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Hike: King’s Peak

It’s time to climb the highest mountain in Utah! I have thought it was time for years, but this summer, the girls and I were ready to climb King’s Peak. All 13,528 feet of it. The peak is hidden deep in the middle of the spectacular Uintah mountain range. We loaded our backpacks and began our journey by traveling to Evanston, WY, and then to Mountain View, UT. We left the pavement as we turned off of road 410 onto mountain road 283, and then 017. There are lots of mountain roads, so please check your map carefully. We departed from the Henry’s Fork Trailhead just after lunch. We passed several groups of exhausted-looking Boy Scouts. From the trailhead, the way goes up through a very gentle canyon until eventually, it opens into a beautiful valley surrounded by mountain peaks. There is another trail that cuts off to the right and goes around the valley. It’s lovely, but not the most direct route to the peak. We stayed on the trail that heads most quickly toward Gunsight Pass. We passed through green meadows, and patches of beautiful forest. We wanted to camp as close to the pass as we could, but we stopped before we left the last of the trees behind. It was a great place to camp.

We set up camp overlooking the valley, the pass, and the sparkling lakes and forest. The evening was clear and sunny, but, of course, we knew that wouldn’t last. It rained during the night, and we got up at 4:30 am in heavy rain. We were on the trail shortly after five, with our headlamps and ponchos, still in the rain. But don’t worry, by the time it got light, the sky was blue, and we could see the departing storm drift slowly away over the peaks. The sunrise was amazing!

From Gunsight Pass, there is a cutoff trail that goes up to the right. It is steep and rocky, but it saves a lot of time and distance. From there we crossed the rocky valley to Anderson Pass and turned up the ridge toward the peak. It’s quite a distance through the rocks from the pass to the summit and you gain a lot of altitudes. But there’s nothing cooler than standing on the highest point in the state.

We reached the summit about 10:30 am. From there you can see the entire mountain range spread out beneath you. Bare, rocky, peaks, and valleys carpeted with dark green forest. The view is more than worth every step.

The timing for reaching the peak is critical. Be sure to start early and summit early because of the weather. By noon thunderstorms were moving in again. Lightning, hail, and rain are dangerous at that high altitude, and in the rocky exposed terrain. We hurried down again. The hail turned the entire valley white for a little while.

On our return trip, we took the valley trail, and it took us a lot longer to get back to the Gunsight Pass. I vote for the shortcut next time. It was just after four when we reached our camp again. We packed up and started hiking out just after five. By eight we were using our headlamps again. It had rained enough to make the trail muddy and filled with some impressive puddles. We continued on down the valley. The stars came out, and they were spectacular.

We reached the trailhead about 11 pm. And we unanimously voted to stay one more night next time. Either way, I loved it, and I can’t wait to see more of the Uintahs.

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