Biking -- A number of mountain-biking trails provide splendid views of the recreation area's scenery, especially in the Utah section. Bikes are permitted in most of Flaming Gorge and adjacent Ashley National Forest, except in the High Uintas Wilderness, where all wheeled vehicles are prohibited. Bikes are also restricted from Memorial Day to Labor Day on a section of the Little Hole National Recreation Trail along the Green River below the dam, due to very heavy use by anglers and hikers. Keep in mind that mountain bikers here often share trails with hikers, horses, and four-wheelers. A free mountain-biking brochure is available at visitor centers.
For a scenic and fairly easy ride, try the 5-mile one-way Red Canyon Rim Trail. This single track follows the south rim of the canyon, providing terrific views of the lake 1,700 feet below. Deer and elk are frequently seen in the forested areas. Watch also for interpretive signs on area wildlife and the ecosystem. Trail heads and parking are located at Red Canyon Visitor Center, Red Canyon Lodge, and Greendale Overlook.
Death Valley Trail, a moderately difficult 15-mile round-trip ride, offers good views of the Uinta Mountains and ends with a fine view of the lake from the top of Sheep Creek Hill. The trail head is located along Utah 44, south of Manila, at milepost 16.5.
Rentals of full-suspension mountain bikes are available at Red Canyon Lodge, in Dutch John (tel. 435/889-3759; www.redcanyonlodge.com), at rates of $10 for 1 hour, $20 for a half-day, and $35 for a full day. The lodge also sponsors a mountain-bike festival each year in August. In Vernal, head to Altitude Cycle, 580 E. Main St. (tel. 435/781-2295; www.altitudecycle.com), for gear, service, and advice.
Boating & Houseboating -- Boaters get to enjoy a unique perspective of some memorable scenery, with magnificent fiery red canyons surrounding the lake in the Utah section, and the wide-open Wyoming badlands farther north.
Three marinas on Lake Flaming Gorge provide boat rentals, fuel, launching ramps, and boating and fishing supplies. Cedar Springs Marina (tel. 435/889-3795; www.cedarspringsmarina.com) is located 2 miles west of Flaming Gorge Dam; Lucerne Valley Marina (tel. 435/784-3483; www.flaminggorge.com) is on the west side of the lake, 7 miles east of Manila; and Buckboard Marina (tel. 307/875-6927) is also on the west side of the lake, off Wyo. 530, 22 miles north of Manila.
Nine boat ramps serve those who bring their own craft; boat and water-ski rentals are available at all three marinas. Although types of boats and costs vary, a 14-foot fishing boat with a small outboard motor usually costs about $100 per day, an 18-foot ski boat with a powerful outboard motor costs about $250 to $300 per day, and a 24-foot pontoon boat with a 50-horsepower outboard motor will cost about $200 per day. Partial-day rentals are also available. At Lucerne Valley Marina, a 36-foot houseboat costs about $1,100 for 3 nights during the summer, with discounts in spring and fall; a 52-footer is also available for about $2,000 for 3 nights in the summer. For all boat rentals, life jackets are included but fuel is extra.
Nonmotorized boating is permitted on a 20-acre private lake at Red Canyon Lodge, where you can rent canoes, rowboats, and paddle boats. Rates are $10 for 1 hour, $30 for a half-day, and $50 for a full day.
Dinosaur River Expeditions (tel. 800/345-7238 or 435/781-0717; www.dinoadv.com), in Vernal, offers a 1-day raft trip for $84 for adults, $59 for kids 7 to 12, and free for kids 6 and under.
Fishing -- You might want to bring along a muscular friend if you plan to fish Lake Flaming Gorge, which is famous as a place to catch record-breaking trout, such as the 51-pound, 8-ounce lake (Mackinaw) trout caught in 1988; the 26-pound, 2-ounce rainbow caught in 1979; and the 33-pound, 10-ounce German brown caught in 1977. You'll encounter other cold-water species such as smallmouth bass and kokanee salmon. Fishing is popular year-round, although ice-fishermen are warned to make sure the ice is strong enough to hold them.
