Hidden deep in the Uinta Mountains is a picturesque, magnificent castle. No, not a medieval “knights of the round table” type castle, but a colossal mountain peak with vivid red rock cliffs.
The splash of red illuminates the skyline as a glorious back drop to the mossy green meadows and deep blue lakes that surround it.
This hidden beauty is a short 150 mile drive from Ogden. The easiest way to get to China Meadows Trailhead (the trailhead that leads to Red Castle) is to take I-84 through Weber Canyon. Then you’ll merge onto I-80 toward Cheyenne. Next, take exit 34 toward Fort Bridger. Make sure to keep right at the fork on to WY-410 E, Co Rd 283. As you reenter Utah, you’ll find yourself on a dirt road called FR072. Follow FR072 for 10.5 miles, then turn left onto FR125 and follow until you see the trailhead parking lot. From the parking lot it’s about a 13 mile hike to Red Castle.
This 25 mile round-trip hike begins with a gentle grade through scenic meadows. The path runs next to a river and is wide enough to walk side by side on. The trail can be a little muddy, but bridges have been made to cross over the really swampy areas. The first 8 miles are fairly easy hiking. The final stretch before reaching Red Castle’s lower lake was pretty tough. There is about a mile of rigorous switchbacks that end by leveling off into an open field. This field provides you with your first look at the majestic mountain that is Red Castle.
After the switchbacks, you’ll find a large 6×10 flat rock that looks like a bed. At least it did to me after climbing those treacherous switchbacks. In fact, it was the comfiest rock-bed I’ve ever laid on. I almost wanted to set up camp there but my group insisted we push forward, so we did. We hiked about another mile into thick forest, east of the lower lake. This is where most camps are set up because it provides good cover for camping. It’s also close access to the lower lake, and a fairly easy hike to the upper lake.
The next morning, we began the two mile hike to the upper lake. Leaving our campsite intact, we brought just one pack with us to carry our lunch, fishing gear, and ponchos (which we did use). I was pretty sore from the previous day’s hike, but the hike from the lower lake to the upper lake is fairly easy.
From the upper lake you’ll find stunning views of the valley and cascading waterfalls. The fishing on the upper lake is great too. We caught enough fish to keep our group well fed. The best part of the upper lake is the opportunity to take great photos. From practically any angle in the basin it seems like you can snap a picture worthy of a calendar.
The Uinta Mountains provide so many opportunities to get out and explore. There are a lot of fun things to do in the Uinta Mountains, and I’ve done quite a few of them, but Red Castle is my favorite hiking destination. If you enjoy picturesque scenery, great fishing, or just the outdoors in general, the hike to Red Castle is perfect for you.
To Get There: 150 miles from Ogden, start at China Meadows Trailhead
The hike: 25 miles
Views: Valley, mountains, waterfalls, lakes