Henrys Fork - Red Castle Loop


Ready For More
Jul 23, 2013
After tagging along with my local scout troop to summit Kings last year, my wife is keen to say she's been to the highest point of our state as well. We are now looking at mid-July for a trip up there. Originally we were thinking of just a 3-4 day out'n'back but now I've thought about taking the opportunity to loop in Red Castle on the trip as well, given how close it is, since I haven't been to that area and it too has been on my Uinta bucket list for quite some time. I'm now considering 3 different routes to take, two of which include Red Castle, but in order to better weigh all our options against each other, I have a few questions...

Has anyone here ever looped Red Castle and Henry's Fork using Anderson and Smith Fork Passes or at least done both passes on different trips? I'm thinking that approaching Anderson via Henry's Fork and Gunsight Pass would be easier on our lungs and leg muscles with our packs, and also gets us closer to King's in the event that weather keeps us from hitting the summit the very next day giving us the flexibility of sticking around to do it the next morning and returning back the way we came if necessary. However, everywhere else I've read on blogs, trail sites, etc, that those who have done this loop have actually approached Anderson Pass via Red Castle/Smith Fork Pass and then returned via Henrys but I couldn't find any good reasons that stated why that direction would be significantly better. Can anyone here give some good reasons to approach Anderson Pass via Red Castle and the west side of Anderson rather than from Gunsight with a full pack on? I'm thinking of possibly one. I don't have a lot of experience carrying a full pack over steep scree for extended stretches, but I'm thinking that while harder on the lungs, it is still easier on the knees & ankles, and thus safer to go up a pass via the steeper side and come down the lesser grade when given a choice. Yes?

With that said, how is the condition of the trail from Anderson Pass down Yellowstone basin below? When I was up there looking down that side last year, it looked rather sketchy (loose) and steep such that hitting a loose rock at the wrong angle could result in certain death. Is there actually enough width to the trail to catch yourself should you hit a loose rock, slip, and/or roll the ankle a bit, especially with a full pack without being at too much risk of slipping off the trail entirely? I guess a better question might be, for those who have done Timp, how does it compare with the width and condition of the trail between the saddle and summit of Timp? That's a trail that always looks loose and dangerous when you first start the approach to the summit, but actually turns out to be fairly tame, safe, and comfortable as long as you pay attention to each step you take, even if carrying a full pack.

And while not related to this trip, I'll go ahead and ask the same question of Dead Horse Pass, also along the Highline trail. I've read that the east side of Dead Horse Pass can be the most risky and dangerous in terms of grade, loose rocks/scree, and danger of falling off trail. If true, how does the trail and terrain there also compare with the ridge on Timp?

Given the number of people that successfully make it over these Highline passes with full packs and the lack of reports I hear and see of anyone getting seriously injured or dying, I'd like to believe that anyone with an adequate level of fitness, acclimation to altitude, and properly loaded and fitted pack should have no real trouble getting over any of the passes along the Highline. So if I fit that profile, then I shouldn't have too much to worry about whenever I get an opportunity to do the Highline, correct?

Note: I do have a bit of fear with heights that increases with the size and weight of a pack. I need a trail or route to at least be a good two foot wide, solid and stable, to feel comfortable when traversing longer stretches along or above dangerous cliffs and other steep grades and a minimum of 18 inches for shorter stretches measuring only a couple of strides in length.
Last edited:


Aug 9, 2007
I haven't done King's so I can't help there, but the trail up Dead Horse is actually pretty easy if there is no snow on it. It's on a steep slope but switches back pretty gradually and is reasonably wide and smooth. No worries there. Snow does hold on there pretty late though. My first time doing it I had to pick through some steep snow drifts that might freak some people out but it was doable.


Ready For More
Jul 23, 2013
Thanks Nick. In talking with my brother-in-law over the weekend, he told me what he could remember of those passes when he did a hike from Hayden Pass to Henrys Fork as a scout, and surprisingly he swears that it was just a stretch on Red Knob that got him nervous for a bit. He said Anderson wasn't in bad shape at all, so perhaps we'll still consider a loop with Red Castle regardless of whether we can get up for only 3 days or 5 days.
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