Red Castle Is Open for Business ... eeh .. Almost

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Perry

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My brother had to come into town for business this week so we thought we would take adavantage and give it a go in the Uintas. We totally expected to be on snow at around 10,000 ft. We were pleasantly surprised at just how open most of the area was.

We arrived at the trailhead in the China Meadows area on Saturday where it was blue skies and 30 degreees. We were on our way at about 7:10am.


Our first look at the swollen, fast-running East Fork Smiths Fork River...

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We had seen numerous deer on the drive into the trail head. Within the first mile or so we saw a cow moose with a calf and two bull elk. The moose actually surprised us crossing the trail right in front of us so we didn't have time to get pics.


Our first view of Red Castle...

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So far the trail conditions were great. As one might expect this early in the season there was mud on the trail in many places and few patches of snow along the way. Definitely nothing that one could not cross or negotiate around.


Ah there she is. Red Castle at the second bridge over the river...

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This mountain is so beautiful. Pictures do not do her justice...

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We arrived at the switch backs that would bring us up just below the meadow below Lower Red Castle Lake at about 1:00pm. This is where we saw our first extreme snow drift still covering the river after it tumbles over the edge of the meadow. I would estimate the snow on the right was at least 12-15 feet deep...

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The split between the Red Castle Lake and East Red Castle Lake trails...

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We decided to call it a day and make camp in the area to the right, up in the trees a bit. We found a really good site but unfortunately wind was a real problem here. It was so gusty that we tried to get the tent set up a couple of different times with no success. I think there is natural vortex here where the two side canyons converge and the main canyon narrows. We ended up going back down about a quarter of a mile where there wind was *much* nicer. Here I finally got a chance to set up my new Tarptent StratoSpire II...

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Next morning we decided to have a go for Red Castle Lake and headed out. With all the streams swollen crossing them was a bit of a challenge. This was one of the easier ones...

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Passing by Lower Red Castle Lake...

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Soon after this we started to hit serious snow in the trees. It was 3-4 feet deep and very slushy. Snowshoes went on once we could no longer find the trail and had to navigate using the InReach. Here's when we arrived to the west of Red Castle...

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My wife had been keeping us up to date with weather forecasts. Just about this time she said the reports were saying snow down to 7,500 ft over night and into Monday. So far the clouds had been fairly friendly looking but they were definitely starting to thicken and get dark. We began to consider our options at this point but proceeded on to the small lake below the cliffs to the north of Red Castle Lake....

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The snow going up to Red Castle Lake looked like more of what we had already been going through and probably was worse. This along with the deteriorating weather prompted us to make the call to head back to camp and hike out this evening.

A parting shot on our way back to camp where you can see the darkening clouds...

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By the time we got back to camp it had started to rain. It was light but still I was hoping to not have to pack up a wet tent. We were packed up and on our way by 5:00pm. It was light rain for about half the way out when mother nature decided to clear out all the clouds and let the sun shine for about an hour. As is typical in the Uintas that didn't last long and we were back in the rain with thunder rumbling to the south. We arrived at the trail head at 8:30pm. Made better time that I had hoped for a couple of old guys.

All in all the trip was wonderful albeit short. We saw NO mosquitoes until one stop for water about half way down. This was the best part :)

Here's a video for your enjoyment...

 
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Deleted User

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Awesome! The western Uintas have a deeper snowpack than that side of the range. Good to see that melting out up there. I imagine the south facing drainages have melted out even more. Its getting closer to go time out there!
 

Tystevens

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Beautiful. Red Castle is definitely on my list for this summer (thinking a Kings Peak - Red Castle loop from Henry's Fork).
 

Perry

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Beautiful. Red Castle is definitely on my list for this summer (thinking a Kings Peak - Red Castle loop from Henry's Fork).
My brother and I are going back for another crack at the Highline Trail including Kings Peak. One of our possible exit routes might be hopping over the saddle over to Upper Red Castle and Red Castle Lakes from the Porcupine Pass area. Now that we know what it looks like it's going to be high on the options list.
 
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Cazmataz

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Thanks for posting. I am going up in two weeks. Do you think I can get to Red Castle Lake without snowshoes by then?
 

Artemus

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Great report. It was neat to see your pics of 12-15' drifts by the stream and dry ground right next to it.

I'd say the high Uintas are open for business. Heading there this weekend. Thanks!
 

Perry

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Thanks for posting. I am going up in two weeks. Do you think I can get to Red Castle Lake without snowshoes by then?
There was a lot of snow in the shade of the pines so I'm not sure. The real problem for us was the snow was very slushy and we were post-holing a lot. Sometimes we'll past the knees. If I were a betting man I would think it's still going to be a chore.


