Trip Report: Backpack to Red Castle Lake and Wilson Pk in Uintas

Backpack to Red Castle Lake and Wilson Pk in Uintas
By L Beth Blattenberger
HIKE 08/05/2021 MOD+

Red Castle Lakes and Wilson Peak backpack, Aug. 4-8, 2021
Trip organizer Beth Blattenberger; participants Mary Whittington, Jean Rengstorf, Shawn Bagci, Louis Melini
We gathered on Wednesday evening to camp at the trailhead campground. The trip was planned to begin on a Thursday to avoid crowds but it seems others had the same idea, and we were lucky to find parking spots on Thursday morning. We arrived at Lower Red Castle Lake at 2 in the afternoon and easily found a good camping spot overlooking the lake. After our arrival there was rain, but it did not discourage a steady stream of backpackers from continuing to arrive all afternoon and into the evening. Fortunately this very scenic area has lots of places to camp.
On Friday morning we got a 6:45 am start and headed up to Red Castle Lake. Here we are pointing at our destination, Wilson Peak (13,060), the lowest of Utah's 13ers.
(Photo of group and of camp)
Our route went by a higher lake to the pass west of the peak, then up the ridge line to the summit. The wind was strong when we got to the pass and added a level of difficulty in negotiating our footing on the talus. Louis decided the pass was a sufficient destination for him and returned to camp, where he rescued Shawn's tent, which had blown away.
Not long after the rest of us arrived at the summit, a father and son appeared and obliged us by taking our photo. They were the only people we saw on our day hike. They returned to their camp the way they had come, and we did not see anyone after that until we got back to Lower Red Castle Lake.
(Summit photo)
But first we had to get down. The east ridge of Wilson is steeper than the west ridge that we had come up, and had a couple of short cliff bands that challenged us to find routes through and required a few class 3 or maybe 4 moves. We helped each other out and were happy to get safely down about 500 vertical feet to a scenic col and opportunity for more photos.
(Photos of descent)
From the col we descended further to head east on the south side of Red Castle, intending to meet up with the trail over Smith Pass. We found a trail but it soon disappeared among the talus, and we again found our own way until reaching a lower segment of the trail that we could see from above. The trail led past more lakes on the east side of Red Castle. Wanting to take a shorter way back to camp, we left the trail and contoured around the base of Red Castle to reach Lower Red Castle Lake. This was not difficult, but there was a large swampy area and stream at this end of the lake. After some exploration we were happy to find a log bridge over the stream and to return to camp without getting our feet wet, 11 hours after our morning departure, where Louis greeted us. The air was getting smoky by evening and we complained, not knowing how much worse the air was in Salt Lake City.
On Saturday morning we took time to watch a cow moose and calf graze in the wetland near the lake, not far from camp, then packed up. Many people were headed out on Saturday morning, just as we were. The trip home was uneventful and we felt a satisfying sense of accomplishment.