Gunsight Peak is the highest summit in the Malad Range. This is also known as the Clarkston Mountains. It is a sub-range of the Bannock Range. Gunsight Peak is seen by everyone driving along I-15, yet few people seem to know about it. This is the most striking peak on the ridge. The east side of the mountain is in Cache County and the west side is in Box Elder County where the actual summit is located.
The Malad Range is the easternmost of the Bannock sub-ranges. The mountains were named for their proximity to the city of Malad, Idaho to the northwest. Gunsight Peak is the highest mountain on a long ridge called Clarkston Mountain. The west side of the peak rises precipitously over Castlegate and Dutchmans Canyons. Water Canyon is located farther south below the ridge. Other mountains in the range include Sheep Dip Mountain, 7,057 feet, and Red Knoll, 6,813 feet elevation. Unnamed Peak 7,005 is the highest mountain in the Idaho portion of the range.
The Bannock Range is located in Southeast Idaho with the southern end of the range extending into Northern Utah. The main crest of the range runs for about 65 miles traveling in a north to south direction. It is an interesting mountain range where only a small number of people go hiking. It is a great place to go if you like solitude. The Bannock Range consists of several sub-ranges on the border of Idaho and Utah. Three of them are located west of the Malad Range. They include the Samaria Mountains, Blue Spring Hills, and North Hansel Mountains.
The mountain has an appearance of a gunsight or notch on its summit when viewed from certain angles. This may have been where its name came from. I thought the summit resembled ears on an animal. Or maybe it was named because of its popularity with hunters. The ridge is covered in green vegetation and forests with several springs but no lakes. Sagebrush dominates the lower slopes and in the higher elevations are sub-alpine fir and Douglas-fir. The rock consists mostly of limestone, dolomite and shale which is gray colored and sharp in texture.
The town of Clarkston was settled in 1864. It was named after Israel J. Clark who was among the first Mormon settlers in the area. He built the first log house and later became bishop of the community. The benchmark on the summit of Gunsight Peak was also named after him. I want to mention that there are two mountains named Gunsight Peak in Utah. This one shouldn't be confused with the other one which is located in the Uinta Mountains and happens to be one of the highest peaks in the state.
In Northern Utah, drive on Interstate 15 and take exit 379 toward Pocatello. Continue on this road until you get to exit 392 toward Plymouth. Turn right at the Sinclair Gas Station. Drive east on this paved road until you get to a four way intersection and stop sign. Continue going straight (east) on a gravel road. This road can be driven by passenger vehicles. Drive on this road which starts climbing up toward a saddle on the ridge. At the top of the pass is small parking spot where the trailhead is located. On the map this is labeled as Short Divide. Park here. There is a radio tower located to the south. On the south side of the road is a register where you will want to sign in. This will let the property owners know why your vehicle is parked here.
I have checked out a variety of routes up this mountain. Winter Canyon seems to be the most common route to the summit as noted in the register. The south ridge is a long and rugged ridge hike. The west face is easy to get to but is located on private property with no trespassing signs posted everywhere. There is a route on the north side of the peak that goes up Elgrove Canyon. The entrance to this canyon is located on private property near a large farm.
This is a nice ridge that can be traversed during much of the year except when deep snow covers the mountain. I hadn't been able to find much information about this mountain in any book or on the internet. So I just went and explored around a bit to see if I could find a feasible route. This was the most accessible one I could find. It turned out to be a fun ridge hike. I rate it at class 2. There is a trail at the beginning of the route but it soon disappears. Route finding involves finding your way around trees, bushes, and rock ledges. The best thing I liked about it were the views of Malad Valley to the west and Cache Valley to east.
This route is located on the east side of the mountain. I haven't done this route and don't have any first hand knowledge about it. Other SP members have climbed the peak via this route. It is a more direct route to the summit. It seems to avoid private property so it is the preferred way to climb Gunsight Peak. Note from SP member gjagiels: From what I can tell, Winter Canyon allows public access and there was actually a maintained trail that heads a ways up this canyon. There were some "No Tresspassing" signs on another road nearby. This ended up being a great approach, and successful too.
When to Climb
Spring and Fall are the best times to climb Gunsight Peak. From April to June and September to November.
The mountain can also be climbed in Summer. I personally think it is too hot during that time and would recommend hiking during the cooler months of the year. Even in May, the temperatures were in the 80’s which was warm. There isn't much shade available on this mountain.
No fees for climbing this mountain.
The Malad Range is administered by Caribou-Targhee National Forest
Gunsight Peak is surrounded by private property. Winter Canyon is the preferred route up the peak. The South Ridge route does travel through private property. Make sure you sign the register at the trailhead if you are hiking in this area. This is a popular place for hunters on weekends. There is limited parking but you could always park on the side of the gravel road since it is very wide. This road is accessible to all vehicles when dry.
In Caribou-Targhee National Forest, camping is allowed in many undeveloped sites. Camping is free in the more remote areas as long as you select a site outside a developed campground. The dispersed camping limit in one spot is 16 days. These spots generally have no amenities available. Try to use existing camping areas.
The Malad Range has no developed campgrounds. No camping is allowed on private property. These areas should be posted.
Utah Prominence Peaks List - Gunsight Peak is one of the Utah peaks with over 2,000 feet of prominence. It comes in at #59 on the list. I noticed that many of the people who were interested in climbing this peak were prominence peak chasers.