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An oasis in the Deser(e)t
Deseret Peak (elevation of 11,031 feet and prominence of 5,812 feet) is the highpoint of the Stansbury Mountains and is about 50 miles west of Salt Lake City. Deseret Peak is of interest to peakbaggers: with over 5,000 feet of prominence, it is an ultra prominent peak and is the 30th most prominent peak in the continental U.S; it is also a Utah county highpoint, being the highpoint of Tooele County.
Deseret is a term from the Book of Mormon that means "honeybee"; it signifies thrift and industry. The honeybee remains an important symbol to both the Mormon Church and the state of Utah, which is nicknamed the Beehive State. In the mid-1850s, settlers in Utah sought formal recognition from the U.S. government and proposed using the name State of Deseret.
The hike is a lasso loop hike that ascends to the summit via Mill Fork and then descends via Pockets Fork-Dry Lake Fork. For the most part, the trails are easy to follow, although the trail signage is a bit weak. It is recommended to have a map and compass and/or a GPS track on Route Scout.
The hike begins on the Mill Fork Trail, just past the restrooms at the upper part of the Loop Campground. The trail is sometimes referred to as the Deseret Peak Trail.
The trail gradually climbs for 0.7 miles until you come to a trail junction. This is where the loop portion of the hike begins. Take the left fork at the junction. Along the way to the junction, you will enter into the Deseret Peak Wilderness. Typical wilderness rules apply in this Wilderness.
After turning left at the junction, you will continue making a steady climb through Mill Fork. Some sections of the trail will be through stands of trees, while other sections are open meadows with scattered conifer stands. There are heavy aspen stands at the lower elevation, then fir and spruce trees as you gain elevation. After about 2.7 miles, you'll come to the base of a glacial cirque. Here the trail steepens as you make your way up to a headwall at the top of the cirque; fortunately, some switchbacks make the climb a bit easier. There is a saddle at the top of the cirque at about 9,900 feet. The saddle has some excellent views and is a good place to stop and take a break; in fact, the saddle is colloquially referred to as "Lunch Ridge".
There is a trail junction at Lunch Ridge with trails going in 3 different directions; follow the sign to Deseret Peak and head west up a fairly steep slope for about one mile to get to the summit. Along the way, the trail levels out for a bit at the top of two north-facing couloirs that drop to Dry Lake Fork below. You may wish to check out the views here before proceeding up some switchbacks to the summit atop a rocky ridge.
There are some really nice unobstructed views at the summit. Visible are the Great Salt Lake and Stansbury Island; all of Tooele, Rush, and Skull Valleys; many of Tooele County’s 13 mountain ranges, and the Great Salt Lake Desert and Bonneville Salt Flats to the west.
After enjoying the summit views, continue on the loop by going north from the summit. The trail on the return is mostly good, but there are a few spots where the trail can be hard to follow, and one section of class 2 downclimbing. There are nice views out in front of you on the descent, so it is recommended to do the loop. However, once at the summit, you could return to the trailhead the way you came; this would shorten the hike by 0.4 miles and lop off about 300 feet of elevation gain.
Camping is available near the trailhead at the Loop Campground.
This is a very nice and scenic hike in a wilderness area with a primitive, remote feel. If you are looking for a hike with crowds of people, this hike is not a good choice. On the other hand, if you are looking for peace and solitude, you will likely find it on this hike.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
This is a moderately difficult hike.