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Lower Red Castle Lake via East Fork Smiths Fork

moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(269)
High Uintas Wilderness

Lower Red Castle Lake via East Fork Smiths Fork is a 19.4 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Altamont, 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.

Length 19.4 mi Elevation gain 1,437 ft Route type Out & Back

Dog friendly

Backpacking

Camping

Fishing

Hiking

Horseback riding

Nature trips

Bird watching

Running

Forest

Lake

River

Views

Waterfall

Wildlife

Bugs

Fee

Description
Waypoints (0)
Facilities
Contact
Getting There

$5 to park at the trail head

The China Meadows trail-head has fifty parking places and offers campsites, water, toilets, corrals, and a stock ramp.

Mountain View Office 321 Highway 414 PO Box 129 Mountain View, WY 82939 (307) 782-6555

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.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (271)
Photos (217)
Recordings (225)
Completed (418)
Easton Guevara
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 2, 2020
BackpackingBugsGreat!Muddy

lots of horse poop

Rosie Kaufman
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 31, 2020
Hiking

Terrific for our first overnight backpacking trip. Long, but easy trail, very easy to follow. Much busier on Saturday than it was on Friday.

View Rosie's Recording
Kloe Beck
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 29, 2020
Hiking

Very beautiful!! Pictures do not do it justice you definitely have to see this for yourself ! Pretty long but it doesn’t get too hard until the last two-three miles with a few moderate switchbacks, nothing too difficult !

Richard Schenkman
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarJuly 25, 2020
HikingFloodedIcy

Terrible terrible weather, was a complete surprise. Thunder hail and freezing rain.

View Richard's Recording
Jared Gibbs
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 25, 2020
HikingGreat!

Long, but worth it! Red Castle is truly a sight to behold. I have no problem paying the $5 fee as someone seems to be using the funds to maintain the area. Lots of wildlife, and not a crazy amount of traffic like in the Wasatch Range. Plenty of streams to replenish your water reserves. Trail itself is in decent shape. The trail does seem to get harder and harder as you go; the switchbacks towards the end are cruel! Trail is very clear and there are plenty of signs.

Leslie Miller
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 20, 2020
BackpackingFee

Did this as an overnight this wknd. Even though the lot was full & I passed dozens of people heading out, I was alone heading to the lake. I decided to keep going towards the main lake after reaching the lower lake & seeing how many people were there. I knew from previous users that it’s super exposed on the main lake so just kept looking for a spot on the way to the main lake. I’m so happy I did because I found a beautiful spot at an unnamed lake just before the climb to the main lake. Ended up watching the sunset from the main Red Castle Lake. I didn’t bother heading up to the upper lake as I had my dog with me. As others have said, it’s $5 to park at the th. The bugs weren’t bad but I did have to spray some deet a couple of times & still got some bites. There’s plenty of water along the way & the hike is not hard at all. There’s a bit of elevation gain before you get to the lower lake but it’s not hard at all. The trail can be a bit rocky at times but not bad at all. There are a lot of horses that are on this trail so be prepared. There’s a bit of mud by the lower lake & some other spots but you can rock hop over it.

Melissa Franklin
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 18, 2020
HikingRocky

My friends and I only planned to go to the lower Red Castle Lake, but when we got there and realized the Upper Lake was only 2 more miles we decided to keep going. So glad we did - it’s totally worth it! What a beautiful place! It was kind of a rocky trail, but overall very easy. We clocked 24 miles round trip and did it all in 1 day. Like others have said - don’t forget $5 to pay for parking at the trail head. We went on a Saturday, got to the trail head about 8:30am and it was packed, had a hard time finding somewhere to park. Bugs didn’t seem too bad - but we were covered in deet.

View Melissa's Recording
Justin Peterson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 17, 2020
HikingGreat!

Great hike for someone trying to get into shape. No big inclines or declines. Trail is in good condition. Plenty of camping spots along the trail. Stars are big and bright don't forget to look up!

Mark H.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 16, 2020

Me, Jack,and Ben Emery. Awesome!! Maybe next time I’d camp on the shelf right below main Red Castle Lake. There is a small lake there. We had a great time. We took our sweet time going up. Took us about 4:13 to get down.

