Stansbury Mountains , Tooele, Utah
Deer, awesome vistas, birch and aspen groves, drunk hunters.
3,960ft (accumulated total)
3 - 7hrs
Camping $26 sometimes
2+ liters. Small streams along third of the hike.
September - October
Moderate - Extreme
Clearly designated. A few deadfalls.
At campsites and trailhead.
Yes. Lower and top most campgrounds are trailer appropriate.
Various edible plants. Or Grantsville Diners. I chose the plants!
Outdoor Research Halo Hat (ended up soaked)
Stoic Bombshell jacket (stayed dry!)
Smart wool half zip sweater
Columbia long sleeve shirt
Columbia Pants (soaked)
Smartwool hiking socks (stayed dry)
Oboz Tamarack low-top hikers (stayed dry)
Seirus gloves (soaked)
Dakine Pro II backpack (soaked)
Lek trekking poles.
GoalZero battery for phone
40ft of paracord
Deseret Peak was an incredible experience the first time I hiked it, back in 2009. It was challenging, but not too hard. And the views were very rewarding. As was the sense of solitude; not too many people make their way out to Grantsville to hike this.
So when my wife mentioned she had always wanted to hike Deseret Peak, I couldn’t resist taking her and a friend. This time the weather turned on us and we got to experience the mountain in a little more technical way.
Trailhead/End:40º 29.029′ N, 112º 36.420′ W
Saddle Ridge:40º 27.424′ N, 112º 36.880′ W
Deseret Peak:40º 27.571′ N, 112º 37.580′ W
Last Saddle:40º 28.850′ N, 112º 37.782′ W
Deseret Peak is visible from parts of the Wasatch front. If you are in the Bountiful to Kaysville area you can see it clearly most days. It is the tallest peak in the Stansbury range, the next mountains west of the Oquirrhs. Heading west on I-80, you can see it as soon as you pass Magna, and round the point past the Kennecott Smelter.
The road is paved as you head into South Willow Canyon, but quickly turns into well-maintained dirt.
The canyon is beautiful and has many little campgrounds tucked in along the creek at the feet of some pretty interesting cliffs. If you go in early October, the trees will be changing colors. My wife was shocked that a canyon this beautiful could be found out in the Tooele area.
This, and the many other beautiful canyons are a secret. So don’t tell anyone.
While the drive is not bad from Salt Lake, we wanted to camp. Just past the first slot canyon section of Willow Canyon, you come to two campsites accessed by bridges crossing the creek. These two campsites are incredible! There are pit toilets, picnic tables, and fire pits with cooking grills. The first bridge actually has two sites, though you have to walk through the first site’s fire pit area to reach the second (which is in the trees down to the right in the picture below).
Camping puts you a mile or so from the trailhead so in the morning you can easily get an early start. Which is not at all what we did. We slept in and had a lazy breakfast. But it is the thought that counts, right?
During the night my wife heard many cars go up the road. I told her she must have been dreaming. Very few people use this canyon and no one drives up it in the middle of the night.
Then we got to the trailhead. She was right. Turns out that if you choose to do this hike on the opening day of the Deer hunt it will be very busy! There were people with rifles everywhere!
The trail begins a gradual climb but then becomes a consistent but not too strenuous steepness. Within a mile the trail forks. Go left. It is the less steep approach to Deseret Peak (and the sign says Deseret Peak.) The other direction is to Willow Lake, and the loop route we took to return to the trailhead.
In October, the colors are great. And better yet, the temperature is tolerable. Our hike was in the 50ºs for the first part, until the cold front hit.
As the trail winds up Mill Fork, the views are wonderful. Mill Fork is a very nice little basin. There are several small places you could camp if you wanted to. The wind is mild.
We made sure to keep looking down the basin to enjoy the views. Looking out may be more heartening than looking up.
Near the end of Mill Fork, as the trail climbs out of the basin and onto the ridge, it becomes very steep. This is by far the steepest and hardest section of the hike. But it is a short distance and not too bad. Again, at this point I was very happy to have cooler temperatures. We could hear the wind roaring ominously above us. It grew louder as we neared the ridge line.
We stopped to eat and stretch a bit right before reaching the ridge. As soon as we topped the ridge, the wind was very strong and the temperature dropped noticeably. It was no longer pleasant to stop moving.
On the ridge the trail splits again. Follow the sign, which points to the right (north).
The trail winds around the back of the peak and climbs at a decent pitch to the summit. The wind got stronger and a light rain started. In the distance I could see the clouds dropping quickly. I knew the cold front was here and we were too late to reach to top before our view was gone.
So this is the best view we had, from right below the summit. You can see the clouds dropping in. In a matter of minutes we went from cloudy but clear, to solid fog.
We layered on more clothes, and continued to fight our way to the top.
The summit was nice, though very cloudy with low visibility. We were in good spirits and the rain had not hit to strongly yet.
But the wind was strong and the temperature had dropped drastically. We were freezing and decided not hang out on the summit.
There are two ways back from Deseret Peak. You can go back the way you came, or you can make the loop by continuing on the trail heading north along the ridge. This adds around a mile to your hike and will give you fresh views (if you are not in the clouds).
As we hiked along the ridge the storm hit in ernest. The rest of the way down we were in a strong rain. One thing we had not counted on was how slippery the muddy trail would become. Our descent took far longer than planned because of how carefully we had to move to keep from slipping and falling. It was very steep, very wet, and very cold. Instead of speeding down the mountain, we ended up crawling slowly.
The trail runs for close to 2 miles along the ridge. You lose a lot of elevation and gain some in a one place. The trail runs through many burned old forests. In the fog and rain it was pretty surreal.
After reaching the second saddle you come to, you drop down into the small basin called Pocket’s Fork. The trail drops quickly, flattens out in a meadow, and then drops down into Dry Lake Fork.
You are low enough that you get back into some good forests. Again, the colors are great. There were a couple of places we found that if you wanted, you could stop under a tree and get away from the train. But we were far too cold to stop.
We finished the loop a little soggy and ready for the car heater. We bundled up in our dry clothes from the day before and had lunch in our car with the heat on full. It felt great!
Despite the bitter cold and strong rain, we all had a good time. Our spirits were not quite as bright when we finally made it off the mountain, but it was still worth it. Deseret Peak is set in a beautiful mountain range that is well worth the visit.
I’ve now done this hike twice and you know, I already plan on doing it again in another couple of years. It is really good! Next time, if there is a chance for rain, I would pack rain pants for sure!