Lower Red Castle Lake via E Fork Smiths Fork

MODERATE 46 reviews
#5 of 84 trails in

Lower Red Castle Lake via E Fork Smiths Fork is a 19.4 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Mountain View, Utah that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from July until October. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
19.4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1437 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dog friendly

backpacking

birding

camping

fishing

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

lake

river

views

waterfall

wildlife

bugs

Take Wyoming State Highway 410 South out of Mountain View about 8 miles. Where the highway makes a sharp right turn to the west go straight on to Uinta County Road 283 (gravel) and continue to Forest Service Road 072. Follow the signs past the Stateline Campground and past the China Meadows Campground to the China Meadows trailhead.

backpacking
4 days ago

Gorgeous hike! Even spotted a moose on the trail not far from the lake. Expect lots of mud, multiple river crossings and TONS of rocks. The drive into the trailhead can be pretty rough also. There was still some snow on the trail 06/10/18 but wasn’t an issue at all. Trailhead had toilets available, no trash cans.

5 days ago

We did this hike in early June. I was worried it would be too cold but it wasn't too bad. There was A LOT of snow melt which resulted in muddy trails. There were plenty of rocks to step on to try to avoid getting muddy. We backpacked in and stayed the night at the lower lake. Red Castle was absolutely beautiful and worth the long hike. This was my first backpacking experience and it was a good one!

3 months ago

The red castle really is worth all the hype. The trail is pretty level and never steep, but the trail surface was trash from all the horse traffic, and really wore my feet out, so wear good shoes. There were moose along the lake. When we went the last weekend in August, it rained for a little bit but it was fine. There were also about a couple hundred sheep being run late at night from east red castle down the valley so that was... interesting. You’ll also pass lots of cows on your way there and the trail appears to be more popular with horse packers than backpackers. So it was more like the High Uintas Farm than a wilderness... still worth it to camp under the red castle.

9 months ago

We had a great time, hiked the entire trail to the lower lake in one day. Camped the night before at China Meadows. Left at 5 am and returned by 2pm. Didn't hike hard and stopped a plenty. Beautiful lake and Red Castle Mt is awesome!! A MUST-DO!

backpacking
9 months ago

Just did this as a two night backpack over Labor Day weekend. It was stunning! And there are no more mosquitoes!!! I never had to use bug spray once. It also never rained! It is a long 10 mile hike in, but there's so little elevation gain it feels almost flat. There were a lot of groups camping, but everyone was very friendly and I enjoyed talking to great new people. Spent the second day going up to the upper lake for lunch. We sunned on the rock, dipped our feet in, and even swam for a second. We woke up to five moose in our campsite the second morning! I will never forget this incredible experience.

backpacking
9 months ago

Stuff to think about on this trip:
Bug spray, sunscreen, waterproof shoes, woods stay pretty damp, hiking in some muddy spots, mushrooms, fishing pole, camera, basic survival kit.

This hike will take from 7-9hrs. in. I would suggest camping before the Upper Red Castle Lake. May be wise to bring rain gear if you don't typically pack it. It's worth the hike just to cleanse the soul.
Just go with it. It's good for you. You'll not have cell service.

backpacking
9 months ago

Not a very difficult hike. Although you will find that most of the trail is mud as it's a heavily used equestrian trail. Dog friendly. Look for moose in the meadows! Mosquitos are plentiful. Trails seems busy on weekends.. We backpacked in and stayed two nights at Lower Red Castle Lake. Took a day hike to Red Castle Lake as it's only about two miles past Lower Red Castle Lake. Very scenic and peaceful place. Worth every mile!

backpacking
10 months ago

This trail is the most beautiful trail I've ever hiked. Also the longest and I read some of these reviews saying it's too hard and what not.. well by the time I got to the lower lake I had been up for a total of 26 hours from working and then driving 2.5 hours and then taking the 6 hours it took me to get to the lower lake and although strenuous. It's not at all difficult. It's super muddy and it hailed on us everyday so be prepared. The upper castle lake doesn't provide much to look at but when you're up there looking out over the land and you can see red castle and the lower lake it's worth the hour hike over the boulders to the west of the red castle lake.

