Deseret Peak

Elevation: 11,031
Location: Stansbury Range, Utah

Deseret Peak is just an hour's drive from Salt Lake City away from the crowds in the Wasatch mountains. Many people are un-aware of this high peak so close to the city sitting out in the west desert. The ascent is pretty and on good trails all the way.

Summit cornices on Deseret Peak in June From Salt Lake you'll need to drive through Grantsville. A sign in town points the way up into South Willow Canyon. A fairly good dirt road leads to the trailhead at the Loop Campground at about 7,600 feet. The road is tricky in a two-wheel car, but four-wheel drivers will find no difficulties getting to the trail. The peak has a loop trail of sorts allowing ascent from one side and descent down another and returns you to the same parking lot. My first ascent in 1994 I stayed on the southern Mill Fork trail both ways, then in 1998 I was to attempt the loop hike with the Wasatch Club, but the leader couldn't make the trip and with a heavy snowpack the fill-in opted to do the same as I had done in '94.

Follow the main trail for about 3/4 of a mile to a split. Left leads into Mill Fork, and right is the route up Dry Lake Fork (Pockets Fork also). It is a pretty hike up Mill Fork. You'll see a high, rugged peak ahead, but it is north of Deseret, so don't be fooled. In early summer a lot of snow may remain on the higher parts of the trail making a tedious climb, but a quick glissading descent. In August of '94, after a weak winter only one patch of snow near the ridge needed to be climbed (it was about 20 feet high and very steep). In 1998, snow filled much of the mountain and I was glad I had brought ski poles. Once on the ridge, it is just a short mile or so to the peak. Great views open just before reaching the peak of the rugged east face of the mountain descending down into Dry Lake Fork. Be careful when a lot of snow is present not to wander too far out onto the cornices. If not under snow, a clear trail can be followed right to the summit where a grand view awaits you.

View north from Deseret Peak summit You'll see the lower and bland Oquirrh mountains directly to the east, with the northern Wasatch barely visible (through fumes probably) beyond. You'll have a good view of the southern part of the Great Salt Lake, and to the west will truely be desolation. If you're doing the loop hike you'll want to head north along the gradually descending ridge. This route, used for either ascent or descent offers better views of the peak along the way really. Distances are about the same, with the northern route being just slightly longer perhaps. Deseret Peak is now a small wilderness area and for good reason. The rest of the Stansbury Range is relatively untraveled, and not as high as Deseret Peak.

From Salt Lake it is a good day hike. Expect a little over an hour each way of travel, with about five to six hours of hiking time. The vertical climb is 3,400 feet in about four miles (each way). It is an excellent outing and I think a "must" hike for any avid hiker or climber in the Salt Lake area.