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Hiking the Kings Peak Uinta Trail
Every summer hundreds of Boy Scouts and other adventurers aim for the top of King's Peak in the High Uinta Mountains the highest point in Utah at 13,528 feet. A few of them actually make the summit, enduring a rough hike of about 15 miles, over high mountain passes where there is snow year-round.
To conquer the peak, to a 13-year-old Scout, is to conquer the world. It's a marvelous hike, and we recommend it as a grand summer adventure.
The passes usually open up by late July and stay open through the month of August. The fishing is also be very good at that time. Lakes which are right on the trail receive quite heavy fishing pressure, but most still offer good fishing. Many lakes just a short hike from the main trail receive light pressure and some offer very good fishing. The stream itself provides good fishing in many areas, and doesn't receive much pressure.
This is rugged country. You've got to know what you are doing to make this hike, and you've got to be prepared for anything. It rains or snows almost every day through the summer. The weather can be downright dangerous.
Those who don't have much experience need to study and prepare for the hike. Talk to people who take groups through the area. Talk to the Forest Rangers. Study the maps. The DWR puts out a series of booklets which show the major trails and all fishable lakes in the High Uintas. The booklets are excellent and can be purchased at any DWR office. Study them.
Let the Forest Service know you are going to be in the area, and give some responsible person a written copy of your trip plan.
You can approach Kings Peak from several directions. We focus on the shortest route, which is up Henry's Fork, from the North Slope. Below we describe some of the lakes which may be visited along the trail. This isn't intended to be a complete guide, but just to whet your appetite. Study the DWR booklet on the Henry's Fork drainage to get more detail about the lakes.
Lakes Along the Trail
ALLIGATOR LAKE - Alligator Lake is an elongated natural lake (looks like an alligator snout) that is most popular with day groups hiking in from the Henry's Fork campground. The DWR booklet "Lakes of the High Uintas Smiths Fork, Henrys Fork and Beaver Creek Drainages," no. 86-10 (a very handy book to have if your heading over to this area, by the way), says that due to easy access Alligator is fished quite heavily. It is approximately located 3/8 of a mile west of the Henry's Fork Trail on an unmarked side trail that begins 2 1/4 miles southwest of the Henrys Fork Trailhead. There are a number of good campsites amidst the lodgepole forest that surrounds the lake. The trail is not difficult, and it is possible for young children, properly prepared, to make the hike.
BLANCHARD LAKE - Blanchard is a large, stream-fed natural lake that is situated 1 mile southwest of Henrys Fork Lake. The booklet states that it is easily located following the drainage system connecting these two lakes. The surrounding terrain consists of open alpine tundra with small stunted conifers and patches of willow, making camping here difficult because of the lack of cover and firewood. The lake contains a good population of pan-sized cutthroat trout, and receives a moderate amount of angling pressure. We've had reports of good fishing here dragging a wooly worm behind a bubble.
CASTLE LAKE - Castle Lake is a remote, spring-fed lake situated in an elongated glacial depression above timberline. It is approximately 3/4 mile northwest of Blanchard Lake or 1 mile southwest of Island Lake. The open, windswept nature of the area makes camping difficult here, but the fishing at the lake, sustained by aerial stocking of brook trout, should be good because of the generally light angling pressure this remote lake receives.
CLIFF LAKE - Cliff Lake is a large, deep (69 ft.), natural lake situated in a large cirque basin well above timberline. Access is 1 mile south of Blanchard Lake up a gently sloping ridge to the cirque. The surrounding terrain is treeless tundra, so camping here is difficult. The fishing here offers a special challenge, as the fish are unusually wary and difficult to catch, although the angler pressure is light.
DOLLAR LAKE - Dollar Lake is a highly scenic natural lake located in the eastern margin of Henrys Fork Basin, and is a popular base camp for groups attempting Kings Peak. Access is 7 miles southwest of the Henrys Fork Trailhead on the Henrys Fork Trail and then about 250 yards east of the pines. Excellent camping can be found here with a good supply of horse feed. Dollar sustains populations of fat brook and cutthroat trout and receives moderate angler use. There is a lot of elk sign in this area.
GRASS LAKE - Grass Lake is a shallow, natural lake (4-foot maximum depth) situated in a broad alpine meadow within sight of the Basin Trail 1/2 mile northwest of Henrys Fork Lake. Despite its shallow conditions, its waters contain a good sized population of brookies and cutthroat trout sustained by natural reproduction. The lake experiences moderate fishing pressure, and provides excellent fly fishing on occasion. Camping is possible in the area.
HENRYS FORK LAKE - Henry's Fork Lake is a scenic lake located near the head of the Henrys Fork Basin. Camping is available but because of heavy use fuel is scarce. Trail access is 8 miles southwest of the trailhead on the Henrys Fork Trail to the junction with the Basin Trail, then west on the Basin Trail for 1 mile to the lake. It can also be reached on the Big Meadows and Basin Trails from the Smiths Fork Basin. Henrys Fork contains an excellent cutthroat population and provides good fishing. There is a big waterfall at the head of the lake.
ISLAND LAKE - Island is an alpine lake located at the base of a steep talus ridge, 3/8 mile west of Henrys Fork Lake. There are no direct trails to this lake, but access is not difficult. It has an irregular shoreline with a small island in the center of the lake. The lake is very shallow, with a 5-foot maximum depth. Island is stocked with brook trout with an occasional cutthroat being caught, and the fish are very wary due to the shallow conditions. The fishing pressure here is light.