For more information: Mountain View Ranger District, WY 82939 307.782.6555
Kings Peak is the peak in the center of this photo.
King's Peak is the highest peak in Utah. The summit day for this digest was August 6, 1997.
The shortest route to the summit of Kings Peak is the approach from the north at the Henrys Fork Basin, about sixteen miles. Henrys Fork is a good two-hour ride from Salt Lake City. Take Route 80 east into Wyoming and exit at Fort Bridger.
The hike begins at 9,000 feet (elev.) and climbs gradually through a lush valley floor containing lakes and streams until the approach to Gunsite Pass where the climb begins to steepen. A good spot to spend the first night is at Dollar Lake. This is situated about ten miles in from the trail head and in the last pine stand before the real climbing begins. (The trout fishing, we were told, is excellent, as the lakes in this region are stocked.)
From Dollar Lake you can expect a four- to five-hour hike to the summit of King's Peak at a moderate pace. Ab and I met a guy who did the whole trip from Henrys Fork up to the top and back in six hours. This sounds impossible, but in meeting this particular firecracker it seemed believable. Besides, Mormons don't lie. Yes, Ab and I shared the summit with forty Mormons. More about that later.
At Gunsite Pass, I strongly recommend that you do not follow the trail down into the valley, which wraps around a land mass and comes back up the other side. Rather, traverse and climb up and over the boulder field situated to the southwest of Gunsite Pass. Although this shortcut is clearly more difficult than continuing on the trail below to the south and goes against what some guidebooks suggest, its bouldered terrain is similar to the final climb up Kings Peak itself and shaves about an hour off the total climb.
Once you are completely over this shortcut to Anderson Pass, King's Peak will finally come into view. (Don't be confused by ____ Peak which appears before reaching Anderson Pass.) Once you reach Anderson Pass, you will want to drop everything except your water and camera and maybe the smallest snack to prepare for the remaining climb over more boulders, which should take a little less than an hour. On the return trip from Anderson Pass, there is a different shortcut that we took, but we'll talk more about this little tidbit later on.
Dave and Ab on the summit of Kings Peak.
Getting back to Gunsite Pass for a moment. That is where we met the Allen brothers, the aforementioned speed demon and his brother, both in their early twenties and in top shape, demonstrated by the fact that they were running all the way to the summit. They are the ones who told us about the shortcut at Gunsite Pass. It so happens that they were with a group of forty (twenty-five teenage boys and fifteen fathers) led by their outgoing father, Steve Allen, another speedster, and with a knee brace no less. This was an Explorer Group from a Ward in Salt Lake City on their summer outing. Steve seemed somewhat fascinated by the fact that Abner is Jewish and I am Lutheran. Abner and one Mormon got a chuckle out of the fact that both of their groups had been rumored to have horns growing out of the top of their heads. They were very hospitable and almost insisted that we visit their campsite for food and water. Unfortunately, we were under time constraint and running out of energy, so we had to hightail back to camp as quickly as possible, whereupon we skipped dinner and went straight to bed, after our 12-hour, 23-mile day on the trail, of which 12 miles was pure boulders .
While were bantering with Steve Allen and members of his group atop King's Peak, they informed us about the shorcut home through the "Toiletbowl". This section is situated northeast of Anderson Pass. The Toiletbowl dumps you directly into the valley floor. It's a thousand-foot descent at a forty to fifty degree angle over loose rock and scree. Warning: watch out for the people coming down behind you. Touching off a small rock slide here doesn't take a whole lot and just expect it to happen more than once on your descent. We know this from being on the receiving end. Flying boulders ain't like golf balls raining on you from an over anxious group following on the lynx. Wearing a helmet on this section would make a lot of sense. Once at the base of the Toiletbowl, you will begin a most-welcomed, easy meander across the valley floor back to camp.
And that's Kings Peak. We learned that the summer of '97 has claimed four lives in this area, two from heart attacks and two from lightening. Survivors recount how they were being chased all over the peak by lightening. Being aware of how to deal with lightening in exposed areas is advisable.
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