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South Mtn Loop, UT

Guide 1 Triplog  0 Topics
  4 of 5 
no permit
12 1 0
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Loop 9.28 miles
Trailhead Elevation 9,981 feet
Elevation Gain 736 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,334 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4-5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 20.95
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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12  2021-09-07 chumley
Author chumley
author avatar Guides 83
Routes 692
Photos 16,106
Trips 1,617 map ( 12,098 miles )
Age 48 Male Gender
Location Tempe, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct → Any
Seasons   Early Summer to Early Autumn
Sun  6:33am - 5:30pm
Official Route
0 Alternative

Down south up north from east to west
by chumley

Likely In-Season!
Overview: One of the two loop hikes at La Sal Pass, this one covers a variety of terrain and provides a great introduction to the La Sal Mountains.

Hike: Begin the hike at the Medicine Lake Recreation Area. The sign at the trailhead indicates this loop to be 10.8 miles. The route followed here matches that on the trailhead map and was a mile and a half shorter. I'm not sure where the discrepancy lies.
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Medicine Lake is a small body of water just a few feet below 10,000 feet. The first 1.25 miles of the loop follows Medicine Lake Trail #081 which slowly descends a couple of hundred feet while traversing some dense conifer forest with lots of deadfall that appears to be regularly cleared/maintained. This trail is also open to mountain biking.

Trail #081 ends at the junction of South Mtn Trail #029. Downhill is open to mountain bikes and connects with Burlfriends Trail #088 to loop back to La Sal Pass. Uphill is the route to take for the South Mtn Loop and is not open to mountain biking. The first couple hundred yards on #029 is stupidly steep, for no apparent reason, other than perhaps to intentionally dissuade mountain bikers from attempting it. The grade moderates, but the 900-foot climb continues until reaching a saddle at 2.4 miles. This is the high point of the loop at over 10,700 feet. (Peak baggers seeking to reach the summit of South Mountain will head off-trail up the ridge from here).

The next two miles traverse across the southern slopes of South Mountain, dropping about 600 feet before climbing back up about 300. This section of trail features dense aspen forests and open glades and avalanche paths. These south-facing glades feature great views, but also lack shade and can get quite warm in summer.

From the saddle at 4.25 miles on the southwest corner of the loop at 10,300 feet, the trail climbs a bit more before beginning a very steep 1000-foot descent in a dense north-facing drainage utilizing numerous tight switchbacks. The transition from south-facing aspen forests to a sheltered north-facing conifer forest is noticeable and enjoyable.

As the descent ends at about 5.6 miles, the trail forks with Crows Foot #075 heading downhill toward Pack Creek #041. Staying on the South Mtn Loop is a much more worn route and one could miss the unsigned junction and apparently lesser-used Crows Foot trail if not looking for it.

Continuing to traverse around the west side of the loop, the trail soon crosses Pack Creek at the 6.6-mile mark, a small perennial stream that provides a reliable source of water. From the creek crossing, the trail climbs about 400 feet over the next half mile before reaching the junction with Terraces Trail #080. From here it's about .75 miles to reach the trailhead at the end of Forest Road 0237, a mile on the pleasant 0237 two-track to La Sal Pass, and another half mile back to the Medicine Lake Trailhead.

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2021-09-29 chumley
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    To hike
    The Medicine Lakes Trailhead near La Sal Pass can be reached from the east side on a well-graded dirt road (note one creek crossing that may require high clearance during elevated runoff, but is normally not a problem for most vehicles). From Moab, travel 20 miles south and turn onto Utah SR 46 and travel east 12.5 miles. Turn left on FR 208 and travel 2 miles. Turn left onto FR 073 and travel 6.5 miles following signs for La Sal Pass. Turn left onto FR 238 and park at the signed Medicine Lake Trailhead in about a quarter-mile.

    High-clearance 4wd vehicles can access La Sal Pass from the west via the La Sal Mountain Loop Road. The mileage is shorter, but travel is slower due to road conditions.
    page created by chumley on Sep 29 2021 12:00 am
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