Deseret Peak

On Sunday I hiked with Chris and John to the summit of Deseret Peak, the highest point in Tooele County and the Stansbury Range at 11,031 feet elevation. I made the three hour drive on Saturday evening and camped in North Willow Canyon, sleeping in the back of my Jeep. Before my alarm went off on Sunday morning I was already awake. I made coffee and ate a quick breakfast, then drove toward the trailhead in South Willow Canyon about 15 miles away. The sunrise was pretty nice along the way.

Camp spot in North Willow Canyon
Camp spot in North Willow Canyon

Sunrise and the Oquirrh Mountains
Sunrise and the Oquirrh Mountains

Sunlight on the spine of the Stansbury Range
Sunlight on the spine of the Stansbury Range

Stansbury Island
Stansbury Island

Sunrise over the Oquirrhs
Sunrise over the Oquirrhs

Once John and Chris arrived, I made a brief introduction (as they’d never met) and then we started up the trail. John had summited Deseret Peak several times before and highly recommended the loop up the Mill Fork trail and then down Pocket’s Fork, so that’s the route we took. Very shortly after leaving the trailhead we entered the Deseret Peak Wilderness, and then passed a trail junction that marked the beginning of our loop. There were Colorado Columbine all along the trail in the shade of the aspen and pine trees, though they were all completely white. As the trail became steeper my lack of fitness became more apparent, but Chris and John were kind enough to hang back and keep me company as we made the ascent together.

Starting up the trail
Starting up the trail

Trail junction
Trail junction

Colorado Columbine
Colorado Columbine

A view from the shadows
A view from the shadows

Trail through Mill Fork
Trail through Mill Fork

Deer
Deer

The Stansburys north of Deseret Peak
The Stansburys north of Deseret Peak

Stansbury Island
Stansbury Island

After climbing 2,600 feet we reached the top of the first ridge, leaving another 400-foot climb to the second ridge that we would follow to the summit. The wildflowers on top of the ridges were wonderful despite the meager amount of snow we’d received over the winter. The remainder of the hike to the summit followed a trail just west of the main ridge. We shared the summit with a couple of other people for a few minutes. At one point I descended slightly to find a geocache just below the summit, and as I climbed back up I saw a familiar dog–it was Kangaroo! I looked around for Roo’s owner and saw Amiee and then had an awkward, starstruck moment while I introduced myself. Aimee recognized me and Chris from Instagram where we all follow each other and then it became less awkward. I would almost think it’s a strange coincidence to have met Amiee and Roo on this peak, but in the last several years I’ve encountered probably more than half a dozen other people that I only knew online while out hiking.

Top of the first ridge with a view toward the second
Top of the first ridge with a view toward the second

Monument Plant (Frasera speciosa)
Monument Plant (Frasera speciosa)

Trail approaching the second ridge
Trail approaching the second ridge

Tooele and the Oquirrhs
Tooele and the Oquirrhs

Final climb to the second ridge
Final climb to the second ridge

The head of Antelope Canyon
The head of Antelope Canyon

Wildflowers along the trail
Wildflowers along the trail

Snow in a couloir off the east side of the ridge
Snow in a couloir off the east side of the ridge

Panorama above the head of Antelope Canyon
Panorama above the head of Antelope Canyon

Switching back up to Deseret Peak
Switching back up to Deseret Peak

Final stretch of trail leading to the summit
Final stretch of trail leading to the summit

John at the summit of Deseret Peak
John at the summit of Deseret Peak

Panorama from the Deseret Peak summit
Panorama from the Deseret Peak summit

Chris and John at the summit
Chris and John at the summit

Reference marker at the summit
Reference marker at the summit

Tabby’s Peak in the Cedar Mountains
Tabby's Peak in the Cedar Mountains

We left the summit and followed the ridgeline north toward Pocket’s Fork. The trail skirted the around western edges of a few smaller peaks before dropping east off the ridge. There was, unfortunately for me, one uphill section that made my leg muscles burn. Just after beginning the descent into Pocket’s Fork there was one tiny bit of snow that we crossed, even though it would have been easily avoidable. Pocket’s Fork was beautiful, especially looking back up the trail after we’d descended from the main ridge. We crossed over a ridge into Dry Lake Fork and were greeted by a stunning view of Deseret Peak (the “big payoff,” as John adequately termed it). We reached the trail junction completing the loop, then had only a short distance left until we arrived back at the trailhead. Our round-trip distance was about 8.8 miles with 3,600′ elevation difference. Hiking Deseret Peak puts me past the halfway point in hiking all of the Utah county highpoints. I started in 2003, so it has taken me fifteen years to get this far, but I think I’m going to knock out the remaining half by next year.

Beginning the descent toward Pocket’s Fork
Beginning the descent toward Pocket's Fork

Big cliffs east of Deseret Peak
Big cliffs east of Deseret Peak

John leading the way
John leading the way

Above Dry Lake Fork
Above Dry Lake Fork

Eastern face of Deseret Peak
Eastern face of Deseret Peak

Crossing a tiny snow patch
Crossing a tiny snow patch

Descending in Pocket’s Fork
Descending in Pocket's Fork

Beautiful stretch of trail at the top of Pocket’s Fork
Beautiful stretch of trail at the top of Pocket's Fork

Trail in Pocket’s Fork, with trees in the distance burned by a 2008 wildfire
Trail in Pocket's Fork, with trees in the distance burned by a 2008 wildfire

View up Dry Lake Fork to Deseret Peak
View up Dry Lake Fork to Deseret Peak

The only Columbine I saw with any blue in the petals
The only Columbine I saw with any blue in the petals

Creek crossing
Creek crossing

GPS stats
GPS stats


Photo Gallery: Deseret Peak
GPS Track and Photo Waypoints:
[Google Earth KMZ] [Gmap4 Satellite] [Gmap4 Topo]

2 thoughts on “Deseret Peak

  1. Dennis,
    Speaking of Columbine color, the only red columbine I have seen in Utah mountains was on the Martin Fork of Box Elder Canyon in the Stansbury Range at 7,000 ft. in the shade. We see more white than blue. Shooting Star Columbine or Western Red Columbine, Aquilegia elegantula, apparently more of a 4 Corners flower from what I read and tiny. in my southern Utah travels I can’t recall one.

    Hardly the diameter of my index finger and the ends of the petals are yellow.
    How about you or anyone else? If so, where?
    Nice post as usual,
    steve

    1. I’ve only ever seen white and the purplish-blue that are more common in Colorado. I just got back from a long weekend in the San Juans in Colorado and saw many, many Columbine, but not nearly as many as last year. I’ll keep an eye out for any other colors.

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