Deseret Peak via South Willow Canyon

Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah

Elevation Gain3,950ft
Trailhead Elevation7,431ft
Elevation Min/Max7431/11006ft
Elevation Start/End7431/7431ft

Deseret Peak via South Willow Canyon

Deseret Peak via South Willow Canyon is a hiking and horse trail in Tooele County, Utah. It is within Deseret Peak Wilderness Area and Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. It is 4.0 miles long and begins at 7,431 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 8.1 miles with a total elevation gain of 3,950 feet. Near the trailhead there is parking. The trail ends near Deseret Peak (elevation 10,984 feet).

Deseret Peak via South Willow Canyon Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

100 Classic Hikes Utah (The Mountaineers Books)
Julie K. Trevelyan
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"Undervisited due to the far greater popularity of the Wasatch Range to the east, Deseret Peak is the highest summit in the Stansbury Mountains, a range in the mostly arid Great Basin of the state’s western portion. Yet while the surrounding scenery appears to be barren and dry, the trail to the top is surprisingly lush, with stands of aspen trees, an abundance of meadows, burbling streams, and best of all, a pleasant lack of other people."
Hiking Utah (Falcon Guides)
Bill Schneider Edited by Ann Seifert
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"A demanding day hike or overnighter to the highest point in the Stansbury Mountains. Deseret Peak, located in the 25,500-acre Deseret Peak Wilderness, 42 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, offers outstanding views of northwest Utah—from the Wasatch Mountains on the east to the Nevada border on the west. While most Salt Lakers crowd into the nearby Wasatch Mountains on weekends, the Stansbury Mountains offer exceptional hiking in a less popular area but within easy driving distance of Salt Lake City. One of a number of isolated great Basin mountain ranges, the Stansbury Mountains are two ranges west of the Wasatch Mountains. You’ll need a little more than an hour by car from downtown Salt Lake to reach the trailhead for Deseret Peak."
Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes: Utah (The Mountaineers Books)
Jared Hargrave
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"The Stansbury Mountains in Utah’s West Desert may seem an unlikely place to go skiing and snowboarding, but classic ski and mountaineering routes exist on Deseret Peak, the highest point in the range. Three chutes, including the North Twin Couloirs and the East Couloir, allow 1300 feet of fun skiing between summit cliffs on snow that lasts well into summer. Access can be difficult as the road in South Willow Canyon closes in the winter, requiring snowmobiles or a 13-mile round-trip skin. Most parties wait for the road to open halfway to Boy Scout Campground, where bikes can be used to dispatch road miles, or for the full road opening to the Loop Campground, usually around Memorial Day weekend."
Utah's Incredible Backcountry Trails (Rincon Publishing)
David Day
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"Most of the western side of Utah is occupied by an interesting geographical area known as the Great Basin. The Great Basin is a vast, semiarid desert that extends from the Wasatch Front, across Nevada, to the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. The desert is not unbroken, though. It contains a number of narrow, isolated mountain ranges, running mostly in a north-south direction and separated by long desert valleys. The mountain ranges of the Great Basin are of great interest to evolutionary biologists because of their isolation. Life has developed in slightly different ways in each of the secluded ranges, making them ideal natural laboratories for the study of evolution. In Utah the best known and most accessible of the Great Basin mountain ranges is the Stansbury Range, in which Deseret Peak is the highest point. The Stansbury Mountains are almost the only Great Basin range in Utah with a good system of hiking trails. The uniqueness of the mountains was recognized in 1984, when a 25,500-acre area, including Deseret Peak, was selected for the creation of the Deseret Peak Wilderness Area."
Best Hikes Salt Lake City (Falcon Guides)
Lori J. Lee
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"Deseret Peak, tallest peak in the Stansbury Mountains west of Salt Lake City, affords views over the Skull Valley to the west and Tooele County to the east that you can get from no other location. Besides a tallest-summit notch, the first section of the trail winds through a beautiful forested area to the saddle and then opens to a rocky, bare ascent to the summit. Douglas fir, alpine fir, and aspen are common on the north-facing slopes, while juniper, sagebrush, and grass cover terrain at higher elevations—a mixed bag of desert and alpine trekking. A full-day adventure, the hike to Deseret Peak is not as crowded as trails in the Wasatch Range, making solitude another benefit."
Backcountry Skiing Utah (Falcon Guides)
Tyson Bradley
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"The crowning glory of Tooele Valley and the highest peak in the Stansbury Mountains is a surprisingly friendly ski peak. Well-protected glades offer fine powder skiing below, while classic couloirs beckon ski mountaineers to the Stansbury divide."
Best Hikes With Dogs: Utah (The Mountaineers Books)
Dayna Stern
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"Deseret Peak is the highest peak in Tooele (pronounced too-will-la) County, one county and several million years apart from neighboring Salt Lake County. Deseret is also the highest point in the Stansbury Range, which is part of the Great Basin Range. The Great Basin Range stretches from the Sierra Nevada to the Wasatch Front. As an endorheic basin, the Great Basin doesn’t drain into rivers, lakes, or oceans. Instead, these regions reabsorb water through seepage back into the basin or lose water through evaporation. Endorheic basins usually result in a salt lake or salt pan such as Mono Lake on the east side of the Sierra Nevada and the Great Salt Lake."
60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Salt Lake City (Menasha Ridge Press)
Greg Witt
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"At 11,031 feet, Deseret Peak is the highest point in Tooele County and the centerpiece of the Deseret Peak Wilderness Area. It’s also a magnificent expanse of both semiarid and alpine scenery—glacial basins, mountain streams, woodland, and high meadows—rising from the middle of the desert. This loop hike captures some of that surprising variety and affords views across the Bonneville Salt Flats and into Nevada."

