OverviewPeak 12566 is part of the Red Castle ridge, located on the north slope of the Uinta Mountains of Utah. In my opinion, the Red Castle area is the most scenic of the entire Uinta range, having several large and beautiful lakes as well as Red Castle itself.
The ridge has 5 summits having 200' of prominence. From south to north, these are 12694, 12825, 12566, 12700, and 12338. The two southern summits are gentle, but the three on the north end are anything but. Each has multiple auxiliary bumps and pillars. The middle and highest of the three, 12700, is rumored to have never been climbed. Peak 12566, however, can be climbed without any special equipment via a very straight forward class 3 route. It is not without peril however, as there is much loose rock in this area and spontaneous rock fall does occur.
From the west side, you can't see the three northern peaks at once. Either 12566 is hidden or 12338 is hidden.
From the southeast, all 3 are clearly visible.
From the summit you will get a close up view of the maze of ledges and cliffs that make up 12700 just to the north and note all the loose rock waiting for the slightest excuse to fall.
The massive Mount Powell ridge (13159') is located 2.1 miles due east of Peak 12566. Kings Peak (13528'), Utah's highpoint is located 5.1 miles east southeast.
To the west lies the very impressive Red Castle Lake which according to Davis and Veranth in the book "High Uinta Trails" is 168 acres and is the largest natural lake in the Uinta Mountains. Above it sits Squaw Benchmark (12990').
Most 12000 footers in the Uintas don't see many climbers as they are a long distance from a trailhead. It is an 11.5 mile one way hike just to get to East Red Castle lake which sits at the base of 12566. There are no trails that go all the way to the top of any Uinta 12000 footer. Most Uinta hikers stay in the basins. There was no sign that anyone had ever been up to the top of 12566 and I left it as I found it.
Getting ThereThe easiest access to this peak is from the China Meadows Trailhead via the East Fork Smiths Fork Trail.
Take I80 to exit 34 in Wyoming and head towards Fort Bridger. Go 5.4 miles to a blinking red light at a 4 way intersection. Turn right onto route 414 and go 3 miles to route 410. Turn right onto route 410. Go 6.8 miles and continue straight onto a dirt road (#072) where route 410 bends right. (Note that this is the second time route 410 bends right.) Continue on the dirt road/#072 11.9 miles until you reach a big intersection where the road to Henrys Fork (#017) leaves left. Continue straight on #072 towards China Meadows and follow the main road 6.5 miles until you get to the sign for the China Meadows Campground, shortly after crossing Smiths Fork. Do as the sign says and turn left onto #125. Note that on the USGS map, the left turn is marked #072, but in reality, #072 continues straight ahead. Continue .7 miles to a fork in the road just after crossing a cattle guard. Straight ahead is the horse trailhead and a right turn takes you to the hiker trailhead.
There is a $2 fee to park at the trailhead for up to 5 days. The America the Beautiful Pass does NOT cover it. However, if you have a senior or access pass you only have to pay half.
Normal wilderness area rules apply.
There are several established campgrounds along the road to the trailhead (Stateline, Bridger Lake, E Marsh Lake, and W Marsh Lake). There is a campground that is signed "China Meadows" .7 miles before the trailhead. At the trailhead itself there is a campground signed "Trailhead" that is in 2 sections, one for folks with horses and one for hikers. There is no water at the trailhead so you have to bring your own. There is a fee to camp.
There are numerous places to camp along the trail. The terrain is fairly flat and is a mix of widely spaced trees and meadows. Water along the trail is plentiful. You may not camp within 200' of any occupied campsite, trail, or water source.
When to Climb
The best access is mid to late June through September. The mosquitoes are gone for the most part by the end of August.
Prior to 2010, the road to China Meadows has not been plowed past the Henrys Fork turnoff. On my way to Henrys Fork several times in 2010, I noticed that it was plowed, but I don't know how far the plowing went or if it is done on a consistent basis, or the plans for future plowing.
Routes OverviewThere are 2 obvious routes to the summit of 12566. There are couloirs on both the east and west sides that lead to the saddle .1 miles south of the summit. I chose the one on the east side.
Here is a link to the current 7 day forecast for 12566.