Hiking Utah's Summits
by Tom Wharton & Paula Huff (Falcon Guides)
© Tom Wharton & Paula Huff/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
This is a great hike and horrible article. It suggests that you drive up a very dangerous road in Farmington Canyon and park at a federally controlled-access site to climb Thurston, suggesting that any other route is too hard AND illegal. The perfectly legal east-side access is to park at Fernwood and take the Bonneville Shoreline and Kay's Creek trail to the ridgeline Great Western and bag Thurston. The forest-permitted Wasatch 100 Mile footrace does this every year. The publisher should be ashamed, and Trails.com should pull the plug on this volume. Leave legalities and strenuousness evaluations to land-use lawyers and ultramarathon runners (I am both). Gads!
Accessed the trail via the Fernwood trail-head in East Layton. Neither marked with a map or signs at the trailhead, finding the correct trail from the parking lot is a bit confusing. Having looked at Topos of the area beforehand I had a general idea. Go to the north end of the parking lot and take the trail heading north(east) for about 100 feet and follow it around to the right (east). Keep your eyes peeled and watch for the trail to veer towards the North and upon the shoulder - Find the trail that gains a lot of elevation and heads up to the top of the northern shoulder.
The trail is a serious gainer. Relentlessly gaining elevation without even considering to switchback. I've heard numbers in the range of 4000-4400 feet in less than 3.5 miles. It's a monster. Once on top of the shoulder south of Hobbs Canyon (Kays Creek), you only come down a few times. Well visible for the most part, small areas of the trail are overgrown with scrub oak and small wildflowers.
Lost the trail about 500 feet below the summit when the trail ventured over to the Hobbs Canyon (North) side of the ridge and ran smack into some leftover snow. At this height there were no more trees or scrub oak so a traverse across the grass which was still laid flat from the weight of newly melted snow was easy. The view of Thurston became visible from behind a small rocky peak. Below this peak were a bunch of small rocks and talus so I chose to scramble up to the top of it. Once atop this little peak I could look right up to Thurston maybe 300 feet above me and a quarter mile away. From my rocky false peak I went south and found the coolest arched cairn which led me to believe I was still headed the right way. Although without a trail, with Thurston in clear view, it was a simple walk to the top.
Thurston peak is four peaks north of the giant golf balls (actually FAA radar domes, but...) situated at the top of Francis Peak. The trail follows the ridgeline from the Francis Peak area all the way to Thurston Peak. Unfortunately the trail you will be following does not actually ascend Thurston Peak, but rather heads down a ridge directly west of the Peak. It is an easy scramble up to the top where you'll find a plaque and a small sign in log. The ridgeline hikes offers great views on either side, and there may be no better place to watch a UT sunset.
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