Ahh, King’s Peak in Utah. This mountain is formidable. It’s daunting, it’s long, it’s hard, but it’s worth it. This peak is Utah’s highest, in the High Uinta Mountains in eastern Utah. Besides being Utah’s tallest peak, this mountain is known for its extensive approach – 25 miles via the Henry’s Fork trail. It’s quite the approach to knock off Utah’s highest peak, standing tall at an impressive 13,528 feet. While this approach isn’t terribly hard, it is long, which makes for an interesting trip. For most people, it’s a three-day, two-night trip in order to enjoy it. There are ways to do it all in one day, or over two days; those are for the people going for FKTs and trying to rush their trip! My suggestion is to do it as a three-day, two-night trip. Let’s get into the quick beta, shall we?
- Mileage: 25.0 miles
- Elevation gain: 4,200~ ft.
- Highest Point: 13,528
- Best time to visit: Late June through late September
- Total hiking time: 3 days
- Kid-friendly: No.
- Dog-friendly: Yes, must be on-leash
- Bathroom at trailhead: Yes, pit toilets.
- *Gear I brought: 65+10 Deuter backpack, 1P Marmot tent, Big Agnes sleeping pad, 20F Nemo sleeping bag, bear canister with food (ramen, backpacker meals, Honey Stinger waffles, protein bars, dried apricot, beef jerky), sunscreen, toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, paper towels), MSR Pocket Rocket Stove Kit with pot, lid & handle, propane, 3L Osprey water reservoir, spare water bottle, lighter, matches, first aid kit, large knife, small knife, headlamp, map of the area, compass, 0.6L water filter, socks, underwear, t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, pullover, raincoat, winter hat, Eddie Bauer puffy 800 down, 2 pairs warm gloves, sun hat, sunglasses, Canon EOS R camera, Canon 24-70 MK II 2.8 lens.
*List may not be all-inclusive. I hiked with several other people, so some items were split, which means I may not have carried certain necessities.
Day 1 – 7.5 miles
This hike starts way off the beaten path. From Salt Lake, you’ll drive through Evanston to a small town called Lonetree. This will be your last stop for fueling up before you enter an area with no service! Get all the last-minute provisions you may need either here, or in the town before, Mountain View. Once arriving at the trailhead, there is a large parking lot. A few pit toilets are near the trailhead.
You’ll start hiking on a very gentle, beautiful trail alongside a river. The trail rises slowly over the two miles, barely passing the 10% grade. You’ll reach a turnoff towards Alligator Lake at about the 2.5-mile mark. Continue past this area for another 3 miles until you reach Elk Horn Bridge. This area is a popular place for people to camp. and it’s certainly an option! The only downside is you’ll be setting yourself up for a rather big Day 2. I’d recommend pushing on further!
After another 1.3 miles, you’ll reach the edge of the forest and enter an open valley with spectacular views. Continue for another 0.75 miles to reach your camp spot for the night, Dollar Lake. Personally, I’d recommend this lake for camping. Campsites are spacious and plentiful, and the lake is a welcome site in the morning and evening. It’s also a great spot for a swim if it isn’t too cold!
Day 2 – 10 miles
Your second day will be your peak attempt! Start from Dollar Lake and head towards Gunsight Pass. After about 0.75 miles, you’ll be able to see your pass! In two miles, you’ll reach Gunsight Pass and be greeted with spectacular views of the Uinta Mountain Range. Stop here for a rest! You’ve gained quite a bit of elevation over the past two miles. From here, head towards Anderson Pass, another 1.5 miles or so. This part of the journey gets much, much slower. Navigating the trail becomes increasingly difficult, and many people get lost wayfinding, making this hike much longer. I’d recommend using an app or GPS to help find your way – it’s difficult and we lost the trail many times.
Once you arrive at Anderson Pass, the only way is up. The summit is a mere 0.75 miles away from you! Continue up the steep, treacherous trail toward the peak. Take your time moving from rock to rock. One slip could prove to be fatal! Enjoy the summit views and make sure you summit before the afternoon is able. Afternoon thunderstorms frequent the High Uintas and often appear with little warning! From here, your hike back is downhill the entire way, retracing your 5 miles back to camp at Dollar Lake. If you wanted to, you could tack on the additional 7.5 miles and head back to your car, but I always prefer to take my time on these sorts of trails!
Day 3 – 7.5 miles
From here, the trail will look pretty familiar! Head back towards Henry’s Fork trail, crossing the Elk Horn Bridge and passing by the turnoff for Alligator Lake. The trail descends most of the time, with a slight uphill portion near the end before finally dipping off once and for all. These will be the easiest miles you’ve done all trip as your bag should be increasingly light on the third day. Get back to the car, unpack your gear, take a little water break, and head back into civilization! Congratulations, you’ve done it!