backpacking
10 months ago

I've been making the trek to RedCastle for 27 years... it's never disappointing! I chose 4 stars because of the current condition of the trail... it's muddy and wet up there, lots of damage to navigate from horse packing, if you are on a horse 5 stars.
The fishing was great at the middle lake, nailed the tigers and cuts. Use black and yellow jigs, wooly buggers.
Campers need to be more tidy and clean.. came across a few spots where human waste or trash was noticable... bark beetles have wreaked havoc on about 80 percent of the lower pines.. but up above the switch backs ... the pines are pretty healthy. Such a beautiful place to visit and come back to!

backpacking
10 months ago

Trail conditions were okay. Tons of horseback riders; makeing the trail really muddy at some points. Lots of mosquitoes. We spent a few days there and camped at a different place each night. Most camps had trash. Fishing was amazing. Day hikes were fun. Sunsets and weather conditions were good. Rained daily for about an hour in the evenings. Would definitely recommend.

backpacking
11 months ago

Backpacked this in July, 2016. One of my favorite trails in the Uintas! I spent many nights in the Uintas as a boy scout and this was everything I remember and more. Saw a bunch of moose and saw some really deep back woods country only few can imagine if you've been here. Great two night adventure.

hiking
11 months ago

Great trail! Amazing views. The afternoon thunderstorms in the Unitas really are a thing so pack appropriately. Lots of bugs as well. Tons of moose in that area so pack your cameras.

One of the most beautiful hikes! This trail is a MUST. Super easy trail along the river into the open meadow and up the Red Castle Lakes.

11 months ago

Don't listen to Clayton(below), we hiked this trail with 3 beginners and not one person had an issue reaching the lake. Everyone carried 35lb packs and had no issues, very few breaks were necessary and the elevation gain was very moderate. Even the switch backs were extremely casual and short lived. The scenery was amazing and we had the entire lake to ourselves! The bugs were in abundance and constant application of bug spray was absolutely necessary but that was to be expected. I recommend this hike for everyone, including first timers.

Additionally I didn't download the map from this app and still tracked the trail with no issues.

9.8 miles, 3.4 hours, 1450 elevation change.

backpacking
11 months ago

NOT EASY!!!

I'm so upset this trail was rated as "easy". So long story, but we ended up hiking in about 7 miles, and my friend decided he couldn't make the journey to the lake, so we backtracked a mile or so, headed up another trail for another mile or so. He sat down and I dropped off my pack, hiked in to see if I could find Lake Hessie about 2 miles, decided he couldn't get there, so I hiked back to where he was, and we put back all our gear and hiked all the way back to the car and headed home.

Now, maybe this wouldn't be too bad with just food and water, but it definitely wasn't easy with a tent and fishing gear. There were no distance markers whatsoever along the trail, so you never had any idea how far you had gone, or how far it was to go. I really think that would have been a huge help.

I'm giving the trail a 3 rating, because I never made it to the lakes, but the trail was pretty. We did see two moose. BEWARE, there are a LOT, I mean a LOT of mosquitos. They absolutely want to eat you, and possibly carry off your children, so bring high quality insect repellent, or you will be very sorry.

