Sometimes the description is better than the actual execution
On the surface, Monte Cristo Peak has all the makings of a high adventure climb. She towers 9,148 feet above sea level, has 1,568 feet of prominence and is rated as the 716th highest peak in Utah. Any sensible summitposter reading the stats would be salivating over the prospect of bagging a remote peak in the middle of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest. The good people of the Utah Department of Transportation, however, rendered all of that irrelevant by building a highway within a half mile of the summit and made this ascent suitable for small children and the cataclysmically out of shape. The conquest of Monte Cristo Peak is now merely a leg-stretcher on the Ogden River Scenic Byway. Still, the views are nice and, if you are ever in the area with an hour to kill, Monte Cristo is worth getting out of the car for.
Monte Cristo, located in the Northern Wasatch in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest is the high point on Highway 39 from Huntsville to Woodruff. It sits just east Utah Highway 39 between mile marker 43 and 44 and has dirt road #68 running on the west side along the dirt Wasatch Ridge Road. The parking lot is a primitive camping area just off the highway. Topo maps show a dirt road and/or a trail going to the summit, but it is mostly overgrown (it’s visible though). From the parking lot, you can see the remnants of an old road running up the south side of the hill. Simply follow the old track to the top, bushwhacking as necessary. Total distance from parking lot to summit is about ½ mile with a 300 foot elevation gain. The summit is marked by an old wooden post and there is a benchmark about 10 feet north of it.
From the summit you get an outstanding 360-degree view of the Monte Cristo Range and Cache Valley. Mt McKinnon (9081) is just to the north with Highway 39 running next to it and a dirt road over its summit. Immediately to the south of Monte Cristo is a knob known as “Small Monte” (8980).
From Lists of John
Monte Cristo Peak
UT Peaks Rank: 716
Coords: 41.4218°N, 111.5174°W
Isolation: 14.45 miles
Distance: ~ ½ mile Trailhead to Summit
Trailhead Location: 41.417951,-111.522045
Vertical Trailhead to Summit: ~300’
Time required: 1 hour roundtrip
There is, of course, the option to upgrade your Monte Cristo ascent by simply waiting until winter. Highway 39 closes during winter months at mile marker #38 (about 5 miles from Monte Cristo’s Peak). The gate area has a huge parking lot and is a great launch point for attempting a winter climb. The grade to the peak following the road isn’t particularly steep and easily cross country skied/snowshoed. In addition, snowmobiling to the summit is also an option.
The area also has numerous dirt roads suitable for ATVs, dirt bikes and horseback riding.
It looks like this is a popular deer/elk hunting area with plenty of access to remote corners of the Wasatch-Cache National forest. Keep that in mind for both hunting and hiking---wear the orange during archery and rifle hunting seasons.
The area is a mecca for snowmobilers and there are several large snowmobile complexes including:
Curtis Creek 41 Miles of trail
Sinks Trail 27.6 Miles of trail
Millie Springs 4.9 Miles of trail
Ant Flat 14.6 Miles of trail
Rock Creek 3.8 Miles of trail
Getting There and Red Tape
From Ogden take Highway 39 up the canyon toward Huntsville. At Huntsville continue on the Ogden River Scenic Byway (still Highway 39) through the canyon, past numerous camping sites, up the mountain to past mile marker 43. You will see a dirt road (#68) to your right and Monte Cristo right in front of you. Park in the parking area (doubles as a primitive camp site) and proceed the 1/2 mile up the mountain.
Red tape is minimal as you are on USFS lands in Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Along the road on the way up from Ogden, there is a good deal of private land in area which is clearly marked as Private Property, Do Not Trespass. My gut is these areas are de facto game preserves and they want to limit the number of hunters trespassing through their property. In addition, the USFS cautions you about disturbing the wildlife (particularly deer and moose) during calving season.
Motor vehicles of all sorts are allowed on Wasatch Ridge Road, including ATVs, dirt bikes, mountain bikes, cars, snowmobiles and pickups.
Camping in the area is legion and there are 8 campsites on Highway 39 near Huntsville. These small camping areas are along the river. The South Fork River Recreation complex is a 3-mile chunk of national forest with access to the River. These campsites include:
South Fork Campground
Perception Park Campground/Picnic ground
Upper Meadows Campground
Lower Meadows Campground
The big campsite in the area, however, is Monte Cristo Campground & Cabin, Utah located at Latitude: 41.46139 Longitude: -111.49694, 22 miles southwest from Woodruff on the Ogden River Scenic Byway (Utah Highway 39). This campsite is situated at 8400 feet and has 47 spots and two group sites. In the winter, from 15 November to 1 May there is a rustic cabin for skiers or snowmobilers. The cabin has propane heat, lights, cook stove and an outhouse for the true professionals. It sleeps 10. Call the ranger district 801-625-5112 for reservations.
Address: Ogden Ranger District
Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
507 25th Street Suite 103
Ogden, UT 84401
Flora and Fauna
Animal life is typical of Northern Utah Ranges and consists of moose, wild-turkey, grouse, deer, elk, squirrels, rabbits, bobcat and fox. If you look closely along the route you’ll see lots of signs of animal inhabitants including dens, scat, and tracks. Rattlesnakes are very common along the route, so exercise caution. Bugs are pretty minimal and there doesn’t seem to be too much of a mosquito problem but DEET always comes in handy.
Handy Links and Contactshttp://www.utah.com/snowmobile/monte_cristo.htm
Handy phone numbers
Local conditions and grooming; Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation
801-538-7433 (Salt Lake City area)
Cache Valley Visitors Bureau - 435-752-2161 or 800-882-4433
Bear Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-448-2327
Box Elder County Travel Council - 435-734-2634
Ogden Valley Business Association: (801) 745-2550
Golden Spike Empire Travel Region - 800-255-8824
Ogden Convention and Visitors Bureau - 866-867-8824