The Oquirrh Mountain rangeUpdate: See additions and corrections for legal information. It appears that gaining access to Lewiston Peak and Flat Top mountain is no longer a "given" and that all routes to the summits involve trespassing.
OverviewThis mountain is the Rodney Dangerfield of Utah. It really doesn't get any respect. Everyone has seen this mountain but very few even know that they are looking at a significant mountain in its own right. Located close to Salt Lake City and overlooking Lehi , American Fork and the northern Utah county area, it is even overlooked by those who are headed west to climb Deseret Peak. Yet, it is a lofty mountain and a fantastic viewpoint. Once you know what you are looking at, you see it from everywhere in the greater Salt Lake Basin area. Also nearby is the
slightly lower Lowe Peak, only 31 feet lower than Flat Top but another worthy goal of this range.
Flat Top is a name that is somewhat misleading. Why it was named Flat Top is beyond me but that is the name this peak is stuck with. Why is this peak significant? Well, for starters it is the highpoint of the Oquirrh mountain range.
What really makes it special is the fact that it is one of the 57 mountains in the lower 48 that has 5000 feet of prominence. Prominence? What does that mean? Stay tuned, I'll get you to an explanation of this little known concept
in a minute.
Flat Top is one of the eight 5K prominence peaks in the state of Utah. Aaron Maizlish has put together this fantastic map of the Western United States showing the peaks that qualify for this special rating. More information on prominence can be found at
this site, peaklist .org Check out all the maps they have put together, it'll keep you busy on a rainy weekend.
Utah has 8 5000K prominence peaks:
Flat Top Peak (in the Oquirrh mtns)
Flat Top ranks 6th in the state of Utah in the terms of prominence (there is that word again)
The Oquirrh mountains are pretty much taken for granted by Salt Lakers and most of it is privately owned. The name Oquirrh (pronounced O-Ker) was taken from the Goshute Indian word meaning "wooded mountain".
The Utah History Encylopedia has this information about the Oquirrh's.
"The first attempt to settle in the Oquirrhs occurred in 1848. At that time two Mormon pioneer brothers, Thomas and Sanford Bingham, set up camp at the mouth of Bingham Canyon. They had been sent to the area by Brigham Young, who had requested that they take a herd of horses and cattle belonging to himself, the Bingham family, and others, up to the high land around the main canyon. For the next year or so, the Bingham brothers spent their time in what became known as Bingham Canyon, herding cattle and, to a limited degree, prospecting for valuable minerals. Some ores were found, but the brothers were advised by Brigham Young not to engage in mining at that time. The ore finds were soon forgotten after 1850 when the Binghams left on a mission to settle Weber County. For the next decade, the Oquirrhs continued to be used as a grazing ground as well as a valuable source of timber for the Mormons."
More history can be found at this website
Particularly interesting in the above reference is the reference to the town of Ophir. Ophir is a well kept secret and yet a fascinating little town to visit.. I had no clue it even existed until I actually drove through it.
Here is a great LINK to more about the interesting town of
OPHIR. This link has pics and info about the town that
make it a worthwhile read.
Getting ThereLeave I-15 as you head south from Salt Lake City or north from Provo at the town of Lehi, turning west on highway 73. Proceed west on 73 for close to 28 miles (not exact) with the road going over Five mile pass. Watch the mile posts as the road you need for the turnoff to Ophir (on the right) is between mile posts 4 and 5. I wasn't driving so I can't say for sure the exact mileage but this is in the ballpark. The turnoff to Ophir is paved all the way to Ophir, about 5 miles to the east. Ophir is an old mining town that has given way to private homes and a little bit of restoration, just enough to capture the interest of the average tourist. Go slowly through town and after about 1.2 miles watch for a rough road taking off to the right. It is just before the water from Ophir Creek is diverted into a pipe. If you go past this turnoff, you'll find the road narrows and turns slightly north. Stop and go back.
