Backpack to Red Castle and Red Castle Lakes

25 miles 3010 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

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.

Read More

Tags

Camping
Photography
Backpacking
Hiking
Dog Friendly
Forest
Lake
Scenic
Wildlife

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Incredible Backpacking Trip

My lady and I hiked in the morning of July 4th - took about 5-6hrs but we were rather liberal about the breaks and even stopped about 2/3 of the way to rest and have lunch. Camped between Lower Red Castle and Red Castle in a beautiful open field somewhat off the trail. Camped Thursday, and Friday night. Friday we hiked up to the waterfall, and to Red Castle Lake. Had trouble getting up there since there was so much snow still, but we made it. Red Castle still had some ice on it but it was totally worth the hike. Had a couple deer walk into our site while we were there, but that's really about it as far as wildlife. Weather was great - got pretty cold at night but luckily we had recently gotten some pretty nice new gear so we were fine. Unbelievable views from up here - highly recommended. The hike isn't too bad, it's long but it's not difficult terrain. Totally worth all the effort.

Awesome Hike!

The hike was amazing! My group and I ran into some big rainstorms, which made the trail really difficult to traverse. We only made it to the lower lake and holy cow was it worth the hike!

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!!

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.

Stay Nearby

Evanston, Utah

Marsh Lake Campground

Overview Marsh Lake Campground is located next to its namesake on the northern slope of the Uinta Mountains at an elevation of 9,400 feet. Visitors enjoy fishing, canoeing and exploring local trail...

Evanston, Utah

Bridger Lake Campground

Overview Bridger Lake Campground is located next to its namesake on the northern slope of the Uinta Mountains at an elevation of 9,400 feet. Visitors enjoy fishing, canoeing and exploring local tra...

Robertson, Wyoming

Stateline

Overview Stateline Campground is located next to Stateline Reservoir on the northern slope of the Uinta Mountains at an elevation of 9,200 feet, about 21 miles from Mountain View, Wyoming. Visitors...

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 ...

Nearby Adventures

  • Backpack to Red Caslte Lake and Mt. Wilson

    Utah's 13ers are generally overshadowed by their 14er neighbors to the east, but do not be fooled, Utah's 13ers require a tremendous amount of effort to summit. The closest 13er to a road, Tokewanna, is about 18 miles round trip. The farthest 13er...

    27 miles 4200 ft gain

  • Backpacking Kings Peak

    From the Henry Fork Trailhead (approx. 9400 feet elev.) the trail gains very little elevation during the first 5.5 miles with several lakes to camp by along the way. The first lake reached is Alligator Lake. At just under 3 miles from the trailhea...

    28.8 miles 4100 ft gain

  • Hike to Tokewanna Peak in the High Uintas

    Climbing all of Utah's 13ers is nota popular trend, yet. Most people seek out Colorado's 14ers for their summit height, but don't let Utah's 13ers be overshadowed by their neighbors to the East. Utah's 13ers are remote. The closest 13er to a road ...

    17 miles 4202 ft gain

  • Backpack to Dead Horse Lake

    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 h...

    21 miles 1400 ft gain