ApproachThere are two possible trailheads:
Uinta River Route:
From the town of Roosevelt along Highway 40 in the Uinta Basin, drive north on 200 North (Highway 121). Most junctions are marked with signs. At mile 10.4 at the hamlet of Neola go straight towards Uintah Canyon. At mile 17.7 continue straight. At mile 19.1, turn right to Uintah Canyon. At mile 23.2 turn right. At mile 23.5 turn right just after the bridge. Park at the trailhead at mile 27.2 (or 27.8 for day users, but most do not climb this route in a day).
Swift Creek Route:
First drive to the town of Duchene, which is along US Highway 40. From Duchene, turn north onto State Highway 87. Follow State Highway 87 until it joins with State Highway 134 (this is where state Highway 87 heads due east instead of continuing north) between milepost 15 and 16. Follow State Highway 134 north to the little town of Mountain Home. Where State Highway 134 begins to head due east at Mountain Home, Continue north on the Moon Lake Road. After five miles, turn east on the Yellowstone River Road and to the Yellowstone River Power Plant. Continue along the Yellowstone River road to the trailhead at the end of the road, passing the Yellowstone River Dude Ranch and two campgrounds along the way.
Route DescriptionThis is a spectacular ridge run. Using the same standards that are used for the Colorado 14’ers, this ridge route has no less than eight 13’ers. This is the highest continuous ridge in Utah, one of the highest in the United States, and certainly the highest in the United States outside Colorado.
Briefly put, you will climb Kings Peak from the Uinta River or Swift Creek, follow the ridge over South Kings and then all the way to Mount Emmons, where you will descend either the Uinta River or Swift Creek routes back to your vehicle. Beware of thunderstorms on the ridge, as this is certainly not the place to get caught in one*.
From the Uinta River Trailhead, the shortest route to Kings and South Kings Peaks is to continue along the trail passed Chain Lakes as described in the Uinta River Route, over Roberts Pass to the Lake Atwood Basin, and then over Trailrider Pass to Painter Basin. You could follow the trail all the way to Anderson Pass, but the shortest way is to climb the SE face of Kings directly. There is much boulder-hopping, but no major problems.
From the Swift Creek Trailhead, I would highly recommend that you not take the trail directly up Yellowstone Creek. The trail isn’t bad, but there are no views for many miles and at least a day or two. The trail is in a tunnel of timber the whole way and is more like hiking in the North Woods of Minnesota than the Rockies. The best way to climb kings from the Swift Creek Trailhead, is to take the Swift Creek Trail to Farmers Lake and then Bluebell Pass, and then descend to Milk Lake. From Milk Lake, follow the base of the ridge to the east all the way to Anderson Pass. The trail passes through many spectacular and beautiful alpine meadows full of wildflowers. There is no trail after Milk Lake, but the cross-country route is easy to find since there are open views and travel is not difficult.
After climbing Kings Peak from either route, follow the ridge south and over South Kings, and then south all the way to Mount Emmons and one peak south. There is some boulder-hopping, a few grassy slopes, and great views for the entire route. It is a very long day from Kings to Emmons, but the effort is well worth the beautiful views. Beware of gathering thunderstorms while along the ridge.
The loop usually takes 4-5 days to complete.
*Beware of t-storms on the ridge. We actually had to drop below the ridge and bypass peaks 13,247 and 13,387.