Under New Ownership
This page was transferred to me by Bob Bolton. I am very thankful to be able to adopt and continue to provide lots of information about this wonderful peak here on SummitPost. Some of the text below was written by Bob.
Kings Peak is the highpoint of Utah, and of Duchesne County. It is the seventh highest of the U.S. State Highpoints and located approximately 42 miles north of Duchesne in the High Uintas Wilderness Area of the Ashley and Wasatch National Forests. The mountain was named after Clarence King, who was the first director of the US Geological Survey. The standard hiking route is a 28.8 mile round trip trek, so the peak is usually climbed as part of a backpacking trip.
The present-day Kings Peak wasn't known to be the highest point in Utah before the mid 1960s. The USGS hadn't determined whether the current Kings Peak or South Kings Peak was the highest of the two summits prior to satellite measurements taken in 1966. Prior to this discovery, the USGS had marked South Kings Peak as the highest peak in Utah. Any hikers going to Utah's highest peak prior to 1966 would have scaled South Kings Peak instead of the now official Kings Peak.
Kings Peak's topographic prominence is 6,348 feet and ranks 19th in the contiguous 48 states. It is one of 57 so-called "Ultra" prominence peaks, those with more than 5,000 feet of prominence. For the complete list of Ultras, see this page.
TrailheadsHenry's Fork Trailhead
This trailhead is on the north side of the range. Take exit 39 off Interstate 80 on Wyoming and turn south on State Route 414. Go 6 miles to Mountain View, WY where route 414 turns west through Mountain View and becomes Route 410 as the road turns south at the west end of town. Drive Route 410 for 6.7 miles toward Robertson, WY to the point where it turns west. From this point, drive Uinta County Road 283 (also named Forest Road 072) south toward Grahams Reservoir and Bridger Lake for 12.1 miles to Forest Road 017. Turn left on Forest Road 017 and continue south 6.8 miles to Forest Road 077. Drive south on Forest Road 077 for 2.8 miles, and turn right on the road to Henry's Fork Campground and the Henry's Fork Trailhead. This is the trailhead most people use for a climb of Kings Peak. The hike is beautiful but expect crowds in July and August.
Yellowstone Creek (Swift Creek) Trailhead
This trailhead is on the south side of the range and although not quite as scenic as the hike from Henry's Fork, it offers a very mellow hike up the long Yellowstone Creek Trail. If you're coming from the east in Roosevelt, Utah, continue south through town on US Highway 40 / 191. Don't head onto UT 121. Follow Highway 40 as it turns back to the southwest and after 5.6 miles, turn right on UT 87 (AKA Ioka Lane) and follow this paved highway for 16.5 miles to the town of Altamont. A quarter-mile west of this town, turn right (north) onto 16,000 West and continue another 4 miles. Turn left onto 8,000 North, then right again on 17,000 West which then curves left and turns into 9,000 North and then into Yellow Stone Road. Cross the Yellow Stone River and continue 5.5 miles on the now gravel road to the forest boundary where the road turns into FR 119. Continue down the hill and pass the Yellowstone Group Campground and Bridge Campground, crossing the river again back to its east side. 4 miles past the Bridge Campground, reach the Swift Creek Campground at the end of the road and park at the trailhead marked by a large sign.
Or, if you are coming from the west in 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 (21,000 West) north to the little town of Mountain Home. Where State Highway 134 begins to head due east at Mountain Home, Continue north on 21,000 West and turn right on 20,780 West at the T junction 0.7 miles north of town. Continue on 20,780 West for 4 miles, heading down the hill and turning right onto a short road which crosses the Lake Fork River. After crossing the bridge, turn left (north) on Yellowstone River Road and follow the road to the trailhead at the Swift Creek Campground as described above.
Uinta River Trailhead
This trailhead is also on the south side of the range and provides a longer, more scenic approach than the Yellowstone Creek route. From the intersection of Highway 121 and Highway 40 in the town of Roosevelt in the Uinta Basin, drive west on 200 North (Highway 121). Stay on Highway 121 as it quickly bends to the north. Most junctions are marked with signs, but they are very hard to read in the dark. At mile 9.9, just after the actual mile marker 10 at a stop sign, at the hamlet of Neola go straight towards Uintah Canyon. At mile 16.7 continue straight. At mile 18, turn right to Uintah Canyon. At mile 21.9 turn right. At mile 22.2 turn left just after the bridge. Park at the trailhead at mile 25.6.
This approach avoids the crowds of the Henry's Fork approach. From the trailhead (see above) hike about a half mile up the Yellowstone Creek Trail to a junction where you have two choices. You can either continue straight up the Yellowstone Creek Trail for 17 uneventful miles to Anderson Pass. This avoids the ups and downs and makes for easy route-finding but the hike through the Yellowstone Creek valley is in the forest nearly the whole way. Only the last couple miles are in the nice alpine meadows above treeline. Yellowstone Creek does form a narrow, deep gorge that you'll pass by through the trees which may make the boring hike a little more interesting.