Cedar Springs and Lucerne Valley marinas offer a variety of fishing guide services. Typical rates for one or two people in a guided trip aboard a sportfishing boat are $300 for a half-day, including fishing gear but not fishing licenses. Also providing guided fishing trips, in a 28-foot sportfishing boat with state-of-the-art fish-finding and GPS equipment, are Bruce Parker and Kyle Edwards of Conquest Expeditions (tel. 801/244-9948; www.conquestexpeditions.com). Rates for a 4-hour fishing trip, with all equipment (but not fishing licenses), are $275 for one or two people and $425 for three or four people. Rates for an 8-hour fishing trip are $550 for one or two people, $650 for three or four.
Trout fishing on the Green River below the dam is also outstanding. Flaming Gorge Recreation Services, based in Dutch John (tel. 435/885-3191; www.fglodge.com), offers guided fishing trips for one or two people, with rates of $350 for a half-day float trip, $425 for a full day. A complete list of guides is available at the Flaming Gorge Dam Visitor Center.
Two private stocked lakes are also at Red Canyon Lodge, one with a fully accessible fishing pier, and both open to catch-and-release fishing only. No state fishing license is needed, but a Red Canyon Lodge permit is required (free for guests, $5 for nonguests). A free kids' fishing pond is in front of the lodge's restaurant.
Hiking -- Many of the trails here offer spectacular scenic views of the reservoir and its colorful canyons. Remember, though, that in most cases the trail is shared with mountain bikers and in some cases horses and four-wheel-drive vehicles as well.
The Red Canyon Rim Trail runs 5 miles (one-way) from the Red Canyon Visitor Center to the Greendale Rest Area, accessible from either of those points or at Green's Lake or Canyon Rim campgrounds. The trail wanders through a forest of Douglas fir and pine, with stops along the canyon rim providing outstanding views of the lake far below.
For an easy 3-mile round-trip hike to an overlook offering a fine view of the lake, try the Bootleg Trail, which starts just off U.S. 191 opposite Firefighters Memorial Campground, 3 miles south of the dam.
One trail popular with hikers is the Little Hole National Recreation Trail, which runs about 7 miles from the dam spillway downstream to Little Hole, with its fishing platforms and picnic areas. The trail is easy to moderate and offers splendid vistas of the Green River, which appears to be a mere ribbon of emerald when seen from the cliffs above. This is a good trail for birders, who may spot osprey in summer and bald eagles in winter.
Hikers can also use the mountain-biking trails listed above. A free hiking-trails brochure is available at the visitor centers.
Horseback Riding -- Many of the more than 100 miles of trails in Flaming Gorge are open to riders. Guided rides are available from Red Canyon Stables at Red Canyon Lodge, with prices starting at about $20 for a 1-hour ride and $70 for a half-day. Children must be at least 6 years old to go on rides.
Swimming -- Sometimes you've just got to dive right in, even though the water is pretty cold. Lake Flaming Gorge has two designated swimming areas: Sunny Cove, just north of the dam, and Lucerne Beach, a mile west of Lucerne Campground. Neither has a lifeguard.
Winter Sports -- Ice-fishing is popular, but check with rangers first for ice conditions. Also popular from mid-January until the snow melts are cross-country skiing, snowshoeing (an excellent way to see wildlife), and snowmobiling. At Red Canyon Lodge, you can rent snowshoes for $5 per hour, $10 per half-day, or $15 per day, and Flaming Gorge Resort rents cross-country ski packages in winter.
Wildlife in Abundance -- Flaming Gorge is one of the best places in Utah to see a wide variety of wildlife. Boaters should watch for osprey, peregrine falcons, swifts, and swallows along the cliffs. Bighorn sheep are sometimes spotted clambering on the rocky cliffs on the north side of the lake in spring and early summer. On land, be on the lookout for pronghorn antelope year-round along the west side of the lake, particularly in Lucerne Valley and in the campground. Hikers on the Little Hole National Recreation Trail should keep their eyes peeled for a variety of birds, including bald eagles in winter.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.