OverviewDesert Peak is a rugged, unknown, yet spectacular peak in the west desert of Utah. It is the highest mountain in the Newfoundland range. The Newfoundland range is part of the western Utah desert and is located about 3/4 of the way from Salt Lake to Wendover and about 30 miles north of I-80. Most days Desert Peak can be seen from I-80 and on really clear days it can be seen from spots in Salt Lake Valley. Viewed from a distance, the peak is light-colored and looks very rugged and "pointy" towards the top.
The Newfoundland Mountains are not easily accessed and though Desert Peak is a mere 30 miles from the interstate, it will require around 2 hours to get to the start of the hike. The very southern part of the Newfoundland Mountains is actually in a military area and no public access is allowed. But the difficulty in getting there is re-payed in the vast remoteness, historical charm, and jagged peaks. Desert Peak and the Newfoundland Mountains are also part of the Newfoundland Mountains Wilderness Study Area and sports a healthy population of big horn sheep. A trip to the Newfoundland Mountains is a excellent experience for it's solitude and beauty.
Desert Peak rises about 2800 feet from the surrounding Salt Flats and ranks as #46 for Utah Peaks with 2000 feet or more of prominence. Click here for a list of Utah Prominence peaks.
There is a still-distinct 1847-50 wagon trail just to the south called the Hastings Cut-off. To the north there's the Transcontinental railroad bed that is fun to see. It's 1904 replacement is the route you use, at least the dirt road next to it, to access the Newfoundland range. There is lots of old mining activity to see. The mine at the head of Dell's Canyon has a cablecar ore shuttle system that looks like it's still in working order.
The actual climb is steep but not difficult except as you approach the top the footing gets loose and there is more exposure. The top is a series of jagged spires. The 360 degree views are spectacular.
Routes OverviewThere are basically two ways to hike this mountain: East side and West side. The east side approach uses Dell Canyon to ascend the mountain, the west side uses the Southwest ridge.
Compared to the Southwest ridge, Dell's Canyon is more difficult in terms of elevation gain, route finding and being more technical. Mileage wise, both are about the same. If driving high clearance, the Dell's Canyon will be about 300 more feet of vertical. Route finding will be required if coming from Dell's Canyon as there are several cliffs to bypass. So if you want more of a challenge, take the Dell's Canyon side, it also was quite scenic, though I can't comment on the west side approach.
Getting ThereThe two driving options mentioned are the only two ways to access this mountain range that I am aware of. From Grouse Creek and Lucin (west) there is supposedly a gate that is locked and there is no public access.
To get to the Newfoundland Mountain access road from the railroad tracks does not require high clearance or 4WD. As soon as you leave the railroad tracks the road is rutted and you may not be comfortable driving a sedan on this part of the road, though I did with a Mazda and had no problems. Once you reach the mountains the road is in good shape and will only require 4WD or high clearance if there have been recent storms. Of the two options mentioned I would recommend taking the route from Salt Lake City as the roads are in good condition. The other route is much longer (from the Wasatch) and I don't have personal knowledge of this route.
From Salt Lake City: (120 miles)
Head west on I-80 towards Wendover. Continue to exit 62 (Lakeside Military Area) and head north towards the Military Area. About 15 miles from the Interstate you will reach the Military Area where the paved road bends and then continues to the military base. At this bend there is a dirt road that continues straight, follow this well-graded dirt road. After another 14 miles you will reach the railroad tracks. Continue about a 1/4 mile west to where a road crosses the tracks and follows the railroad tracks. This is where the road is marked as private. Continue west along the railroad tracks for 25.5 miles to the Newfoundland Mountains road.
From Highway 30: (70 miles)
From the large bend in highway 30, shown here head 6.5 south towards Kelton on a dirt road. At Kelton take a right and go 2.8 miles to a dirt road that breaks off and heads south. Follow this road for approximately 23 miles to an intersection and then go right the road soon heads west then southwest. From 5.4 miles from the previous intersection there is another intersection. Go left, then you will soon go straight through an intersection then south for 7 miles to the railroad tracks. Now travel west along the railroad tracks for 12.5 miles to the Newfoundland Mountains road.
Once at the Newfoundland Mountains road:
For Dells Canyon approach:
Head south along the rutted and washed out road for approximately 2 miles where you reach an intersection. Continue straight for another mile to where you reach a T intersection. Go left and around the mountain range. Once you are around the side of the range and heading south again it is approximately 6.5 miles to Dell's Canyon. This stretch of road has occasional mud and washout but is in generally good condition.
For the Southwest Ridge:
See the Southwest Ridge page.
Inside the Newfoundland Mountains Wilderness Area, please follow the rules. The road alongside the railroad is signed as private property and no tresspassing. However, there are no gates (as of 11/25/2006) and to access this mountain range you must use this road. The BLM encourages hiking, sightseeing, and wildlife viewing in the area.
When To Climb
Fall, Winter and Spring would be the best times to do this hike. Though the route up from Dell's Canyon faces to the north, expect some snow aftert recent storms and cold spells. During the summer months expect daytime highs in the 90-100's.
Sp Member Varleys writes: I climbed on a June weekend and camped in one of the canyons. It was cool on the mtn. I did not find any water while I was there but there are supposed to be 2 springs toward the south. Spring and Fall would be good times to climb. I expect it could be climbed in the winter.
CampingThis terrain is vast open desert surrounded by salt flats. Primitive camping is allowed. There are no nearby campgrounds or developed campsites. Make sure you have gas, the closest gas station is 70 miles away in Delle (exit 70 off I-80) and bring plenty of food, water and firewood.
One of the better places to camp is located at the northern end of the Silver Island Mountains and access is relatively easy. To get there from the train tracks: Continue south towards the Silver Island Mountains, at 2 miles there is an intersection, continue straight. Then continue for another mile to a T-intersection, go right (west) towards the large granite outcrop and continue for another 1 and 1/4 miles to the end of the road.
Additional InformationGeocacher's have placed caches in the area. You can follow these GPS coordinates to their caches or go to Geocaching.com and search for these cache names or just look at the map of caches in the area of the Newfoundland mountains. They also have information about getting there and camping.
N 41° 11.624 W 113° 21.580
N 41° 11.085 W 113° 22.751
Additions and Corrections[ Post an Addition or Correction ]