Flaming Gorge Must-do
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area presents a vivid lesson in geology at its most dramatic and most varied. This region presents terrific contrasts: the rugged Uinta Mountains nearby; beautiful alpine forests; a brilliantly colored, 91-mile reservoir at the bottom of a dramatic river gorge that runs 1,500 feet deep in places; and high desert country to the north.
Today the area is a favorite for tourists and recreationists, and a relatively undisturbed home for wildlife, including antelope at the aptly named Antelope Flat north of Dutch John. Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area offers visitors two information centers (at Redrock Canyon Overlook and Flaming Gorge Dam), more than 600 camping and picnic sites, and more than 100 miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking.
On the lake, popular activities include angling, boating, water skiing, and swimming — even scuba diving. In the surrounding area, historical attractions such as the Swett Ranch can be see by signing up for a forest service tour. Geology buffs won’t want to miss the Sheep Creek Canyon Geological Area, which can be toured by auto. And don’t forget the Green River below the dam, which offers floating opportunities, hiking trails, and excellent fly fishing.
Whatever your chosen form of recreation, you are sure to find plenty to do at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. To help you plan your time, we’ve selected a few of the top must-see and must-do activities.
Hike the Canyon Rim Trail
Hikers, mountain bikers, cross-country skiers, and campers should consider Red Canyon Rim a place to pursue their endeavors. There are several trails in the vicinity, including the Canyon Rim Trail—a 6.5-mile route skirting Red Canyon offering expansive views. Two trailheads provide access to the trail: One is at Red Canyon Lodge; the other is at Greendale Rest Area, located on Highway 44 just east of the Highway 191 junction. If you’re just traveling through, then be sure to at least check out the overlook at the Red Canyon Visitor Center, located at the end of the paved, 4.5-mile Red Canyon Road. The overlook sits on a precipice high above the dammed waters of Flaming Gorge Lake, snaking through the 1,400- foot-deep Red Canyon. The visitor center has exhibits dealing with the ecology of the area and the Indian and Anglo cultures that once lived here.
Other hikes in the area to check out are the Ute Mountain Fire Lookout Tower (4 miles round trip) and Tepee Lakes (10 miles round trip).
The best chance to see wildlife is earlier in the morning and later in the evening. With so much forest and wilderness nearby, it is especially important to drive carefully at night, dusk and dawn.
Land a Lunker from the Flaming Gorge
Flaming Gorge is known as one of the premiere trophy lake trout waters in the country. Fish over 50 pounds have been caught! Other species include smallmouth bass, kokanee salmon, and rainbow trout, and like the lake trout they sometimes come in lunker proportions. The lake can be fished successfully from a boat or from shore, and there are numerous campgrounds, marinas, and access points for anglers to take advantage of. For more information on fishing in Flaming Gorge, including specific information about how and where to fish, see our Fishing Guide.
Marvel at the Flaming Gorge Dam
If incredible feats of engineering are your thing, you won’t want to miss the Flaming Gorge Dam. Completed in 1962, the dam rises 502 feet high and is 1,285 feet long. During the summer season the dam is open for self-guided and guided tours. You can get more information at the visitor center on the west end of the dam.
And . . . Don’t Forget the Green River Below the Dam!
Below the Flaming Gorge Dam, the Green River is known for world-class fly fishing. Anglers (and hikers) can walk the Little Hole National Recreation Trail, which extends from the main parking area below the dam to the Little Hole access. The trail is 7 miles long and follows the north bank of the river presenting many excellent fishing spots along the way. Beware of the river level rising unexpectedly due to dam release; wear a life jacket when wade-fishing here.
In addition to fishing and hiking, floating is a popular activity below the dam. Rafts, canoes, and kayaks ply the waters between the dam and Gates of Lodore, but you should have some river experience before tackling the river. Rentals and guided trips are available from the Flaming Gorge Resort and Flaming Gorge Recreation Services.
Envision Dinosaurs on the Drive Through the Ages Geological Tour
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area is about 41 miles north of Vernal, which is known as one of the “dinosaur capitals” of the world. You can spend several days looking about and never see it all. Head north on Vernal Avenue (US 191), and just beyond the outskirts of town you will see on the right a small information board for Drive Through the Ages Geological Tour. Stop to read the short route description and pick up the brochure about the signed geological attractions that line the route; signs along the road indicate when you pass from one formation to another. At Red Fleet State Park you can take a fun 2.5-mile hike to dinosaur tracks on the lake’s sandstone shore—and you can jump in the lake to cool off.
While on the Drive Through the Ages Geological Tour, consider a side trip through the Sheep Creek Canyon Geological Area, a 15-mile tour past towering canyon walls, representing a billion years’ worth of variegated rock strata. The drive eventually takes you out of the canyon and into the high country of the Uinta Mountains, where an excellent perspective of Sheep Creek Canyon comes into view. The gothic spires and towers in the canyon promise to keep you enthralled, as does the alpine scenery high above the canyon.
See our Scenic Driving Guide for more information on these drives and other scenic byways in the area.