Kings Peak, UT - Higher than the temple

I had planned this trip well before the Labor Day weather forecast for western Washington rolled around. With the forecast for rain and snow levels dipping down to 7000 feet in the Cascades I felt better about my decision to go to Utah to scale Kings Peak. At 13,528 Feet the summit of Kings Peak is the highest point in Utah.

I flew into Salt Lake City after work on Friday and grabbed a motel room near the REI where I would need to get stove fuel the next morning. The forecast for the next day ...thunderstorms all day. Although thunderstorms are always in the forecast for the Wasatch Mountains things were looking worse than normal for Saturday so I decided to postpone my start until Sunday. Things were looking good when I arrived at Henrys Fork Campground via 20 plus miles of well maintained and signed gravel forest service roads...

The warning sign in my rental car... I never saw it!

At ca.9430' Henrys Fork campground/trailhead offers a very high start. This is the standard approach to Kings Peak and with over 5,000 people attempting the summit each year the Henrys Fork Trail (FST 117) is well used. Starting out mostly in forest the trail slowly but steadily gains elevation reaching a junction with the Alligator Lake Trail in 2.3 miles (ca.9,900') then continues to cross Henrys Fork at Elkhorn Crossing (5.6 miles, ca.10,400'). It was almost another mile before the basin really began opening up and I finally got my first view of Kings Peak.

Henrys Fork Basin - Kings Peak left of center

At about 7.8 miles the trail comes close to Dollar Lake (10,785') where many parties camp. Aside from being a very crowded lake in the forest it would leave me with a long summit day with the hike out and 3 hours of driving to get back to Salt Lake City. At 8.3 miles (ca.11,000') there is a junction with the Henrys Fork Basin Trail. I continued on to the flat area just below Gunsight Pass. There is a small lake there which made for a nice camp other than it is a little marshy to get to and there are no trees to block the wind (ca.9.4 miles, 11,500').

My camp below Gunsight Pass

The weather in the Wasatch can change quickly and often. The afternoon clouds that had built during the day dissipated as evening set in but during the night it clouded up, rained, then cleared up again. Aside from the rain shower and occasionally gusty winds it was a pleasant night in the mountains. The moon wasn't quite full but was bright enough that it was difficult to tell when the sun was coming up... or maybe I just didn't want to get up.

The standard route up Kings Peak is via the NW Ridge from Anderson Pass. There are 3 options to gain Anderson Pass and the NW Ridge of Kings Peaks from Henrys Fork Basin. You can take a broad scree/talus chute directly to Anderson Pass, or you can ascend to Gunsight Pass then continue on the trail into Painter Basin to the junction with the Highline Trail which goes through Anderson Pass or you can traverse from Gunsight Pass to Anderson Pass via a faint path then a lot of rubble. I got a fairly early start in the morning and squished my way through marshy terrain to get to the trail to Gunsight Pass since I had completely ruled out going up the chute as it looked like a real pain. I arrived at Gunsight Pass (11,888') and located the path traversing the grassy slope. I followed the path thinking I would be at Anderson Pass in no time. After a short scramble up some blocky limestone the path all but vanished but not to worry there are cairns everywhere. On the way there I stayed high going to an enormous cairn thinking that must be the best way... Yeah, right.

Gunsight Pass from the traverse toward Anderson Pass

After crossing a shoulder into the drainage below Anderson Pass I realized it was still going to be a while before I made it there. In hindsight I think it is better to stay low on the shoulder then get to the trail as soon as possible this way avoids some of the inevitable boulder hopping.

The slog to Anderson Pass

After much boulder hopping I finally reached the Highline Trail at ca.12,500' and followed it up to Anderson Pass at ca.12,700' but the fun wasn't over yet. I began hiking and occasionally scrambling up the jumbled NW ridge toward the summit arriving there about 2.5 hours after leaving camp. I returned to camp the same way except for following the Highline Trail farther and beginning the traverse back to Gunsight Pass lower. Once through Gunsight Pass you can leave the trail at the prominent switchback and descend directly to the small lake where I had camped.

The Royal Slog a.k.a. Kings Peak

Lost and found: summit register is lost but I found your driver

View of the Wasatch Mountains from the summit of Kings Peak

Although Kings Peak isn't much of a climb the wide valleys and high peaks of the Wasatch Mountains are worth visiting. A nice variation only 2.4 miles longer would be to take the Henrys Fork Basin Trail to Henrys Fork Lake on the way in or the way out.

You could buy a luxury condo across the street from the temple but a cabin in the Wasatch...

USGS Kings Peak, UT and Mount Powell, UT 7.5 Minute Quadrangles