Location: Park at East fork Blacks fork trail head. Cross the footbridge and then take a left at the first fork to head towards Bald Mountain.
Expected Time: In total we spent about 2 and a half days on this trip. It could easily be extended in order to move at a faster pace.
Gear needed: 3 days worth of food, water or water filter, backpack, tent, sleeping gear.
Length: 20 miles round trip to the lower lake with and additional 10 miles of day hiking
Altitude Gained: ~3000ft to the lower lake.
Would I recommend it: OF COURSE!!! There are two variations. From what I’ve heard the first is fairly easy. The second is difficult, but the views are worth the effort (This post is focused on the second route). Just a warning, the trail isn’t incredibly well marked so take a picture of the trail map before you start.
Before Bailey and I met Brandon we spent the majority of our time camping and hiking in Southern Utah. After about two years of frequent three hour car drives to Arches, Bryce, and Goblin valley we were craving a little bit of a different experience. When we first started inviting Brandon to join in on our trips, he recommended that we visit the High Uinta’s wildernesss park and it quickly became one of our favorite backpacking destinations.
The High Uinta wilderness is located in Northeastern Utah and includes 453,890 acres. The wilderness is well known for it’s lakes, wetlands, and rivers making it a stark contrast from the red rock, and desert of Southern Utah. Due to it’s location and altitude it spends the majority of the year covered in snow, and most of the trails are only open after memorial day. Even during the height of the summer it’s still a cool refreshing hike, making it one of our favorite summer destinations.
This year Brandon and Bailey did some research and decided on Red Castle for our Fourth of July trip. This year has been a very busy one for the three of us (between weddings, and grad school) which means we haven’t been able to do quite as much backpacking as we normally would have by this point in this season. Because of this we decided on a 9 mile hike with almost no elevation gain.
Unfortunately, most wilderness parks have maps that are not easy to read, and the hike that we ended up doing was not the one we had planned on. The easy nine mile hike starts out of china meadows, and instead we started from east fork blacks fork which meant that we hiked Bald Mountain on our way to Red Castle, evolving our nine mile no elevation gain hike into a 10 mile hike with over 3000 feet of elevation gain.
Some of our favorite shots from Bald Mountain.
While we were in no way prepared for this hike it ended up being one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. The hike was challenging but we were able to cross through meadows, and look over a mountain both of which were experiences we weren’t planning on having.
When we got to the campground we were thoroughly exhausted and set up camp in one of the first spots we could find, which was about 500 feet from the lake making it extremely occupied by mosquitoes. We were able to keep the mosquito problem under control by maintaining a fire as long as possible. Despite our best efforts we still went through two bottles of bug spray, and went home with more than 20 bug bites each. While the bugs were frustrating, they attracted the fish which made our evening very enjoyable. Bailey and Brandon both caught a fish within two minutes of casting their lines, and we ate them for dinner later that night.
The next day we explored some local hikes, and then headed back over bald mountain. While our trip into red castle was hot and sunny, our trip out was the exact opposite. Just as we reached the tip of bald mountain it started to rain…. and hail. We had to go another mile and a half before we were able to find a spot that was safe to set up camp. We spent the night in a grove of trees to protect us from the wind and then we finished the rest of the hike and were in the car by lunchtime the following day.
Some photos taken during our day hikes.
This is our favorite photo from the entire trip. You can’t tell in the photo, but it’s hailing. Brandon is laughing and taking photos, I’m (@madylinejs) furious that no one will let me stop and set up camp, and Bailey is the tiny tiny red dot trying to outrun the hail.
While this was one of the hardest trips we’ve ever done I will personally always remember it as one of my favorites. By the end of the trip my body was completely destroyed, but I felt so accomplished. The High Uinta’s wilderness remains one. Of my favorite hiking destination in all of Utah and I can’t wait to visit it again.