Utah's Kings Peak Trip Report

I’m back from the golden, sunshiny Utah autumn woods, where a buddy (Stanley Barton) and I just returned from climbing Kings Peak, the state’s high point. We hiked and camped and clambered up scree slopes with two Park City friends — Rett Clevenger and Jeff Burford — in a quick ascent.

The peak, which tops out at 13,528 feet, is non-technical, meaning hiking boots and trekking poles — not ropes and ice axes — can get you to the top. But as highpoints go, Kings is one of the more remote, sitting far off any beaten path in northeastern Utah’s Uinta Mountains. We started the 28-mile roundtrip journey at 7pm on Sunday night, following the beam of a headlamp into the woods and toward our goal to camp near Dollar Lake, the halfway point.

Kings Peak 1.jpg

Rett (front) and Jeff near Dollar Lake.

For navigation, I employed National Geographic’s Trails Illustrated High Uintas Trail Map (http://shop.nationalgeographic.com/product/610.html), a 1:75,000 topographic mainly created for hikers. But I found the map’s detail to be more than enough for mountaineering, with precise slope shading making contours and elevation pop from the page. Small ponds and marshes were present on the map and accurate, and we even got water from one tributary.

Our route was more or less the traditional way up the mountain, beginning at the Henrys Fork trailhead and heading due south to Dollar Lake (which we reached by about 10:30p.m. the first night, and where we camped out under the stars). We deviated from the trade route in one respect, skipping the normal switchbacks through Gunsight Pass on the way up the mountain in favor of a steeper direct route up a scree-field and chute that spit us out nearly on Kings Peak’s spine.

Kings Peak 2.jpg

Jeff, Stanley and Rett negotiating steep and slippery stone in the scree field chute just above 11,000 feet.

The summit ridge — a jumble of stone with precipitous drops off the west face and turret-like blocks balanced precariously — made for the most rewarding part of the climb. After the loose rock and scree below, hopping uphill from solid block to block was satisfying progress.

Kings Peak 4.jpg

Summit shot.

On top, the air must have been 50 degrees. The sun was high and hot. No wind. Rett cracked a tin of herring kipper snacks and crackers then passed the vessel around. A picnic on the top of the state.

The hike out was long and jarring, with thousands of vertical feet and more than 15 miles of backtracking to the car. We took Gunsight Pass in lieu of the scree chute, then trekked past Dollar Lake (picking up pads and sleeping bags stashed from the night before), then flipped on the headlamps once again on the final seven mile section out.

Kings Peak 3.jpg

The Gear Junkie self portrait, halfway up the scree chute.

We finished around 7:55 p.m., just more than 24 hours after leaving the car. Cranked up the heat. Pulled the rental into drive, and motored away in the dark, headlights beaming into black woods, an empty wilderness where we saw no other soul for our long day climb of Kings Peak.

Maps with our route below.

Kings Peak Utah Topo Map (day 1).jpg

MAP 1: Henrys Fork trailhead to a camp near Dollar Lake, the halfway point, Map scan courtesy of National Geographic’s Trails Illustrated High Uintas Trail Map.

Kings Peak Utah Topo Map (day 2).jpg

MAP 2: Camp near Dollar Lake to summit via a variation off the normal route (the chute to 11,900 feet). Map scan courtesy of National Geographic’s Trails Illustrated High Uintas Trail Map.

Posted by Yeti - 10/30/2008 09:27 AM

Welcome back!! Sounds like you had a great push to the summit, although the “herring kipper snacks” probably wouldn’t have made it for me! It had to be nice to have such great weather as well.

Posted by Stephen - 10/30/2008 09:54 AM

Weather was unexpectedly great. Hard to say this time of year, but we hit it right. High pressure and sun, and little wind up high on the mountain. Amazing time of year out there.

Posted by Rett Clevenger - 10/30/2008 01:12 PM

Yeti – Stephen neglected to point out that these were extra special Lemon Pepper Hipper Snacks, which have become a new favorite among the traditional Louisiana Hot Sauce version.

DISCLAIMER: Kipper snacks are not intended for low elevation consumption. For best results, consume Kipper Snacks on the summit of a major peak.

Posted by Yeti - 10/31/2008 08:22 AM

Thanks for the clarification on the Kipper snacks.
I guess I will have to give it a shot at altitude, there must be some scientific rational like “taste buds slam shut and everything tastes like what you want to imagine over 10,000’”

Posted by Stanley - 10/31/2008 09:35 AM

This hike was a blast. Arduous but excting. I put some short video feeds on You Tube. Just do a search for DoubleDogDingo. Enjoy. Cheese crackers with peanut butter anyone??

Posted by John Mitchler - 10/31/2008 11:25 AM

Great report. My brother and I climbed nearby Gilbert Peak in early September and it had the same snow. When you go to Kings, be sure to walk the ridge south to South Kings which was once thought to be higher than Kings. I’ve reached all 50 state highpoints. For more information on that subject, contact the Highpointers Club. Thank you, Gear Junkie

Posted by FamilyGuy - 10/31/2008 11:30 AM

Since you are the Gear Junkie, I would expect a full gear list of what you took! Nice report, I did it a couple of months ago and went up the same scree slope. Fun going up, not so much fun going down….fast.

Posted by Gear Junkie - 10/31/2008 11:37 AM

I will be writing a column on the gear used for Kings next week. Stay tuned.

Posted by andym801 - 10/31/2008 11:52 AM

sounds awesome. I might just have to get a trip in before the snow falls.

Posted by Ritz - 10/31/2008 01:30 PM

Dude, now THATS what I call a family room! I caught your dance night video while I was looking at the other one. Peace, Ritz.

Posted by Stanley - 10/31/2008 01:51 PM

Thanks Ritz,
It gives us something to do with the kids during the loooong winter months here in MN.

Posted by Jonathan - 08/03/2009 03:46 PM

Now you’ve got me all worked up. Can’t wait to do this trip in a couple weeks.

Add Comment

  1. Add link by using "LinkText":http://google.com