Backpack to Red Castle and Red Castle Lakes

Utah China Meadows Trailhead

Added by Sam Watson

  • Incredible scenery, photography opportunities
  • Dog friendly
  • Easy to navigate trail
  • Excellent high alpine camping
  • Abundant wildlife
  • Swimming in high alpine lakes
  • Beautiful camp sites
  • 25 miles roundtrip
  • 3,010' elevation gain

The Red Castle is a stunning formation of crumbling red rock that rises around several small lakes, high in the Uinta Mountains. The trail begins at the China Meadows Trailhead. From there, it heads south for about 8 miles, winding through lodgepole pine forests and skirting vast alpine meadows, slowly gaining elevation all the while. There are clear, well-placed signs along the trail directing travelers. Hikers might encounter mud in some of the boggier areas in the meadows and woods, but sturdy bridges have been constructed to deliver hikers over the worst of the muck.

Before reaching Lower Red Castle Lake, the trail switchbacks steeply for about a mile. From there, the trail plateaus out at about 11,295 feet and Red Castle looms into view. There are plenty of camp sites along Lower Red Castle Lake. For campers looking for more solitude, Red Castle Lake is only 3 miles further along the trail. More campsites are available there, and traffic is significantly less. The lakes provide a refreshing reprieve from the heat of the trail, and Red Castle creates a beautiful backdrop. Upper Red Castle Lake is about 0.13 miles beyond Red Castle Lake, and does not have any campsites around it. However, it is a great short hike for those camping at either of the other two lakes.

The Uinta Mountains are the highest range in Utah, and weather is notoriously unpredictable. The weather can change in a matter of minutes, so be sure to pack rain gear and warm clothes. There is plenty of clear, cold water around the camps, just be sure to filter it before drinking. Dogs are allowed on this trail, but keeping them close to you is a good idea. There are many moose, deer, porcupines, and other wildlife that an unwary pooch could easily run afoul of. The deep blue alpine lakes, coupled with the craggy maroon Red Castle create a stunning landscape for photo enthusiasts. A camera of any sort is highly recommended for this place, you will want to remember it.

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Water (water filter)
  • Food
  • Warm Clothes
  • Rain Gear
  • Camera
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More



Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:



Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



25 Miles

Elev. Gain:

3010 Feet



Dog Friendly

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How to Get There

3 months ago

Favorite Backpacking Trip So Far

Red Castle is by far my favorite in all of the Uintas. Pictures you find are jaw-dropping gorgeous but do not compare to the awe you will feel experiencing them firsthand. My friend and I did Red Castle Sept. 11th - 13th, 2015. The hike in was pretty moderate besides one area with switchbacks that got us pretty winded. We had a very late start on the 11th so we did not arrive until the sun was almost set. Which was perfect to first experience the colossal castle changing colors from the setting sun. Red Castle is unlike anything I've ever seen before. Pictures do not do justice. You must experience on your own. By far one of the most extraordinary sights I've ever seen. Tremendously beautiful all around. Fishing was amazing especially in the upper lakes. The upper lakes are so clear you can see all the fish swimming around and chose which one you want to go after. Make sure to pack your sunscreen. I was extremely burnt after day exploring the upper lakes. I had to zip the legs on my Columbia hiking shorts/pants and wear my wind breaker a couple hours in to keep from burning even more. It was pretty cold at night. I believe my thermometer got down to the upper 10's, lower 20's at night so make sure to pack warm. I can't wait to go back to Red Castle!!

3 months ago

over 1 year ago

Really pretty. Interesting Moab sandstone in the middle of the Uintas. A must do. Long hike in with all your gear so be ready to be exhausted by the time you get there. Went in July. Woke up to 8 inches of snow in the morning which was amazing and beautiful but forced us to pack up and head home.

over 1 year ago

Added by Sam Watson

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