Summit of 12338 and pillar
Peak 12338 is the northernmost summit of the Red Castle Ridge, located on the north slope of the Uinta Mountains of Utah. The ridge has five summits having over 200' of prominence located within 1.4 miles of each other. Four of the five are pictured below.
The Red Castle Ridge from the southeast, 12694, 12825, 12700, and 12338
The two southern summits, 12694 and 12825 shown on the left are easily climbed. The three on the north, 12566
(not shown), 12700, and 12338 are the most rugged peaks of the entire Uinta range. It is rumored that 12700 has never been climbed. However, peaks 12566 and 12338 can both be climbed by class 3 routes.
Most major peaks on the north slope of the Uintas have gentle north ridges which only get steep as they near their corresponding summit. Beulah
, Squaw BM
, and Gilbert
all fit this description. The Red Castle ridge is a notable exception, ending quite abruptly with 12338.
Red Castle ends abruptly and has no north ridge
It is interesting to compare some of these other north ridges to the picture above. Beulah is perhaps the next most rugged peak in the Uintas after the Red Castle area, but even Beulah has a gentle north ridge. Red Castle is truly a Uinta anomaly.
North ridge of Mt Powell, next ridge east North ridge of Squaw BM, next ridge west Beulah's north ridge
Peak 12338 is very seldom climbed. It looks too intimidating for the casual hiker and those more hard core would probably prefer something not quite so remote, as it is an 11+ mile one way hike to reach the peak's base. There is nothing on the summit to indicate anyone ever being there, no cairn, no summit register, and no worn paths.
From the upper reaches of this peak, you will get a very interesting and close up view of Peak 12700, the main Red Castle summit.
The 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.
You must camp 200' from any water source
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.
Because 12338 is at the end of the ridge, there are about 270 degrees of access from the valley floor opening up lots of interesting route possibilities. Here are some pictures of the peak starting from the southwest and circling around to the northwest.
I scrambled up the south face
which is shown in the first two pictures. The slope angle is about 42 degrees. From a distance, it looks pretty loose, but I found the rock to be surprisingly stable and never had a problem with it.
20% chance of rain. All 5 peaks of the Red Castle ridge.
Here is a link
to the current 7 day forecast for 12566.
Map of the Red Castle area