The road up to Flattop is on BLM land while the majority of the area is privately owned and it is important that you stay on BLM land as the landowners are not friendly to those who trespass. The majority of the land is owned by one family nowadays, the Ault family. As one local told us, they own the land for "57 canyons worth". The road you want is the "South Fork" road but I don't recall seeing any signage. Unless you have a high clearance 4WD rig, find a spot to park (off the roadway) and proceed to walk because the road goes to hell in a hurry. We managed to drive this road in Bob Bolton's 4runner but most vehicles would not make it. Trust me when i say this road is nasty. If you park, you will be at an elevation of 6725, leaving you close to 3900 feet of elevation gain . Walk or driving, go right when you hit a junction (see map)
If you go left at this fork, you will eventually come to a gate that will block any further progress and this is where the BLM right of way stops and private property begins. Do not go past this gate. The road beyond leads up to Halls Basin which was described as a possible route in Kelsey's book but is no longer available. At the fork, go right and continue uphill up the south fork road, and you will be able to eventually make it to a pass close to 8000 feet, reducing your effort by almost 1300 feet. There is a small spur road that proceeds up a bit further, if you can get up that spur, you will find a nice spot to park that is out of sight and off the main track. At that spot, you will see a BLM marker that states "No motorized vehicles beyond this point". Walk up the remaining bit of road to another clearing (only about a 100 feet) and look for some rocks piled on top of each other. This marks the beginning of a trail that you could miss if you don't pay attention and that trail makes a big difference. This is the beginning of the Lewiston Peak route (see routes at left). If the stone cairn marking the trail is not there, keep checking as finding the trail makes a big difference.
From the road junction which is 1.2 miles east from Ophir add 2 to 2.5 miles to the saddle.( I'm not exact on this mileage) but a recent addition of info I've received from Mr. Wasatch puts the road walking at 3 miles (6 miles round trip)
The walk from the parking spot at 8100', is 7.2 miles (round trip - elev. gain 3000' including the ups and downs)
UPDATE: On June 1st, the road is open 1.2 miles past Ophir. If you have to walk from this road however because your vehicle isn't high clearance with thick ply tires and lacks 4WD, plan on adding at least 6 miles round trip to your hike and a couple thousand more feet of elevation gain. Read this trip report by Dennis to get a bit more perspective on how to deal with this closure. Repeat, the road is no longer blocked as shown in the picture.
Red TapeNo fees were involved at the time I was there. The south fork road is on BLM land but heed carefully the no trespassing indicators that tell you immediately that you have strayed from BLM land. When we accidently trespassed on their land, we were threatened with arrest.
SP member Powderdave had this recent experience in late September of 2010:
FYI, the only legal route to Flat Top is "with a helicopter". Ran into several members of the Ault family today. They own a huge amount of land in the southern Oquirrhs. My route took me up and over Lewiston and along the ridge to Flat Top. The family has two hunting camps along the ridge and I was told emphatically that I was trespassing and unwelcome. I ran in to a total of five hunters, all with the family. They hunt deer and elk, with bows, muzzleloaders, and rifles, so they are up there from late summer to late fall. They say their private property even crosses the ridge up to Lewiston. And, you cross private property just getting to the 8,000' trailhead."
What is interesting about Powderdave's experience is that I was told by one of the Ault family members that the only "legal" route was the one that Dave took (and is described as the route over Lewiston). I suspect that the mountain should be avoided during the hunting season and is best climbed before they set up their hunting camps.
When To ClimbYou could probably climb this peak from the spring to late fall. Winter mountaineering is a possibility as well but perhaps someone can chime in with more information on this. Be wary of thunderstorms on the high ridgelines so plan accordingly. Go early in the morning in summer and get off the peak before 11 or 12.
CampingYou could car camp at the saddle (if you can get your car up there) I'd really recommend this as a day hike. Some camping appeared possible in Ophir.
Mountain ConditionsNo webcams. No local ranger station.
One weather link that will give conditions specific for Ophir can be found HERE
Map of area
BookMichael Kelsey has a neat book containing information on the Oquirrh area and Flat Top in particular in his book "Utah Mountaineering Guide"
See the link at the side to order this book as it is the only source of information on both Flat Top and Lowe peaks as well as other peaks in the unknown range.
In his book Mike Kelsey indicates that in dry conditions you might be able to drive a car up to the saddle at 8000 feet. I found that to be true on June 5, 2009 but the road is rough in spots and VERY rocky in others. Yet, my tacoma
made it O.K.
his comments about it. Again, I repeat, park and walk if you have a low clearance 2WD vehicle. Otherwise, you may need a tow truck to rescue you.
Additional resource informationEric Willhite, a fellow SP member and a northwest transplant (like myself) has been visiting the tops of many Utah peaks. He did an excellent trip report with a great map and many pics that you will find of value.
DisclaimerMuch of the property in this area is privately owned. Try and respect that and keep to the BLM land that does provide an access route to the summit (over Lewiston Peak)
Additions and Corrections[ Post an Addition or Correction ]