Need to Know
You are in bear country.
Remember to keep a clean trail and clean camp. Always pack it in, and pack it out. The Uintas are dotted with black bears, so sightings are possible. If you see a bear, make yourself large and shout! Gather any small children near you to help yourself appear bigger and to prevent a bear from isolating them. Take out your bear spray and prepare to use it if necessary.
Please adhere to the wildlife safety rules. Stay at least 25 meters away from moose, elk, deer, and other non-carnivorous animals. Stay away at least 100 meters away from bears, cougars, and other carnivorous animals. It’s for your safety and theirs!
With that being said, I’ve hiked in the Uintas extensively and never seen a black bear with my eyes. I’ve never seen traces of them either, but they’re lurking. Be smart, keep a clean camp, and hang or store your food at least 200 ft. from camp (I usually go further if I won’t be intruding on another party).
This trip was a little bit different to trips in the past where I haven’t seen much wildlife. At Dollar Lake and the surrounding areas, there are plenty of moose. One morning, we counted as many as six at Dollar Lake! We also spotted several moose along the trail on our way out. These animals are BIG and need their space. Please watch them from a distance! I used a zoom lens to take these photos – we were at least 35 meters away from them.
Adhere to Campfire Rules and Regulations.
In most areas of the Uintas where you’ll want to camp, campfires are prohibited. However, other areas may allow campfires during certain periods of the year. Always check with the US Forest Service before backpacking, but regardless of the campfire rules, prepare to experience cold temps!
The Uintas can get quite buggy in the summer months, especially around lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. Bring bug spray and anti-itch cream because you will get bit! Or, go late in the season. We hiked this in late September and since the overnight lows were cold (mid-20s, low 30s), we didn’t see very many bugs. However, you trade bugs for cold temps and frosty tents in the morning. Choose your poison! We had snow on our trail as we gained higher elevation. This ensures no bugs but makes the ascent a little more dangerous.
You’ll see other people camping at Dollar Lake, especially during summer and fall. Remember to respect your neighbors and keep your noise levels down!
Do this trip as a three-day, two-night trip to enjoy the scenery! There’s no big reason to rush this hike, and it’s better to preserve your energy and have a good time doing it! Dollar Lake is a great campsite, and if you finish the hike early on your second day, you can take a dip in the lake! Or, you can swim before you leave on your third day. There’s ample time to relax at camp and enjoy the trip!
So, you may have noticed that I didn’t take any photos of the summit. But Justin, don’t you always take summit photos? Why did you forget? I wanted to see the views from the summit! And how hard it is! I’ve heard there are two, maybe three false summits on this hike. How are those? How’s the bouldering? Did you even make it to the summit if you didn’t take any photos?
Well, it pains me to break it to you, but I actually didn’t reach the summit on this trip. Yeah, I had to stop short of this one at Anderson Pass! My friend in all the photos, Anna Kate (who’s also the other half of Canyon Drives and Chairlift Highs, our podcast we host together), suffered a severe bought of dehydration, altitude sickness, and a pretty severe allergic reaction. She started feeling pretty ill at the end of Day One and was pretty nauseous during the night. She was thinking she might not even attempt the summit!
Well, I’m sure you can tell from the photos that we did in fact make a push, but we stopped short at Anderson Pass. I decided to stay with her so she wouldn’t be alone, but the rest of our 8-person team made the summit successfully. We’re very proud of them and glad they got to experience the summit as a group!
Take A Hike!
Well, that’s all from this saga or a blog! I’m bummed I didn’t make the summit this time around but Anna Kate and I are going to head back here in 2023 for another attempt. We’re determined to make the summit and we totally would’ve made it otherwise! We’re both feeling up for the challenge and we want to make it a more pleasant memory than the one we have from 2022. There will hopefully be more photos the second time around and ideally no issues as far as bodily functions go!
If you’re looking for another backpacking trip in the Uintas, check out my blog on backpacking Jordan Lake! As always, you can find all my hikes from the High Uintas on this page.
Thanks for joining me on this blog, and I’ll see you on the next one!
Next blog: I’ve got more winter in stock and a solo getaway to the desert from September 2022. One of those is up next!
2 thoughts on “Backpacking King’s Peak via Henry’s Fork Trail | Highest Peak in Utah”
That’s such a bummer that you didn’t make the summit, but I guess that’s part of the journey. I’m glad to finally hear about your trip and see some photos of the terrain and campsites. Hopefully 2023 is the year both of us make it to the summit!
That’s a daunting task, but kudos to you for tackling it head-on! Hopefully, you’ll make it to the top next time!