Another thing: I downloaded the alltrails app to my phone, so I could have an idea how far along the trail we were. The app is supposed to work without data. Now I'm not sure if there was absolutely no satellite signal up there, or what, but the app was completely unreliable.

backpacking
11 months ago

Beautiful easy hike! The trail follows a meadow all the way up basically, until you hit a few switchbacks to get up to the basin where the lakes are. The trail keeps on going up past the Lower Lake and goes by several smaller lakes until you reach the upper lake. There is another top lake above the upper lake that is absolutely worth checking out. The upper lakes hold lots of Trout, great fishing. If time isnt a concern, the saddle to the West of the upper lake provides amazing views of the Uintas and is easy to climb up. Highly recommended camping out! Bring lots of mosquito repellent too.

backpacking
11 months ago

Amazing hike! Not strenuous at all for the distance. A friend and I did 3 days with a basecamp at Lower Red Castle Lake (LRCL). Explored the second day making our way up to Red Castle Lake(RCL). Once you get past LRCL there was more snow on the trail, but for mid June and all the snow Utah got this year it wasn't bad at all. We did not go all the way up to Upper Red Castle Lake because of the snow. I highly recommend doing more than an overnighter to get up to RCL and URCL. The views are AMAZING! Water is plentiful, so keep your pack light and don't carry more than a liter (and a filter of course). Talked with some folks on the way out on the 3rd morning who spent their time fishing and told us that the fish were plentiful.

backpacking
Tuesday, August 30, 2016

If you begin at the trail head and hike to the Lower Red Castle Lake it is only 9 miles in. From there the trail splits you can either head to the East Red Castle Lake up or to Red Castle and Upper Red Castle Lakes. The hike is beautiful and follows a massive meadow most of the way. If you hike in the evening or morning you are very likely to see moose and deer. I also saw lots of elk sign in the lower areas.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Great fun. Hard hike for a pack of 12 and 13 but worth it.

backpacking
Tuesday, July 19, 2016

This was my first legit backpacking trail, and it was a worthy one. Like most any destination, pictures do Red Castle no justice. But the name does. The mountain rises almost vertically from the surrounding valley, and is flanked by features that are impressive in their own right. Settling at the base after the long hike into high altitude is a reward typical of Sister Utah's legendary landscape.

This relatively inexperienced hiker found the trail very doable, if tough, for a three day trip, two days of hiking. The trail itself is a very gentle climb until the last climb to Red Castle base. If you've been going all day, this last climb can drain you quick. The destination had many campers and firewood was scarce. The Upper Red Castle Lake is a quick climb into the alpine zone, but one that left me pretty wrecked after day one. Nighttime this high up can get pretty cold but days are temperate. Water always accessible, so keep the filter on hand and shed the extra backpack weight. Bring your fishing rod for these healthy lakes and mountain streams. Needless to say, be prepared for war with the insect kingdom in the summer months.

Overall, the hike will be no challenge to experienced hikers, but offers the scenic payoff to make it worth seeking out this relatively remote destination. I would highly recommend it to hiking newcomers, who will receive the joys of a taxing foray into a very special place.

backpacking
Monday, July 18, 2016

This trail being rated easy is true but be aware of altitude, it can sneak up on you and you can become winded if your not use to it. With that said, I have hiked all over the South West mountain ranges and the Uinta range is certainly a hidden gem! Absolutely beautiful at every step taken.

backpacking
Sunday, July 17, 2016

Took a church youth group up to Red Castle! What an amazing place. When you get to the foot bridge and can finally see Red Castle in the distance it is very inspiring, and gives more motivation to make it to the top! The hike does not have any big inclines (expect the small switch backs) but you are constantly on a gradual incline. I will be doing this hike again.

backpacking
Thursday, July 14, 2016

I did Red Castle back in September of 2015. It was one of the best experiences of my life. It was about 31 miles for us round trip. We made base camp at the lower lake then day tripped up to the upper lakes. We did it in 2.5 days and it was so worth it. I keep wanting to take another trip up there! It was so beautiful! And the trail really isn't too hard. Just one spot that switchbacks up on your way in that got a little difficult but was still great. Not too many people were up there. We saw some forest rangers working on some of the trail and they were very nice and friendly. The fishing was great at the upper lakes too!!

camping
Monday, April 18, 2016

The hiking is not too difficult, only slight inclines, and one short switchback . The length is the only difficult part of this hike. Navigation is easy, water is accessible regularly. Not a whole lot to see until you get to the river crossing where Red Castle becomes visible. Amazing sunsets with Red Castle lit up with the Alpenglow. Lower RC lake glimmers, and fish rising all over the lake. I recommend passing Lower RC lake a short ways, and setting up camp there.

