Backpack to Dead Horse Lake

21 miles 1400 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Eric Harris

Hike through forests and alpine meadows to a vibrant blue lake at 11,000 feet.  The trail has dramatic ridges on either side, with several peaks reaching 12,000-13,000+ feet.  This easy route has some of the best scenery the High Uintas have to offer.  

Dead Horse Lake is a lightly trafficked and highly scenic route in the High Uintas Wilderness.  The trail is easy enough to do overnight but I recommend taking an extra day to explore the area around Dead Horse Lake.  

From the trailhead you will hike south on the West Fork Blacks Fork trail.  The trail follows the West Fork Blacks Fork River through scenic meadows with steep rocky peaks on either side.  The ridgeline exceeds 11,000 feet to the east and west, and the trail passes 13,165-foot Tokewanna Peak, 12,557-foot Mount Beulah, and 12,108-foot Red Knob.  

The first part of the trail follows a jeep trail until it reaches a river crossing with a foot bridge.  Here the jeep trail ends and the foot trail continues through the forest and meadows.  There is a herd of sheep that grazes in the Buck Pasture area and you may encounter sheep on the trail.  There are a couple more river crossings in Buck Pasture and from there the trail stays to the east side of the river.  

This is an easy route with gradual elevation gain.  A majority of the gain comes in the last mile so save a little energy for the end.  If you don't want to do the full 10.5 miles in you can find several established campsites along the trail.  Water is accessible from the West Fork Blacks Fork river throughout the hike.

When you reach Dead Horse Lake, you will find the best places to camp along the north shore.  There are a few excellent campsites with nice fire pits and flat tent spots.  

Make sure to pack warm layers, even in the hot summer months.  Dead Horse Lake sits at 10,878 feet and the high elevation makes for cold nights.  

Dead Horse Lake's vibrant blue water is remarkable.  The blue color comes from rock flour produced by active rock glaciers.  The lake and surrounding cliffs are beautiful and very photogenic.  The color shows up best in pictures if you climb above the lake and shoot down on it.  There are small cliffs on the west end of the lake that are easily accessible and provide a great vantage point for photos.  I highly recommend waking up early and watching sunrise from these cliffs.  

Dead Horse Lake is way off the grid, and the lack of light pollution makes for excellent star photography.  When the moon is out you can pick up the blue water under the stars in your photos. 

When you're ready to head home, pack up and return the way you came.  If you're hiking in the summer get an early start to beat the heat.

Getting There

Take Highway 150 east from Kamas for about 48 miles where you will see a sign for Blacks Fork River.  After the sign turn right onto North Slope Road (FR058).  Follow this road for about 18 miles to the Lyman Lake junction. Turn right here onto FR063 and continue about 5 miles to a river crossing.   If the river is too high or you are in a 2WD vehicle, you should park here.  If you have 4WD and the river is passable you can continue up the road for another mile to the official trailhead.  

North Slope Road (FR058) is usually in good shape and passable by most vehicles.  FR063 gets rougher and may be a challenge in vehicles with low clearance.  After the river crossing the road deteriorates significantly, and high clearance and 4WD is highly recommended to reach the trailhead.  When in doubt, park before the river crossing and hike up the road to the trailhead.  

Read More

Tags

Fishing
Photography
Backpacking
Dog Friendly
Forest
Lake
River
Scenic
Wildflowers

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Overnight Backpack to Dead Horse Lake

FANTASTIC hike in. One of the most beautiful long meadows I've ever been through. Dead Horse is an awe-inspiring mountain lake surrounded by wildflowers and beautiful little waterfalls. Overall, one of the best overnighters I've done.

Stay Nearby

Evanston, Utah

Stillwater (Ut)

Overview Stillwater Campground is located 32 miles from Evanston, Wyoming, just off the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway at an elevation of 8,500 feet. The confluence of the Stillwater Fork and Hayden Fork...

Evanston, Utah

Christmas Meadows Campground

Overview Christmas Meadows Campground is located just a few miles off the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway, 36 miles from Evanston, Wyoming. The byway cuts through the Uinta Mountains, which are known for ...

Hanna, Utah

Mirror Lake

Overview Mirror Lake Campground is located just off the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway on the shores of its beautiful namesake lake at an elevation of 10,400 feet. The byway cuts through the Uinta Mounta...

Hanna, Utah

Moosehorn

Overview Moosehorn Campground is located just off the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway on the shores of Moosehorn Lake at an elevation of 10,400 feet. The byway cuts through the Uinta Mountains, which are ...

Nearby Adventures

  • Hike to Ostler Peak in the High Uintas

    Hiking Ostler Peak in the High Uintas Wilderness is a serious challenge for anyone. Typically, this hike is done over 2-3 days, with an overnight at the beautiful Ostler Lake. Strong hikers can do this hike in one day, however, as long as you are ...

    13.7 miles 3935 ft gain

  • Backpack to Ryder Lake

    Ryder Lake is accessed via the Stillwater Trail, beginning at the Christmas Meadows Trailhead off of Mirror Lake Highway. The trail heads due south from Christmas Meadows along the Stillwater River. It winds through lodgepole pine forests and skir...

    18 miles 2000 ft gain

  • Backpack Amethyst Basin

    Directions: The trail leaves from the Christmas Meadows Trailhead.From Mirror Lake Scenic Byway (US 150) turn on Christmas Meadows Rd. The campground and trailhead are around 3.5 miles down the road dirt road. The road is suitable for low clearanc...

    12 miles 1900 ft gain

  • Camp at Christmas Meadows in the Uinta National Forest

    Just four miles from the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway, this limited site campground is a great alternative to the larger, busier campgrounds at lower elevations. There are just 11 sites here, a few of which are first-come, first-serve. Amenities inclu...