Base Elevation: 7,098
Summit Elevation: 10,234
Elevation Gain: 3,136
Distance: 9.5 miles
Moving Time: 4:24
Date: November 10, 2019
With a name like Castle, you would expect this peak to be regal, noble and imposing but it wasn’t any of those. But after staying at the Castle Peak yurt last year, I wanted to summit this peak and see if there were any good ski lines as I read that people did some ski touring from the yurt.
I always wondered how much more my dog traveled on a hike given that he chasing squirrels and is always running ahead and coming back. So I took my Garmin GPS device and placed it in a doggie poop bag and then tied that to his collar. I have thought about doing this before but my intentions were to place it on his doggie backpack but I didn’t bring the backpack on this hike so I had to improvise. It worked well for the first 2 miles but when I called Butter over- I realized that the bag was torn and the GPS device had fallen out. Who says hiking is free.
There are several ways to get to Castle Peak and one is hiking/driving Upper Settings Road but nobody likes to hike on fire roads so I took the Yellow Pine Trail. This trailhead is one of the first trails outside of Kamas as you drive along the Mirror Lake Highway (6.2 miles to be exact).
The first few miles are relatively flat as you hike alongside Yellow Pine Creek. This trail in drainage so the views along the route are limited until you reach the ridge. At the 1.5 mile point, you pass over the first of 3 bridges which you will encounter over the next .5 miles.
Then at mile 3, it becomes a little steeper before entering another low angle section. At about the 3.5 mile point, you will come to an intersection and if you go left (west), you will head towards Yellow Pine Lakes but you want to take the trail towards Castle Lake.
At this point, the trail was completely covered in snow but luckily there were a few other tracks which were heading towards Castle and I confirmed on my All Trails app that I was on course. From this point forward, there was no trail for me to follow because it was buried but the goal was simple- keep going up. As you continue to make your way up the drainage, you want to stay on the right (east) side because you will soon come to a large boulder field but you can skirt this by traveling on the right-hand side of the canyon. This will lead you up towards the eastern ridge as you crest the ridge, the Upper Settings Rd area will come into view. The ridge had less snow as it was south facing which was good because there was a short boulder section that required some scrambling.
I thought I was going to be on the summit once I got to the top of this boulder field but the ridge continued to climb. The Castle Lake trail takes you around the lower east side of Castle Peak so there was no formal trail up to the summit. At the summit, there is a small cairn indicating the peak and the views are expansive.
You really feel as if you are in a remote area as you can’t see any roads, towns or any form of civilization which is hard to come by these days. The views to the west offer spectacular imagery of Mt. Timp and the Wasatch Range but I was most intrigued by the peaks to the north as I am not that familiar with the Erickson Basin and Shingle Creek area (put them on the list). From the summit, you can see a few smaller lakes down towards Castle yurt (although you can’t see the yurt) but I knew these weren’t Castle Lake. I continued to walk north along the ridge and Castle Lake finally came into view.
As I canvassed the summit, I evaluated the skiing potential but nothing looked that appealing as everything was pretty short. The best option would be to drop off the west side towards Duke Peak but that too would be a quick shot. My conclusion was that there are many better places in the Uintas to ski that are more accessible but if you are staying at the yurt- I am sure you could still find some fun.
My AllTrails app indicated that another person descended along the western side of the ridge so I decided to take a slightly different route from the summit which turned out to be the wrong call. As I indicated earlier, there is a large boulder section in the middle of the drainage and my route took me right through it. This route was especially challenging today because of the fact that there was about 6-12” of snow that partially covered the boulders which wasn’t strong enough to support my weight. Therefore, I was post-holing on every step and my legs would sink in between the large boulders. After about a hundred yards of this, I made my way back towards the east side of the canyon and then synced up with the route that I ascended.
This trail is a very well maintained and I presume it would be a pretty easy hike to Castle Lake in the spring or summer once the snow melts. I highly recommend this trail if you are looking for an easy peak to bag or a gentle hike to several lakes.