At 11,253 feet, Lone Peak isn't the highest summit in Utah's Wasatch Mountains (that'd be Mt. Nebo in the southern Wasatch at 11,928 feet). However, many seasoned Wasatch hikers consider it the hardest nontechnical peak to bag. First of all, Lone Peak is surrounded by the Lone Peak Wilderness Area--so there are no "cheater" high-altitude trail heads you can drive to. The highest and most popular trail head is the Jacob's Ladder TH at 5,700 feet, resulting in an unrelenting 5,500-foot climb. Second, the routes can be rather confusing, particularly near the top. There are many harrowing tales out there of hikers getting lost and finishing the hike much later than expected. Although the trails are well-defined on the lower mountain (although there are many connecting trails, and all are not marked), once into the cirque below Lone Peak, you must route find the easiest way up. And last, there is considerable exposure the last 100 yards to the peak--one misstep or slip and it's game over.
I climbed Lone Peak back on July 4th with perfect conditions. As usual, I wanted to climb the mountain from the very bottom so I chose to start at the Orson Adams trail head at 4,780 feet making it a solid 6,500-foot climb.
|Looking northwest across the Salt Lake Valley from the Cherry Canyon Logging Trail.|
|The Spring in Bear Canyon. There were 2-3 small springs/creeks here when I passed through. This may be the only reliable water source throughout the summer along all westerly routes to Lone Peak.|
|A nice meadow near the Outlaw cabin.|
The Outlaw cabin was built from felled trees in 1960 before the area was designated Wilderness. The cabin saved the lives of a Draper family that got caught in a surprise snow storm in October, 1997. The place looked pretty trashed nowadays.
|The Cherry Canyon Logging Trail ends at Outlaw cabin. From there, you simply hike up the rocky drainage east of the cabin.|
|The unmarked route behind Outlaw Cabin eventually leads up onto the high ridge to the northwest of the grass-carpeted Lone Peak cirque (shown). The high wall in the background is known to climbers as the Question Mark Wall.|
|First good look at the sheer west face of Lone Peak.|
|The final bouldery approach to Lone Peak from the north. Look closely to see two hikers sitting on top.|
Video clip from the top.
|View to northeast into upper Bells Canyon.|
|Climbers taking the hard way to the top.|
To change it up, I decided not to just retrace my steps. I instead descended through the bottom of the cirque and headed down the more popular Jacob's Ladder/Draper Ridge Route. Shortly after passing the Draper Ridge/Jacob's Ladder Junction (I briefly stayed on the seldom-used Draper Ridge trail), I cross-countried back over to the Cherry Canyon Logging Trail.
Running most of the way downhill, it only took a little over two hours to get back to the trail head.
|Running through the cirque beneath Lone Peak.|
|A gopher snake doing its thing: going after gophers.|
|gliding down the Draper Ridge Trail. Alpine/American Fork/Utah Lake in the valley below. Shortly below this point (at about the 8,800-ft level) I crossed over the meadow back to the Cherry Canyon Logging Trail.|
At the end of the day I'd climbed about 7,000 feet, and traveled nearly 14 miles. Round-trip including lunch/photo breaks was 7.5 hours. Surprisingly, I saw few other hikers. Nebo is next on the Wasatch list.