View Mark's Recording
Jordan Schmitz
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 14, 2020
BackpackingBugsFeeGreat!Muddy

Our group of 5 completed the 37-mile Red Castle/King's Peak loop last week (7/3 - 7/7). The scenery was incredible and the landscape was always changing, so every day was new and interesting. There were some challenging bits of hiking, but overall it wasn't too strenuous (I would rate it as difficult). As others have said, the mosquitoes are absolutely awful this time of year, although they died down after Smiths Fork Pass (and then picked back up two days later after Gunsight Pass). We had great weather, though a little drizzle on our first day - be prepared for rain and definitely keep an eye on the forecast leading up to your trip. Day 1 (9 miles) we hiked from China Meadows to Red Castle area. The hiking is pretty easy and flat, but we all felt the altitude and had headaches. We camped just beyond the footbridge near the East Red Castle trail/Smiths Fork trail junction. We had a nice view of Red Castle and had a little tree coverage. Tons of mosquitoes though. Day 2 (6 miles) we hiked up to Smiths Fork Pass and then down into the Yellowstone Creek valley area (stunning views). We had lunch at Smiths Fork Pass Lake, which is beautiful and would have been a good Night 1 campsite if we had made it that far. We camped very close to the Yellowstone/Highline trail junction. This was my favorite site of the trip - we were right next to a flowing river and the valley views were mesmerizing. Day 3 (7 miles) was the hardest day - we climbed Anderson Pass and then ascended King's Peak. Luckily, the snow wasn't too bad, but there were a few sketchy sections climbing up to Anderson Pass. That evening, we camped in the Painter's Basin area - not too many campsites in this area as it is very marshy and damp, but we managed to find a flat, dry area. Day 4 (10 miles) we hiked up Gunsight Pass (amazing views of Painter Basin during the climb) and then continued along Henry's Fork Trail (wildflowers were in full bloom). We choose to detour up Henry's Fork Basin Trail, which was slightly longer than the more straightforward Henry's Fork Trail, but much more entertaining (some gorgeous sights and fun river crossings). The last few miles toward Lake Hessie were a slog and there were no water sources beyond Bear Lake. We camped near a river just east of Lake Hessie. Worst mosquitoes of my life but we saw a moose at sunset so that made it worth it. Day 5 (5 miles) we hiked back to China Meadows and saw a bald eagle as we were driving away! Other notes: - Bring cash for parking - it's $5 per day. - Quite a bit of mud and swampy areas, so be prepared for that. - We were in the sun a LOT - much of the trail was exposed, so sunscreen and hats were essential. - There were many instances where we had to cross ice sheets - nothing too crazy or scary, and we didn't have any special equipment (although hiking poles helped with stability). - There is a shortcut between Anderson Pass and Gunsight Pass, but we didn't take it and it looked a little sketchy. We just cut straight through Painter's Basin and caught the second half of the shortcut, which saved a mile or two. - Not too much wildlife - we mostly saw marmots and birds. We spotted two moose, but kept our distance. - Hiking poles were a big help for me - I always recommend them. - Lots of dogs on the trail! It seemed like a good trail for dogs. I highly recommend that you extend your trip beyond Red Castle if you have the time. You won't be disappointed.

Cameron Reeves
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 11, 2020
HikingBugs

If you go in july bring LOTS of bug spray, the mosquitoes are terrible. Other than that the trail was beautiful and well maintained, muddy in spots. Fishing was decent, caught a few off of spinners at lower red castle lake. Great camping spots half a mile past the lower lake.

View Cameron's Recording
B J
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 8, 2020
Hiking

Absolutely beautiful! Wild flowers are in bloom, lush meadows, great trail. Lots of mosquitoes. Very few people.