Deseret Peak via South Willow Canyon Trip Reports

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I have hiked this trail previously (2002) and love the trail. I enjoyed this hike more than Mt. Timp (less crowded and better scenery). We attempted this year without success - the road is currently closed about 2 miles (and 1000 vertical feet) below the trail head at boy scout campground. We made it to just below the saddle before the weather set in, forcing us to turn back. Snow partially covers the trail after about 9000', but with the sun out it is probably melting fast, probably more doable in a couple of weeks. You would probably have to blaze your own trail up to the saddle and the summit through the snow, but I think experienced hikers with good shoes and trekking poles could make it now. We'll probably do it again in July or August.
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One quick correction -- When coming into Grantsville from the East, apparently the sign for South Willow Canyon is gone. The name of the road is West street, which turns into Mormon Trail Road.

I soloed this trail starting at first light on an August morning. The wildlife was very abundant. Climbing toward the top is a bit difficult, but the descent was fun. Very windy at the top...and chilly (~50 degrees f.) so bring a layer. If you're quiet, you will see plenty of wildlife. Spooked several deer and watched them leap straight up very steep slopes!

I especially appreciated the fact that, on this day, I was the only one on the trail until I got within 1 mile of the trialhead on the return. Such a beautiful hike, and not nearly as overused as the Bit and Little Cottonwood canyons on the east side of Salt Lake City, and other areas in the Wasatch National Forest. Well worth the time and effort to find. Also, the elevation gain is more than initially reported according to my GPS... Closer to 4200ft.

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This was a beautiful hike - wonderful views, plant life, deer. The last bit up to the top gets tough but the view from the summit is awesome. Following the loop back down was a bit difficult, the trail gets hard to find. Be sure to start early - we started too late in the day and ended up hiking in the dark toward the end of it. Overall, a great hike.
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Certainly was a good steady workout to the top. Lots of wildlife, deer, turkey, and beautiful green valleys. Still some snow on the ground and the temps cool despite the over 100 degree week Salt lake was experiencing. great views of the reat Salt Lake. The trail was very hard to follow on the back side of the peak, stay high and you will see the trail
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There are two ways that I have hiked Deseret peak. The first and most popular is by going up South Willow Canyon to the top of the road, which is where the trail head starts. It takes you into groves of pines and quaking aspen, with open areas in between. The trail takes you up to a saddle at which point it joins the trail from the south approach. From there you climb above timber line onto the west side of the range which then skirts up to the peak. I have done this hike in the summer, but prefer early spring in which there are some great snow fields for sliding. The top gives a wonderful view of the great salt lake, Tooele valley, and Skull valley. This is a great hike that is for the most part away from the crowds.

Deseret Peak via South Willow Canyon Photos

Trail Information

Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
Nearby City
Deseret Peak Wilderness Area
Moderate to Difficult
Skill Level
Camping, Horseback Riding
Additional Use
Salt Lake Ranger District, 6944 South 3000 East, Salt Lake City 84121.
Local Contacts
USGS Deseret Peak East, Deseret Park West.
Local Maps