OverviewThis route to the Davis County highpoint is one of those small endurance challenges because of the 8-mile one way distance to the top and the more than 4,500+' of elevation gain. The 8-mile distance is measured on the actual trail and does not include possible direct routes once one is directly west of the peak. Some guide books refer to this trail as the Fernwood Trail. In warmer months be sure to get an early start; there is very little shade along the upper 4 miles of the trail.
Getting ThereGenerally speaking, the trailhead is at the east edge of Layton, UT. Exit I-15 at #324 to U.S. highway 89. If traveling north on 89, proceed @6.7 miles. You will pass Cherry Hill recreation park, Nicholls Road, Mutton Hollow and Oakhills Drive en route. (If you reach Sunset Drive you have driven too farth north on highway 89.) You will turn east at Cherry Lane intersection/traffic light where a Tesoro gas station is on the west and a Sinclair gas station is on the east. Quickly turn north passing behind the Sinclair station on Valley View Drive. Look for and turn east (right) on Fernwood Drive (about 1/2 mile). From this turn it is @ .8 of a mile to the TH. Gain elevation, make a hard left and then a 90 degree right to stay on Fernwood Drive (a left turn takes you to Snoqualmie Drive). Continue south and pass the Fernwood Picnic area to the trailhead parking lot. (Parking spaces are also available for horse trailers.) There is a restroom at the northwest end of the parking area, and seasonal water is available.
Route DescriptionTake the trail at the northeast end of the parking lot. The elevation here is just over 5,200'. The first few yards are on dirt and patterned cinder block. The trail proceeds generally north and east as you pass through scrub oak and aspens. Kays Creek will occasionally parallel your path and after about 20 minutes you will cross a sturdy wooden bridge.
This bridge is a heads-up for a long series of switchbacks awaiting you. Above the bridge several hundred yards is a 6"x10" wooden sign on a post which reads "Great Western Trail." Stay on the main trail; don't take any of the spur trails leading left. Just before beginning the switchbacks there is a section of trail which descends for about 200 yards. Don't fret because it will soon begin climbing and take you back toward the south as you gain elevation with the switchbacks.
If you hold a moderate pace you will reach a spring (8,750') at about the 3-hour point. You will have been doing a lot of contouring prior to reaching the spring, and you have more contouring ahead of you. At this point you can see a rocky prominence in the distance to your left, but you still have 2 1/2 miles to hike to reach the summit via the trail.
Beyond the spring you will pass an obviously popular camping site where a cast-iron stove graces the fire pit area. The terrain ahead resembles a large cirque, and you take a series of switchbacks up the west slope to the ridge above. From there expect more contouring and numerous gentle ups and downs. Here it is likely you will encounter winds so be prepared. Eventually you connect with the Adams Canyon trail (there may be a small cairn here)where you have the option to head east up the gently rounded ridge to the summit. Otherwise continue on the established trail to the obvious saddle north of two prominent "bumps" which are north of the radar site but south of Thurston Peak. You need to make your own left turn to the saddle; the trail continues south toward the up-and-down ridge leading to the bumps and then the radar site at Francis Peak.
At the saddle proceed north (left) up the rock-studded slope another 450' to 500' to the rocky summit, passing a few scattered pine trees. The trail up this slope is faint at best. Enjoy the monument and bronze plaque honoring Thomas J. Thurston, quite a summit marker in comparison with what you usually find at other county highpoints. There is a U.S. Geological Survey benchmark there also. Enjoy the view into Morgan County to your east, the area which, according to the plaque, Thurston helped colonize. Enjoy the view south along the ridge and spot the obvious radar domes at Francis Peak. Be glad you didn't have to drive up Farmington Canyon! Search in vain for a summit register. :)