Kyle Sheffield
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 8, 2020
BackpackingBugsRocky

Read Taylor Arnold's review. It's all 100% accurate as I went 1 day after him. I would just add that the hike from the main lake to the upper lake sucks. The terrain is half scree field and some sketchy cliff ledges. *There is no official trail* but there are a few lines in the beginning that resemble a trail. If you have nothing else to do or are feeling adventurous, then you should do it. The upper lake isn't anything special, but the fishing was good for me--caught a brown trout in 45 seconds with floating power bait. But good luck keeping the fish because you'll have to carry it back down with you. There are some cool features along the way though like the waterfall with like mini 30 falls, at the end. So if you're bored, do it, but don't feel bummed if you don't. Be sure to camp in the trees down below, not at the main red castle lake!

Taylor Arnold
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 7, 2020
HikingBugsFeeRocky

Bring cash, $5 a day for parking. I camped at Red Castle, I don’t recommend this. Either camp at lower Red Castle Lake or just below the ridge of Red Castle Lake amongst the Pine Trees. There are ponds all around the ridge so water filtering will be easy. The problem with camping at Red Castle is there is no great spots or trees to block wind or any of the elements. You’re just exposed - all the time. It was incredible windy for me. As has been said. BUGS. So. Many. Mosquitos. I was mostly ok with my Sawyer Picardin. But it was still annoying and a few of them still found ways to bite me. I probably have about six bites. The hike in is actually really easy to Lower Red Castle, it’s just long. But there is plenty of shade and river water along the way. Getting up to Red Castle though does add about a 1,000+ feet of elevation in a short distance. But completely manageable and nothing too steep or difficult. The river crossings are easily manageable as most have rocks that can allow you to cross without getting wet. Overall, I think camping at Lower Red Castle it between Lower and the main Red Castle afford the best views. Then just spend an afternoon hiking up to Red Castle and Upper Red Castle. And if you’re up for it, try to get to Wilson Peak which is at 13,019 ft. I really wanted to get above 13,000 feet and have a view of Kings Peak, but I don’t make it. I tried to make it up to Wilson Peak but without ropes or climbing equipment it got too sketch for me. If anyone finds a way to get there let me know. I got to about 12,800 ft. OVERALL. Beautiful. BUG SPRAY! I would use Sawyer Permethrin on your tent and clothes before you go for sure! I went on a Tuesday - Thursday and was almost alone the whole time. However, coming back on Thursday I just have passed about 50 people coming in for the weekend. I’d stay clear of camping on the weekends, or camp at East Red Castle. Lastly, I can’t remember what bird it said to watch out for at the Trail Head. There was a sign of an apparent super rare bird at the Trail Head. Does anyone remember what the bird was called?

View Taylor's Recording
E. Jones
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 7, 2020
HikingBugs

Great trail. Beautiful. Fairly level except some switchbacks the last mile.

David Platt
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 3, 2020
BackpackingBugsMuddy

I've only been to a few subalpine forests, but this is easily the most beautiful one I've been lucky enough to hike through! Lots of variety with gorgeous rivers, meadows, and forest scenery, plus some easy obstacles like fallen trees, mud patches, and river crossings to keep things interesting. As of July, 1 mid-top hiking boots were fine for the river crossings if you're careful where you step; only one crossing required balancing on a few branches traversing the the water, but the water was tame enough you could have waded through calf-deep. There is SO MUCH to explore at the Alltrails "end" of the route, much more than the red route line lets on! The trail to the middle lake is straightforward and rewarding. And beyond the middle lake there are scree and snow fields waiting to be traversed, a waterfall cutting through the snow waiting to be found, and saddles and peaks waiting to be summited :) In terms of bugs, Day 1 was on the cooler side and there were zero issues. Day 2 was much warmer and the bugs were out enjoying the weather even more than I was :) DEET stopped the bugs from becoming too much of a problem, but the mosquitos still managed to gift me 4-5 bites as souvenirs.

Jason Tang
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 26, 2020

Do not attempt to camp here on a Saturday. It gets busy. You’d be hard pressed to find a good spot by 3:00pm. Friday’s are pretty mellow

View Jason's Recording
Chandler Reed
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 26, 2020
HikingBugsSnow

great hike! theres still a lot of mud and fallen trees over the trails!

View Chandler's Recording
Danen Johanson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 25, 2020
HikingBugsFlooded
View Danen's Recording
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