Kings Peak is the tallest mountain in Utah, so climbing to the summit is a rite of passage for any hiker living in the state. All serious hikers around the country have one thing in common: an insatiable desire to climb the highest peak in the state they live in. Standing atop the king of mountains within invisible state lines is a ritual among the outdoorsy, and this fact is as true in Utah as anywhere else. This means Kings Peak is one hell of a popular mountain to climb.
Everyone knows that Kings Peak is the tallest mountain in the Beehive State, topping out at 13,528 feet. As such, every summer season sees hundred of people attempting to top out on the peak. Located in the Uinta Mountains of eastern Utah, King’s Peak has always been a favorite of serious hikers, casual backpackers and Boy Scouts looking to test their mettle against the elements.
The usual way to climb Kings Peak is to do it in three days as it is a 29 mile round trip hike from the Henrys Fork trailhead. The first day consists of an easy, relatively flat 8.3 mile hike to Dollar Lake where there are several awesome places to set up camp. Along the way, the trail winds through pine forests along the Henrys Fork River until it rises up into the open meadows surrounded by the jagged mountain tops of the Uintas.
Once at the lake, there is good fishing at Dollar Lake and time to relax in the alpine air while watching the moose do what moose do. Camping is plentiful around Dollar Lake. The only decision to make is whether to camp near the lake for a nearby water source, or away from it so you can have a campfire. Decisions, decisions.
The second day of the trip is summit day. Just over six miles of trail gets hikers to the top, but all of it is steep with some scrambling to get to the summit. The route is well marked with cairns, although the trail is obvious. The scenery along the way is hard to beat as Henrys Fork, Painter Basin, Gilbert Peak, and Kings Peak create an endless array of some of the most picturesque mountain country in the nation.
After reaching the top, pictures and celebrations precede a well deserved break before gathering up the motivation to begin the descent. Six miles of steep downhill lead back to camp for a total of 12.2 miles for the day.
Of course, the third day is all about packing up and heading back down to the car. After two days of non-stop hiking, hefting a pack filled with camping gear is a burden fit for ending a sweet trip in the Uinta Mountains. Following the footsteps laid down two days before leads back to the car for a total of 28.8 miles round trip.
Even if Kings Peak wasn’t the tallest mountain in Utah, swarming with people climbing there simply to “bag the peak,” it would be an incredible hike anyway. The mountain environment, enfolded in crags of granite, peppered with pines and wildflowers, would still place it at the top of Utah’s best hikes. It’s also a great hike for dogs who are in shape, and are large enough to travel over scree and boulders.
To get to the Henrys Fork trailhead, drive Interstate 80 through Wyoming to State Route 414. Drive south to Mountain View and continue through town until the road becomes Route 410 until it reaches the town of Robertson. Turn west on Uinta County Road 283 toward Bridger Lake until it comes to Forest Road 017. Turn left and drive to Forest Road 077. Heading south from here leads to a fork where a right turn will take you to the Henrys Fork Trailhead. Or use a Google map and GPS because it is a little confusing to find the way there.