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LarryNC

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Cuberant, thanks so much for this post. My son and I may head up there starting this Monday.

We're not fixed for snow hiking, but we'll get in as far as we can. Do you think we could make it over the pass to Hessie Lake? Then we could make a loop with the Big Meadows trail.
 

Perry

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Cuberant, thanks so much for this post. My son and I may head up there starting this Monday.

We're not fixed for snow hiking, but we'll get in as far as we can. Do you think we could make it over the pass to Hessie Lake? Then we could make a loop with the Big Meadows trail.
You're welcome!

Yeah I think you would be fine at that elevation.
 

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Perry

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@LarryNC you would be fine all the way up to Lower Red Castle Lake if you are so inclined to go that far, too.
 

LarryNC

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Fantastic -- do you think we can get to the campsites @ Lower Red Castle Lake?

Getting very psyched about this trip with my son, made possible because of your post.
 

Perry

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Fantastic -- do you think we can get to the campsites @ Lower Red Castle Lake?

Getting very psyched about this trip with my son, made possible because of your post.
No sure about that but I know three young guys camped somewhere along the western side. Don't know what their site was like though.


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LarryNC

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Were you postholing even with snowshoes? We can rent some at REI if you think they will help us get to a lot more of the good stuff.
 

Perry

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Were you postholing even with snowshoes? We can rent some at REI if you think they will help us get to a lot more of the good stuff.
Very little. It was just very slushy.


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Perry

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Added a link to a video at the end of the original post.


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Harry

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Just back from a trip to Red Castle Lakes last weekend. 6/23-6/26 (This post gave me the info to make it happen so thank).

Lower Red Castle Lake clear of snow to the lake and around it, the water is clear as well. This picture is from 500 yards short of the lake. Red Castle mountain has patches of snow mainly in gully's any exposed aspects are dry.
IMG_5930.JPG


Getting to Red Castle Lake (the big main lake) does involve crossing some snow but we managed it in approach shoes and regular hiking boots. Sections of snow are no greater than 100 yards in length. No need for snowshoes as the snow is packed down and melting but yak tracks maybe helpful. The lake itself is 20% covered in ice and all but the north side shore is covered in snow or is sections of scree.

We then went up to Upper Red Castle Lake the below photo is from the upper it is completely covered in ice and is surrounded by snow on all sides. The route to the lake is snow or scree all the way. Again the snow was packed so yak tracks would help.
IMG_5923.JPG

In summary. Temperatures were in the 50's all day and just below freezing at night when we camped by Lower Red Castle Lake. The rivers are all full and running fast, so there is lots of water crossings to get up there but again did it in low cut approach shoes and stepping between rocks avoided getting wet. The trail is mostly dry, the wet spots can all be walked around. Many fallen trees along the trail, apparently forestry have been up there to clear the trees , they didn't get many of the dozens we came across....

Hope this helps anyone who's thing about getting into Red Castle soon, it likely also shows the conditions for areas like Henry's fork too.
 

Perry

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Just back from a trip to Red Castle Lakes last weekend. 6/23-6/26 (This post gave me the info to make it happen so thank).

Lower Red Castle Lake clear of snow to the lake and around it, the water is clear as well. This picture is from 500 yards short of the lake. Red Castle mountain has patches of snow mainly in gully's any exposed aspects are dry.
View attachment 55456

Getting to Red Castle Lake (the big main lake) does involve crossing some snow but we managed it in approach shoes and regular hiking boots. Sections of snow are no greater than 100 yards in length. No need for snowshoes as the snow is packed down and melting but yak tracks maybe helpful. The lake itself is 20% covered in ice and all but the north side shore is covered in snow or is sections of scree.

We then went up to Upper Red Castle Lake the below photo is from the upper it is completely covered in ice and is surrounded by snow on all sides. The route to the lake is snow or scree all the way. Again the snow was packed so yak tracks would help.
View attachment 55457
In summary. Temperatures were in the 50's all day and just below freezing at night when we camped by Lower Red Castle Lake. The rivers are all full and running fast, so there is lots of water crossings to get up there but again did it in low cut approach shoes and stepping between rocks avoided getting wet. The trail is mostly dry, the wet spots can all be walked around. Many fallen trees along the trail, apparently forestry have been up there to clear the trees , they didn't get many of the dozens we came across....

Hope this helps anyone who's thing about getting into Red Castle soon, it likely also shows the conditions for areas like Henry's fork too.
Very cool! Thanks for the update.


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Rockroller

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Awesome report! It's great to be able to see this area with some snow on the ground. Very cool. I definitely want to go back to here again someday when I get some other places in the Uintas off my bucket list. Thanks for the pictures and video.
 

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