The other option is to turn right shortly after the trailhead and hike the Swift Creek trail to Milk Lake. This trail is much more scenic as it hikes on a ridge crest for a while and passes by a few large beaver ponds before reaching Deer Lake, which is at 10,200 feet and 6 miles from the trailhead. After Deer Lake, continue on the trail and after 0.75 miles, you will come to a junction. Turn left and follow the trail past Farmers Lake and over 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 route 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.
This is the most popular approach for Kings Peak coming from the north side of the range. The trail heads in a Southerly direction on a gradual rise. After about 3 miles and 430 feet of elevation gain, you will intersect with the Alligator Lake trail that heads off to the right. Continue straight for another 2.4 miles where you will come across a sign for the Elkhorn stream crossing to the left. At this point turn left (east) and cross via a log bridge. After crossing continue heading in a southerly direction for another couple miles where you reach Dollar Lake. This is a good spot to camp or you can continue on and setup camp closer to Gunsight Pass. Continue on the main trail to Gunsight Pass and hike the ridge over Gunsight Pass Peak and continue down to Anderson Pass where the North Ridge Route of Kings Peak takes off.Uinta River Trail
This approach starts on the south side of the range but approaches Kings Peak from the east. This route is very long tough and rarely done. Allow 2-4 days for this 50 mile round-trip hike. From the trailhead at 7800 feet elevation, follow the trail north along the Uinta River. After about 3.6 miles, you will reach a junction where you turn left and cross Sheep Bridge and onto the Chain Lakes Trail. Follow this steep trail to the Chain Lakes Basin. Lower Chain Lake is about 9.2 miles from the trailhead and at 10,580 feet elevation. The 4th Chain Lake is 1.8 miles beyond at 10,900 feet elevation. Any of these lakes make a fine campsite. From the upper Chain Lake, take the trail over Roberts Pass to the Lake Atwood Basin, and then over Trail Rider Pass to Painter Basin. You could follow the trail all the way to Anderson Pass, but the shortest way is to climb the east face of Kings directly and moot the north ridge. There is a lot of boulder hopping but doesn't exceed Class 2.
North Ridge Standard Route - Class 1+
This is the standard route on Kings Peak and regardless on which approach you take (with the possible exception of the Uinta River Trail), the route begins at Anderson Pass. From the pass, hike south on the ridge to the summit. It's actually pretty simple and only takes about an hour from Anderson Pass and there is a worn boot path most of the way.
Kings-Emmons Ridge Run
The Kings to Emmons ridge-run is arguably the highest sustained ridge-crest in the entire Rocky Mountain chain outside of Colorado. It provides a fantastic peak-bagging adventure and endurance test as you will pass over seven 13ers if you complete the ridge. For climbers wanting to try this long hike, the best place to start is the Yellowstone/Swift Creek trailhead and make a huge loop out of the ridge. When I did it, I hiked all the way up to Anderson Pass on the Yellowstone Creek Trail all night long, then headed south on the ridge getting the first five of the peaks before tiring out and bailing down into the upper Timothy Lakes basin and hiking out the Swift Creek Trail. You can get all 7 peaks before descending Swift Creek but make sure there is no chance for thunderstorms to develop as you will be way above treeline for many hours. Other nearby 13ers like "Henry's Fork Peak" and Gunsight Peak can also be tagged. The loop can also be done in the opposite direction. The peaks on the ridge from north to south are as follows:
|Name||Elevation (ft)||Prominence (ft)|
|South Kings Peak||13,512||372|
|"Trail Rider Peak"||13,247||362|
ORANGE: Yellowstone Creek Approach - Class 1
BLUE: Henry's Fork Approach via Gunsight Pass - Class 1
GREEN: Uinta River Approach and East Slopes Route - Class 2
RED: North Ridge Standard Route - Class 1+
When To Climb
Generally the best conditions for climbing Kings Peak occur from June through September, depending on snow and weather conditions. It is certainly climbable any time of year however winter ascents will require skis, lots of warm clothing, a liberal dose of spare time and a love for self inflicted torture!
Camping can be found at any of the trailheads without charge and there is no red tape. Camping is also available at any of the lakes on the flanks of the peak. Water can be found in abundance in all the basins on all sides of the mountain. Many people camp at one of the many ponds and tarns north of Gunsight Pass on the Henry's Fork approach or around treeline on the Yellowstone Creek approach. Practice Leave No Trace policies!
Information regarding the conditions for climbing Kings Peak can be obtained from:
Wasatch-Cache National Forest
8236 Federal Bldg.
125 S. State Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84128
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