north from Deseret Peak
8.4 miles (loop)
6 3/4 hours
3,613 ft. gain/loss
Mill Fork Trailhead
(start): 7,418 ft.
Deseret Peak: 11,031 ft.
Most of the trail is easy to follow and well maintained.
A portion of the return path is not well maintained and
can occasionally be confusing.
Midsummer through mid-fall. The upper parts of the trail
are usually covered with snow from November through late
June. For current conditions call the Salt Lake Ranger
District, Wasatch-Cache National Forest, at (801) 943-1794.
Deseret Peak Wilderness Area, west of Salt Lake City
of the western side of Utah is occupied by an interesting
geographical area known as the Great Basin. The Great
Basin is a vast, semiarid desert that extends from the
Wasatch Front, across Nevada, to the Sierra Nevada mountains
of California. The desert is not unbroken, though. It
contains a number of narrow, isolated mountain ranges,
running mostly in a north-south direction and separated
by long desert valleys. The mountain ranges of the Great
Basin are of great interest to evolutionary biologists
because of their isolation. Life has developed in slightly
different ways in each of the secluded ranges, making
them ideal natural laboratories for the study of evolution.
In Utah the best known and
most accessible of the Great Basin mountain ranges is
the Stansbury Range, in which Deseret Peak is the highest
point. The Stansbury Mountains are almost the only Great
Basin range in Utah with a good system of hiking trails.
The uniqueness of the mountains was recognized in 1984,
when a 25,500-acre area, including Deseret Peak, was selected
for the creation of the Deseret Peak Wilderness Area.
the Loop Campground the trail proceeds up South Willow
Canyon for 0.7 mile to Mill Fork. Here the trail splits,
with the right fork leading to the Willow Lakes and the
left fork to Deseret Peak. Take the Deseret Peak fork.
For the next 2.3 miles the path meanders up Mill Fork,
realizing an elevation gain of 2,200 feet and finally
crossing the ridge at the head of the valley.
At the top of the ridge
you will encounter a 4-way junction in the trail with
signs marking the way to Deseret Peak, Bear Fork, Antelope
Canyon, and Loop Campground. The Deseret Peak Trail climbs
again up the south side of another intersecting ridge
and finally reaches the peak after 0.9 mile.
Many of northern Utahs
most prominent features can be seen from the top of Deseret
Peak, including the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Front.
Stansbury Island, 25 miles north in the Great Salt Lake,
is thought to be an extension of the Stansbury Mountains.
On most days it isnt difficult to see Mount Nebo,
60 miles to the southeast on the southern end of the Wasatch
Mountains. And in the west more of the Great Basin ranges
can be seen, including the Cedar Mountains, 20 miles away.
From the peak the loop trail
continues northward, staying on the top of the summit
ridge for about 0.4 mile and then dropping down 200-300
feet below the ridge on the west side. The trail is not
as well maintained here and there may be some confusion
at times. But there are few trees at this altitude, and
you can occasionally see parts of the trail far ahead.
Finally, 1.6 miles after
leaving the summit of Deseret Peak, the trail makes an
abrupt turn to the right, crosses to the east side of
the ridge, and starts down again towards Mill Fork Canyon.
About 0.7 mile after leaving the ridge the trail intersects
the Willow Lakes trail, where you should turn right. From
that point the path is much more distinct.
As shown on the map, it
is possible to cross the summit ridge and drop down towards
Mill Fork about 0.4 mile before the main trail does so.
Doing this saves about a mile of walking, but is unlikely
to save any time as it is much easier to walk on the trail.
You will recognize this alternative route because the
Forest Service has placed an 8-foot-high juniper pole
on the ridge at the point where the route departs from
the main trail.
After you meet the Willow
Lakes trail it is an easy walk back to Mill Fork, from
where you can retrace your steps for the last 0.7 mile
to the Mill Fork Trailhead.
provided by David
Day of utahtrails.com. Click here to order his book
Favorite Hiking Trails.