state Route 150 — cuts through the Uinta-Cache-Wasatch National Forest, starting in Kamas and moving northeast to the Utah-Wyoming border, ending in Evanston, Wyoming. The road typically closes for the winter but is traditionally open by Memorial Day because it's popular with outdoor recreationists, according to UDOT spokesman John Gleason.
Large snow accumulation this winter kept it from reopening nearly a month longer than what the agency had hoped for.
“This is one of the areas that we see deep snowpack, sometimes deeper than the other mountain passes, so this one took a little bit longer than the majority of the passes to open,” Gleason explained. “This year, we just had so many storms — storm after storm all winter long and into the spring.”
It’s the same reason state Route 92, also known as Alpine Loop, didn't reopen until June 14.
UDOT crews wait for the snow to melt to a specific level before it's cleared off the roadway to avoid safety concerns that could arise by pushing the snow to the side before it melts.
“If you open it too early, the sides of the road are still snowpacked with several feet of snow. That can present a safety issue if the runoff hasn’t occurred yet,” Gleason said. “We were waiting for the weather to work in our favor and melt off some of the snow before we got in there with the blowers and plows to clear the road.”
While the highway reopened Monday, Forest Service officials tweeted Tuesday that snow berms, drifts and snowpack still stand in the way and prevent access to campgrounds and other recreational activities in the area’s higher elevations. Rangers didn't provide a timetable for those locations to reopen.
#uwcnf Heber-Kamas Ranger District, UDOT has plowed the Mirror Lake through from Kamas to Evanston. The snow of course has is now piled up along the sides of the highway, so there is still not access to any of the higher elevation campgrounds. pic.twitter.com/D32F0jK7Ir— Uinta-Wasatch-Cache NF (@UWCNF) June 25, 2019
After Mirror Lake Highway’s reopening Monday, state Route 153, which runs from Beaver through Eagle Point Mountain to Junction, Piute County, is now the last remaining seasonal highway yet to reopen, according to UDOT. The agency’s Region 4 office last expected it to reopen in late June, and it could reopen in the next few days.