Ashley National Forest is a beautiful place to visit with tons of fun things to do. It’s an ideal place for nature enthusiasts, hikers, and campers.
Not only does Ashley Forest encompass 1,384,132 acres in Utah and Wyoming, but it’s also home to the tallest peak in Utah: Kings Peak, which towers at a staggering 13,527 feet!
Ashley National Forest History
Ashley National Forest was unchartered by the U.S. until the 19th century when General William Henry Ashley and a team of fur traders explored the area.
The forest was named after General Ashley and it eventually was declared a national forest that became a hot spot for outdoor recreation.
Things to Do in Ashley National Forest
Ashley National Forest is the perfect place to enjoy and explore outdoor activities all year round!
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area is located 35 miles from the town of Vernal, on the border of Utah and Wyoming. At its heart is the beautiful Flaming Gorge Reservoir.
The area is a fishing paradise, but you can also take part in activities like:
💡 We recommend staying at Flaming Gorge Resort if you want to explore the area.
You can take in a lot of Ashley National Forest’s scenery by road. Here are three of the main scenic byways through Ashley National Forest.
Red Cloud Loop
Image courtesy of Flaming Gorge Country
The Red Cloud Loop scenic backway is a dirt road 15 miles north of Vernal. It offers wonderful views of the Uinta Mountain.
Red Cloud Loop is a rugged and varied loop that takes you through thick trees, open mountain meadows, and past colorful canyon walls.
The entire stretch is about 70 miles long and takes roughly three hours to complete. Make sure to slow down and take it all in!
🗺️ Get directions
Nine Mile Canyon scenic backway
Get ready for an authentic backroad adventure through the Old West! The Nine Mile Canyon drive includes spectacular views of:
- Ancient granaries
- Rock arches
- Balanced rocks
- An old, deserted saloon
- Ancient petroglyphs (more on these below)
Don’t be misled by the name—the drive is about 80 miles!
The best place to enter the canyon from Vernal is to turn off Highway 191 at Myton. The canyon then runs all the way to Wellington.
It mainly consists of gravel tracks and has no service stations, so come prepared. It’s accessible for both cars and mountain bikes.
🗺️ Get directions
Jones Hole scenic backway
Image courtesy of Carol Aldinger via Flaming Gorge Country
Beginning four miles east of Vernal, the Jones Hole backway takes you through the heart of Dinosaurland, Utah.
Some of the popular spots on the drive include:
- A 2,600 feet view from Diamond Mountain Plateau
- The Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery
- The Rugged Canyon
The Jones Hole scenic drive is a round trip of around 80 miles that takes about two hours. Some parts may not be passable in winter.
Petroglyphs are ancient drawings etched into stone. They are evidence of the native tribes who lived and hunted within Ashley National Forest.
Most of the petroglyphs in Ashley National Forest were created by the Fremont people who lived here around 1,000 years ago.
Petroglyphs can be seen at both Nine Mile Canyon and Jones Hole:
Nine Mile Canyon petroglyphs
Nine Mile Canyon is sometimes known as the world’s longest art gallery. The petroglyphs and pictographs here show various animals, figures hunting, and other depictions of what life was like for the Fremont people.
This guide to the Nine Mile Canyon petroglyphs provides the location of each historic piece of artwork in this area.
A short walk from the road along Jones Creek is the Deluge Shelter. Here, you’ll discover some of the area’s most impressive Fremont indigenous pictographs and petroglyphs that depict animals, people, and abstract designs.
To get there, head to the Jones Hole fish hatchery and follow the creek trailhead for approximately 1.5 miles (2.4km). The trail is relatively flat and easy to walk.
Image courtesy of National Park Service/Jake McFee
Visitors can explore more than 1,000 miles of hiking trails within Ashley Forest—there is so much to see!
🥾Less experienced hikers may prefer the Tamarack and Jessen Lake Trail. This 6.1 km hike circles the beautiful Spirit Lake and takes around 1.5 hours. Start at the Spirit Lake Trailhead, not far from the campground on Spirit Lake Road.
Many species of wildlife can be seen in Ashley Forest, including:
- Mountain lion
- Mule deer
- Bighorn sheep
It’s also a great place for bird watching and fishing.
ATV, motorcycling, or snowmobiling
Some trails within Ashley National Forest are designated for ATV, motorcycle, and snowmobile use. This is a great way to see the forest with a little added adrenaline.
💡You can hire these vehicles from Lofty Peaks Adventures.
💡A list of ATV trails can be found here.
💡A list of snowmobiling areas can be found here.
During the winter months, Ashley National Forest gets plenty of snowfall. Many visitors enjoy snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing along the forest trails.
To accommodate these cross-country skiers, two yurts are available for overnight rent during the winter. Each yurt sleeps up to eight people and has limited amenities.
No plumbing, running water, or electricity is provided. Tent camping is allowed next to the yurts.
⛷️You can hire skis from Flaming Gorge Resort.
⛷️A list of the area’s cross-country skiing trails can be found here.
Anglers looking to catch some high-mountain fish can drop a line in any of the many rivers and streams that meander through the forest.
Some of the bodies of water in Ashley National Forest even allow the use of motorized watercrafts.
🎣 We recommend fishing near Flaming Gorge where you can either fish in the reservoir or on the Green River.
Many visitors enjoy experiencing the rugged beauty of Ashley National Forest as the early frontiersmen did—by horseback.
Most of the trails are easily navigable and offer some spectacular views of Uintah County. If you are a beginner, we recommend going on a guided trail for your beautiful Utah horseback riding trip.
🐎 Discover Ashley National Forest’s best horseback riding trails.
🐎 Book a guided horseback ride.
Ashley National Forest Camping
There are various campgrounds throughout Ashley National Forest. Some of the best ones are:
Visitor Information for Dinosaurland and Uintah County, Utah
While Ashley National Forest brims with outdoor fun, there are plenty of other unmissable things to enjoy in Dinosaurland.
Check out our free travel brochures and itineraries to help you plan your trip to Vernal and the rest of Dinosaurland.