This loop explores a gorgeous alpine mountain basin with every enticement you dream of — misty mountain meadows, tall pines, small lakes and winding streams that tie it all together. And if that weren’t enough, the whole scene is framed by a massive mountain range with Kings Peak at its head. This trip is truly a gem in the High Uintas, with an opportunity for some solitude along the way.
July through September offers the best temperatures in the High Uinta Wilderness. Daytime highs are typically in the 70-80s, while night temperatures range between 30-40 degrees. Afternoon thunderstorms are fairly typical and lightening is always a serious threat above treeline too.
August is the busiest month for backpacking in the high country, specifically in the Uinta basins. To avoid the crowds, we recommend visiting this area mid-week or during shoulder seasons, if possible.
Prior to any trip into the backcountry, check the National Weather Service for the local forecast.
We rate most backpacking trips in this area as moderate due to rocky and sometimes muddy trails. The elevation gain and loss of this trip is fairly moderate and gentle, unless you are adding a climb to King's Peak to your itinerary.
As always, difficulty ratings depend on the route you choose, experience, physical fitness, backpack weight, and weather conditions. Although most routes in Uintas are not technically demanding, you should always plan thoroughly, train properly, know your limitations, brush up on your skills, and dial in your gear. Doing so will make for a more safe and enjoyable adventure.
There are no permits or fees required for backpacking in this area. For more information contact the Mt. View Ranger District Office 307-782-6555.
The best way to access this area is by starting at the Henrys Fork Trailhead. This trailhead is on the north side of the range. Take exit 39 off Interstate 80 on Wyoming and turn south on State Route 414. Go 6 miles to Mountain View, WY where route 414 turns west through Mountain View and becomes Route 410 as the road turns south at the west end of town. Drive Route 410 for 6.7 miles toward Robertson, WY to the point where it turns west. From this point, drive Uinta County Road 283 (also named Forest Road 072) south toward Grahams Reservoir and Bridger Lake for 12.1 miles to Forest Road 017. Turn left on Forest Road 017 and continue south 6.8 miles to Forest Road 077. Drive south on Forest Road 077 for 2.8 miles, and turn right on the road to Henry's Fork Campground and the Henry's Fork Trailhead.
Campsites are first come, first serve along this route with good options around most lakes in the basin, with the exception of Castle, Blanchard, and Cliff lakes. Always try to camp in designated campsites and make sure they are all 200 feet from lakes and ponds. For those looking to climb King's Peak, you'll most likely want to set up a base camp at Dollar or Henry's Fork lake.
Dollar Lake makes a good basecamp for climbing Kings Peak, which means that it is often crowded. Henrys Fork Lake may be slightly less crowded. The lakes on the west side of the Henry's Fork loop tend to see less traffic, so they're a good option as well.
There is an option to connect Henry Forks Loop to Red Castle Lakes, but the connecting trails are very hard to follow and non-existent at times. Connecting these two areas will require excellent map reading skills, following cairns/blazes, and using GPS as you go past the Lake Hessie turnout. The view from the top of range is stunning (also a good day hike option), but we would only recommend this route for experienced backpackers.
STARTING TRAILHEAD: Henrys Fork
ENDING TRAILHEAD: Henrys Fork
Day 1 – Hike to Dollar Lake or Henry Fork Lake
Day 2 – Return to Henrys Fork TH
TOTAL MILEAGE: 15.1 miles (depending on where you camp)
STARTING TRAILHEAD: Henrys Fork
ENDING TRAILHEAD: Henrys Fork
Day 1 – Hike to Dollar Lake, basecamp
Day 2 – Hike to Kings Peak and return to camp
Day 3 – Return to Henrys Fork Trailhead
TOTAL MILEAGE: 28.8 miles
Water is plentiful along the Henrys Fork Trail and accessible from small streams and lakes. Though many sources look pure, Giardia and Campylobacter are present in this area so we highly recommend bringing a lightweight water filter. We carried the MSR Trail Shot on our most recent trip to the Uintas and we were happy with its performance. Two other good lightweight options are the SteriPen Ultra and Aquamira Drops. Check out our best water filters list for more excellent options.
For a full list of wilderness regulations in this area, visit the Forest Service website. But in, general, the following apply:
Black bears are not a problem in this area so there are no food storage requirements. That said, you should always protect your food against rodents and small critters, which actually tend to cause many more problems than bears. We recommend packaging all your food and scented products in a food storage container such as an Ursack.
Mosquitoes are present along this route and can be pretty vicious, especially early in the season and near bogs and water sources. Hiking later in the season may be bug-free, but we usually bring some bug repellent just in case. Use a combination of permethrin on your clothing and bring a small bottle of DEET for exposed skin to provide full protection.
We prefer lightweight backpacking because it’s more comfortable and allows us to cover more ground with less effort. For recommendations on our favorite lightweight backpacking equipment, check out the CleverHiker Gear Guide and Top Picks page.
BACKPACK: We used Hyperlite Mountain Gear's Southwest 2400 backpacks on this trek. The Southwest is incredibly lightweight, durable, nearly waterproof, and is a top pick on our best lightweight backpacks list too.
SLEEPING BAG: We used the Feathered Friends Egret UL 20 and the Western Mountaineering UltraLite sleeping bags on this hike for night time temperatures right around freezing. Both sleeping bags are lightweight, very warm, and make our list of the best backpacking sleeping bags.
SHOES OR BOOTS: We wore Saucony Peregrine 8 trail runners (men's and women's) on this trail and they were excellent. If you prefer boots, make sure they’re lightweight and break them in really well before your trip. Here’s why we prefer hiking in trail running shoes: 5 Reasons to Ditch Your Hiking Boots. Also, here's our list of the best backpacking shoos and boots.
HEADLAMP: A small headlamp like the Petzl Actik is an affordable, bright, and lightweight option. We're big fans of ours.
FOOD: You'll have to carry all the food you'll need on this trip. Check out our Best Lightweight Backpacking Food Guide and our Best Freeze Dried Backpacking Meals for some of our go-to grub recommendations.
Here are some of our favorite hiking/backpacking clothing items from our Top Gear list.
MAP & COMPASS: Although the trails here are well-marked, you always want to hike with a good map and GPS system, such as Gaia GPS. For our trip, we hiked with the National Geographic High Uinta’s Wilderness Trails Illustrated Map and used the route description provided in Hiking Utah's High Uintas: A Guide to the Region's Greatest Hikes. In addition, we always hike with a lightweight compass.
FIRST AID KIT: Always bring a small personalized first aid kit. We use the Ultralight .7 Kit and add extras, like painkillers and personal medications.
SUN PROTECTION: Sunglasses (polarized recommended), sunscreen, and spf lip balm are an absolute must for every backpacking trip.
POCKET KNIFE: We brought along a small Swiss Army Knife, which came in handy here and there.
We hope this guide helps you plan an awesome backpacking trip in the High Uintas Wilderness. If you found this guide helpful, please share on social media and give us a digital high five by clicking the little red heart below!
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