Day trip it to Red Castle lake for some good size fishing and amazing views. Also day trip it to East RC lake, for a different view and good fishing as well. Lower RC has plenty of pan size trout.

I have been here on several occasions, and will return again for another. It can be done in 3 days or more if you want to spend some down time. Fairly quick and easy TH access from the Salt Lake City area.

hiking
Monday, August 31, 2015

I am conflicted on what to rate this hike. The actual hike to Lower Red Castle Lake was nothing impressive. The destination was stunning and off the charts. Incredible views of the lake, forest, river and Castle. I didn't even go to Upper or the East Castle lakes. Just another reason to get up there again!

The first few miles of the hike is filled with dead pines and live ones mixed. This part of the hike is spent almost entirely just off to the side of a meadow in the pines. It's a so so hike for the first 8 miles or so, basically until you can see the Red Castle. Once Red Castle is in view the hike is 5+ star.

Like some of the other northern basins in the Uintas, there is horse traffic. That’s a turnoff for some people but I actually like that they have such a beautiful place to freely take their horses.

There is plenty of camp areas available around the lake, and there are plenty of fish. I didn’t fish myself but noticed many of them just off shore as I circled the lake. There is also a lot of evidence of wildlife activity up there. I saw evidence of what I believed was moose, deer, and bear as others have also mentioned seeing here. Have the bear spray handy just in case.

I would not consider this hike ‘easy’ as some others have. I would say as a whole it is moderate to strenuous. There is no one part that is very strenuous but the constant gradual climb and switch backs at the end take a toll. But it is most definitely worth the hike. Amazing place to experience.

hiking
Saturday, July 18, 2015

This was a great hike with some amazing vistas. I was up there for five days with rain each day and some high night winds. The fishing at the three upper lakes was an easy catch with enough to feed each of dinners. The trails were ok with some very washed out and muddy. Night temps were cold enough for thermal underwear, 30 degree bags and beanies. Lots of nature around with moose and deer visible and evidence of bear and cat on all the trails. Overall this was great hike!

hiking
Sunday, August 11, 2013

The trail is an easy 10 mile hike from near China Meadows Campground to Lower Red Castle Lake. The best campsites are on the East side of the lake away from the trail. The trail travels west of the lake past many established camps. If you want privacy and a good supply of firewood cross the footbridge about a quarter mile North of the footbridge and head up to the east side of the lake.

The trail sees a lot of traffic as it is frequented by horse parties and part of it overlaps the Highline Trail. In recent years the bark beetles haves ravaged many of the trees. Luckily the forests are still somewhat healthy near Red Castle lake.

If you have time think of climbing the unnamed pass south-west of Upper Red Castle Lake, then head up the north ridge for excellent views of all the lakes as well as Kings Peak to the East.

backpacking
Thursday, August 08, 2013

Nice easy hike up to Lower Red Castle then climbs to Red Castle. Planned on camping on Red Castle but it was above timberline. Fished for a while then returned back down to the trees between the two lakes. Went back and fished the next day and climbed to Upper Red Castle. Best view of the basin is from Upper Red Castle Lake.

hiking
Wednesday, April 24, 2013

We went mid june right after a light snow fall, so a lot of animals came down to greet us as we were hiking up and we were the only ones up there. We saw elk (a whole herd) and moose (baby and mother). We also saw bear tracks in the snow. We were the only hikers up there that weekend (at least that we saw). In the summer it is much more popular. The lower lake was 1/2 frozen and the upper lake was completely frozen). We had a great camp near the lower lake.

hiking
Saturday, April 21, 2012

Great hike. My wife and I did this in August 2010. Be prepared for all weather extremes.

Load More