Francis Peak is the most obvious peak on the entire Wasatch-Cache National Forest. With its two RADAR tower and its location on the west side of the range, it can be seen from Salt Lake City to Ogden. At 9,540 feet, it is the 548th highest peak in Utah. Before the RADAR towers were built, the peak was 9,547 (seven feet taller). Some maps list the height as 9,630 because of the additional 115 feet of RADAR towers. Francis Peak can be hiked, biked, snowshoed (winter) or reached by vehicle and can be approached from the North, South or West. The view from the top is spectacular in all directions with a great view of Morgan to the east and the Great Salt Lake to the west.
The peak is named for Ester Francis an early Morman pioneer who settled in Morgan (east side of mountain) during the 1800s. Atop the peak is a historical plaque honoring Ms. Francis. The two golf ball shaped FAA towers were built in 1958-59. The towers give weather and other research info.
From Lists of John
Elevation : 9,540'
UT Peaks Rank : 548
Counties : Davis & Morgan
Quad : Peterson
Coords : 41.0329°N, 111.8386°W
Rise : 520'
Saddle : 9,020'
Line Parent : Thurston Peak
Proximate Parent : Thurston Peak
Isolation : 3.46 miles
The primary trailheads for Francis Peak are Kayscreek/Fernwood, Baer Canyon, or Farmington Canyon
Kayscreek/Fernwood, near the Layton Castle. Trailhead is located at 41.087794,-111.901846
From I-15 Take the Antelope drive exit and head east (toward the mountains)for 2 miles. Turn right onto N Fairfield Rd for 0.7 mile and then take the 2nd left onto Cherry Lane. Follow Cherry Lane for 2.1 miles until you reach Highway 89. Cross Highway 89 (there should be a Sinclair Gas Station and Grounds for Coffee here) and turn left onto Valley View Drive for .5 miles. Turn right onto Fernwood Drive for .5 miles and continue past the "Layton Castle" into Fernwood Park. Park in the USFS parking area.
The trailhead has water and restrooms available. There is room for about 20 vehicles and great parking for horse trailers. Since the trailhead is the nexus for 3 different trails (Great Western, Bonneville Shoreline and Community) the parking lot may be full on pretty days. In that case, park on the street across from the Castle.
During the winter, the gate may be closed due to snow, so you'll have to park across the street from the Castle. The gate also closes at sunset, so unless you want to spend the night, you might want to leave before the gate is locked. It normally doesn't open until 0800 in the mornings.
Farmington Canyon Road, Loc 41.00040°N / 111.86632°W
From I-15 take the Park Lane Exit east (toward the Mountains) to 600 North. Follow 600 North to North Skyline Drive. Continue up Skyline Drive (also known as Farmington Canyon Road) into the Cache National Forest until the pavement ends. Continue up the canyon on a windy dirt road for 10.8 miles. The only split in the road is at ~8 miles, stay on the left fork to the towers. Park in the parking area near the gate.
Baer Canyon, Location 41.03868°N / 111.86807°W
IMONTOP’s Directions: From Salt Lake City, take I-15 northboud merging onto US.89 near Lagoon Amusement Park in Farmington. Continue north past the Cherry Hill Water Park to the light at Nicholls Rd. Turn right, and head east to Mountain Rd.and turn left. Continue north and turn right onto EastOaks Dr. This winds up into the foothills to the east, to 1800 E. Turn left. This road deadends, with a trailhead sign on the right pointing to the east. Follow this road up to the side of a house to the parking next to a water tank. The trail starts on the north end of the parking lot.
There are generally three ways to get to Francis Peak, the easy way, the hard way and the long way.
The Easy Way:
Drive up, claim it, press on to Thurston Peak . This route is a 10.8 mile drive up Farmington Canyon on the dirt road followed by a .3 mile walk up past the gate. Starting in Farmington Canyon (41.00040°N / 111.86632°W) drive slowly up the windy dirt road watching out for ATVs and mountain bikers. At ~3.4 miles you will pass Sunset camping area. At ~7 miles the road splits; the right fork goes toward Bountiful Peak , the Left Fork (with a gate) goes to Francis. At 10.8 miles the road is blocked by a gate and Francis is dead ahead of you. Park in the parking area, go around the gate and hike .3 miles up the road to the summit.
The Hard Way: From Baer Canyon (loc 41.03868°N / 111.86807°W) the hike is around a 9 hour hump to the summit. IMONTOP has a Baer Canyon page describing the hike. The trail gets pretty overgrown the last half mile up the side of the mountain, but it is impossible to get lost as Francis is visible most of the hike.
The Long Way:The key element is to get to the ridgeline on the Great Western Trail and then head south. From Kayscreek/Fernwood (Location 41.087794,-111.901846), follow the Great Western Trail past Layton and Thurston peaks for about 10 miles to Francis peak. There is a 4000 foot elevation gain but most of it is along a 4 mile stretch of trail. A more difficult but about a mile shorter climb is available using the “Community Trail” (past the Layton Nipple and Stone Cabin) also starting from Kayscreek/Fernwood. Trail distance from Thurston Peak to Francis Peak is ~4.5 miles one way.
Red Tape and Camping
There is a limited Red Tape as most of the hike is in the National Forest. Please abide by federal regulations, Leave-No-Trace, and other common courtesies. The peak itself is a restricted area because of the RADAR towers but there isn’t a fence nor anyone stopping hikers from reaching the summit and walking around the towers.
There are a two formal campsites on Farmington Canyon Road and plenty of places for primitive camping.
Bountiful Peak Campground, is a pretty spot in the forest at 7,500 feet up on the ridgeline. Sunset Campground is in the forest 3.5 miles up the Farmington Canyon dirt road. Bountiful Campground takes reservations, Sunset is first come first served.
There are several hazards to hikers regardless of route.
Animals: The top ridge is a haven for rattlesnakes which tend to sun themselves near rock formations. Unless you get bit near Francis Peak itself, help is a long way off—be extra cautious. There aren’t too many large carnivorous animals in the area, but hikers do see the occasional bear, cougar or coyote. There aren’t any reports of anyone being attacked, but it’s worth noting they are there. Moose, elk, and deer are much more likely to be encountered…stay away especially during calfing season.
With a large population of moose, elk and deer come the usual fall hunters in the forest. Be sure to wear bright clothing in the fall and keep your eyes out for hunters.
Snow fields usually block some portion of all of the longer routes well into June. During the winter, the trails would most likely require snowshoes to get past drifts or unpacked snow.
Water is a limiting factor in the summer depending on route chosen. There is a pipe high on the Great Western ~4 miles from the Kayscreek/Fernwood trailhead. It has water flowing at trickle even in summer from which you can resupply. On the Community Trail, the stone cabin has a water pipe. Using Baer Canyon, there is a creek to fill up with.
The ridgeline is mostly exposed. Wind and sun could be factors. Sunscreen, sunglasses and head covering are highly recommended.
Cell phone coverage is iffy all along the ridge.