Backpack to Red Caslte Lake and Mt. Wilson

Rate this Adventure China Meadows Trailhead

Summit one of the most remote and spectacular of Utah's 13ers. Basecamp at the Red Castle Lakes, which is one of the most picturesque scenes in all of the Uinta Mountains.

Utah's 13ers are generally overshadowed by their 14er neighbors to the east, but do not be fooled, Utah's 13ers require a tremendous amount of effort to summit. The closest 13er to a road, Tokewanna, is about 18 miles round trip. The farthest 13er peaks are more than 30 miles round trip. These peaks are wild, see few summits each year, and do not have step by step guides. To take on the challenge of climbing Utah's highest peaks, you need to know what you are getting into and be prepared to be 100% self reliant. 

Wilson Peak is unique in that it is located near a very popular backcountry camping area, Red Castle Lakes. The hike in is crowded by Uinta standards, but for good reason. Lower Red Castle Lake is absolutely spectacular. Red Castle Peak sits behind the lake and is one of the most rugged mountains in Utah. Red cliffs tower over the lake providing one of the most serene mountain backdrops in all of the Rocky Mountains. This is an excellent place to basecamp for climbing Mt. Wilson. 

Climbing Mt. Wilson 

Mt. Wilson is one of the longer 13ers to climb in terms of distance from a trailhead. It is out there. It is also one of the most dramatic. To climb the peak, hike up to Upper Red Castle Lake. There is a trail to the upper lake from the lower lake. Once at the upper lake, Mt. Wilson comes into view, and what a view at that. Mt. Wilson has a towering North Face of rugged cliff bands for thousands of feet. It is truly a sight to behold. 

Once at Upper Red Castle Lake, pick your way around the lake on the lookers right side. From here on, you will be off trail. Move up towards the obvious pass. I believe this pass is called Squaw Pass, but on a map it is unnamed. From the pass, the views of Oweep Basin to the South are phenomenal. Its views like this that showcase why the Uintas have the second most above treeline terrain of any mountain range in the lower 48 states. 

From the pass, follow the ridgeline up to the summit of Wilson. There will be spots where you have to get off the ridge to the right (south) to navigate some obstacles, but all in all it should be rated as a class three at best, more likely class 2. 

From the summit, you can see the wildest alpine terrain in Utah. The Lovenias to the West, Kings Peak and Mt. Emmons to the East. This is the heart of the High Uintas Wilderness. 

Enjoy the view and retrace your steps back to camp, and most of all, be proud! Mt. Wilson does not see many summits and it is a true accomplishment to stand on top of this peak. 

Pack List

  • Backpacking gear, including tent, stove, sleeping bag, pad etc 
  • Sturdy hiking boots 
  • Fly rod if you have one 
  • Map/GPS 
  • Water filter 
  • Warm clothes 
  • Rain gear 
  • Ample food
Show More
RT Distance 27 Miles
Elevation Gain 4200 Feet
Activities Camping, Fishing, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Advanced
Season Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Dog Friendly


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