Bask in the Changing Seasons on Utah’s Kings Peak

Tick off the state high point on this 3-day backcountry adventure.

Photo: "20170729-FS-Uinta-BH-002" by Forest Service Photography is marked with CC PDM 1.0

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  • Distance: 26.2 miles
  • Time: 3 days
  • Elevation gain: 4, 365 feet

I unzip the tent door and am dazzled by the light. Big snow flakes drop out of the sky. After yesterday’s blue-sky trek, the wintry scene makes me feel like I’ve been transported somewhere far away. As my friends and I eat breakfast, the wind picks up, sending ripples through the deep blue water of Dollar Lake and tearing some clouds off Kings Peak’s face, as if to summon us to the top. We lace up our boots. Who are we to pass up an audience with a royal?

Turn-by-Turn from the Henry’s Fork Trailhead

1) Head 5.5 miles up well-maintained Henry’s Fork Trail with occasional glimpses of the rushing Henry’s Fork stream to the left, ultimately crossing it over a log bridge.

2) Go left and after 2.1 miles set up camp, just past Dollar Lake. Keep an eye out for suddenly rare tall trees to hang your bear bag.

3) Leave basecamp early with light packs for the 8-hour summit day. It’s 4 miles up to Gunsight Pass before a short descent into Painter Basin.

4) In Painter Basin, keep right at the fork on the High Line Trail to close out 3.5 miles up to Anderson Pass.

5) From here, it’s a straightforward ridgewalk to the 13,528-foot summit.

6) Retrace your steps, camp another night by the lake, and head back to the parking lot.

Campsite: Dollar Lake

There are no marked sites, but you’ll find plenty of fire rings from previous camps at mile 7.6. Pick an impacted site near the Dollar Lake sign and at least 200 feet from the shore. Views of the surrounding snow-capped mountains make the evening sunset a colorful show you won’t want to miss. The lake is your water source.

Peak Bragging

At 13,528 feet, King’s Peak is the tallest in Utah. It’s also ranked 19th in the contiguous United States for prominence; it’s 6,348 feet from base to tip.

Escape Route

If severe weather sneaks up while you’re on the ridge, there’s a small gully to the northeast of Anderson Pass known as The Chute which rapidly descends 1,000 feet on loose talus and scree. From the bottom of The Chute, bushwhack/contour toward Gunsight Pass to intersect with the trail. Expert navigation skills required.


On a clear night, the elevation and lack of light pollution make for an unrivaled display of the night sky from your campsite at Dollar Lake.

DO IT Trailhead Henry’s Fork (40.9091, -110.3312) from the parking lot at the end of Country Road 294 Permit None Season June to late September, when first snowfall typically comes.

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