OverviewMount Holmes is located in the southern Henry Mountains, about 40 miles south of Hanksville, Utah. Bordered by Lake Powell to the east, the southern Henry Mountains consist of two peaks, Mount Holmes (7998’) and a few miles south, Mount Ellsworth (8235’). Both peaks are an interesting mix of sandstone and granite, the sandstone at the base of the peaks and granite towards the top. These peaks are also known as the “Little Rockies”, if you’ve seen them you’ll know why, they’re very steep and rugged.
From any distance, Mount Holmes is impressive; it has a several hundred foot high summit block with a sheer west face that will make your head turn as you drive by on highway 276. The actual summit is furthest east and cannot be seen from the closest stretch of 276 directly west. The summit is difficult to determine until you are actually on top of it, even while hiking up, the intimidating western summit block looks highest.
Getting to the summit Mount Holmes is unique and scenic and steep. First you will pass by a sandstone wash (similar to a slot canyon), then ascend a sandstone ridge which turns into granite higher up. Route finding along the ridge is fairly easy, unfortunately, depending on your skills, the entire route to the summit can be kept at only class 2, though you will probably run into some short sections of class 3. Nonetheless, Mount Holmes is a fun hike with excellent scenery.
In my opinion, I enjoyed the views from Mount Holmes better than some of the higher peaks in the area, such as Mount Ellen. The views from Mount Holmes are expansive and scenic, but not so high like you are “flying over” the area and details are washed out. From the summit of Mount Holmes, you’ll have an excellent view of the Lake Powell area to your east, followed by Abajo Peak (60 miles). To the south is nearby Mount Ellsworth, followed by more Lake Powell area and Navajo Mountain, almost in AZ, 55 miles away. To the west is the Aquarius Plateau, about 60 miles away. To the north is the higher, northern Henry Mountains; though Mount Hillers blocks most of the view. Looking northeast, the La Sal Mountains can be seen about 85 miles away.
An interesting aspect about the Henry Mountains is they contain 5 peaks with more than 2000 feet of prominence. Mount Holmes is the lowest of the major summits, but it still has 2298 feet of prominence, a list can be found here.
One nice aspect about the approach is that this mountain is easily accessible. Paved highway 276 is only a couple miles from the peak.
The route I chose to describe for the page is, in my opinion, the easiest and most scenic. There is a dirt road that gets you closer to the peak but the ridge that you will ascend is steeper, looser with more brush and some traversing. I’ve done both routes and found the one described better for the page.
From Salt Lake City (273 miles) :
Head south on I-15 for approximately 50 miles to the town of Spanish Fork, in Spanish Fork take US highway 6 towards Price. Follow US highway 6 to I-70. Take I-70 11 miles west to the highway 24 exit to Lake Powell and Hanksville. Follow highway 24 south to Hanksville, then take highway 95 south for 26.5 miles to highway 276. Take highway 276 south for 15 miles and park, this is where the route begins. See route description for further info.
When To Climb
Fall, winter and spring are the best times to visit this area. Summer temperatures can be over 100. If there have been recent storms, be careful when ascending/descending the peak, snow could make the hike slippery and it is already very steep.
I happened to visit the peak in the spring when the area was very green. There were numerous types of flowers and cactus in bloom, spring is a recommended time to visit.
I would recommend camping at Star Springs Campground, there is water and toilets. There are also trees around, a nice desert oasis. There are also numerous opportunities for undeveloped camping off the road, since its BLM land. To get to the Star Spring Campground, drive south for 17 miles on highway 276 from highway 95. Take a right and drive almost 4 miles to the campground.
Red Tape & USGS Quads
No permits are required. Please follow wilderness area rules.
A predicted forecast for the area can be found here.
Local weather for Hanksville, Utah can be found here.