Backpack to Dead Horse Lake

Rate this Adventure Utah Dead Horse Lake

  • Activities:

    Fishing, Photography, Backpacking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    21 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    1400 Feet

Dog Friendly

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.  

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Headlamp
  • Food/water
  • Water filter
  • Warm clothes
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera
  • Tripod
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Eric HarrisExplorer

Adventure Filmmaker ╳ Van Lifer ╳ I like to climb stuff and make things. Follow me on Instagram: @danger_cake

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