South Fork RoadI climbed beautiful Deseret Peak on July 5th, 2006 and then headed to her neighbor Flat Top Mountain. It’s a relatively short drive between the 2 mountains, so I had plenty of time to get to the trailhead. I drove through Grantsville and the Tooele, stopped for a good hot meal and then continued out of town heading for Ophir.
Ophir seemed like a nice town. I continued through town following Dean Molen’s directions to find the trailhead. I found his directions need to be updated because the road up South Fork Canyon has been blocked at Ophir Creek. How can this be? How can I get to the trailhead? I was concerned. I turned around and drove back towards Ophir looking for a way around the blockade. About halfway back to town I found a road that crossed the creek and headed south up the mountain. This road is narrow, very rocky, and steep. I could see tracks from quads on the road, but I didn’t feel right taking my Tacoma up these tracks. My biggest problem now was I couldn’t find a place wide enough to turn around. I continued up until I had climbed at least 1,000 feet before I could get turned around. I think this road continues up to the 8,000 ft intersection mentioned in other Trip Reports and Route Descriptions, but I didn’t know if I was on private property or if the road indeed went all the way through.
I decided I would hike from where the South Fork Road was blocked, elevation 6,700 ft. There were no No Trespassing signs and I felt like I would at least be on public land. By now it was late afternoon and I had to find a place to car camp for the night. It didn’t feel right to camp at the trailhead along Ophir Road so I headed back towards Tooele and found a nice place called Settlement Canyon next to a reservoir and a creek and they only charged me $5 for the night.
The next morning, I got up early and was at the Flat Top trailhead just as it was getting light. Ophir Creek was easy to cross and then I headed up the road. This is cattle country and there were lots of cattle on or near the road. They moved out of the way as I passed and I made good progress up the road. The hiking was easy and I found the road junction at 7,500 ft and went right. This didn’t seem right since I could see Flat Top/Lewiston off to the left. I trusted Dean’s directions and headed right.
Soon I reached the 8,000 ft intersection and turned left towards the mountain here. The road petered out soon and I had to look carefully to find the trail. As you come into the little clearing at the end of the road, the trail is on you left at about 10 o’clock. I erected a small 4 stone cairn to mark the spot, but it was probably knocked down by cows or hunters by the time I got back to my truck.
The trail makes several switchbacks up the hill directly east of the intersection and you gain about 1,000 feet quickly. Once on top of this first hill, the trail meanders around some knobs and then traverses on the south side of point 9654. The trail dips through a wet brushy area before switchbacking and coming back up to another little saddle east of point 9654 and west of Lewiston Peak. I didn’t expect the trail to dip so much here and I think it dropped about 100 ft in elevation. Before the trail switchbacked up to this saddle I saw a cow elk with her calf. That was nice to see some wildlife at least.
Once up to the saddle at about 9,600 ft I left the trail and headed cross country directly up the ridge towards Lewiston Peak. I stayed on top of the ridge as much as possible following a climber’s use trail of sorts. It could have been an elk trail also. The hiking was slower here but I kept at it and eventually came up to the summit of Lewiston Peak. I was surprised to find a nice register to sign on this summit.
I didn’t stay long because I still had to head north over to Flat Top. Again I was following climber’s or elk use trails down Lewiston and then along the ridge towards Flat Top. I stayed on the west side of the ridgeline, but when I got close to Flat Top, I got right on top of the ridge and surprised a large herd of elk that were just below the ridgeline on the east side. They didn’t like me there and were soon moving downhill away from me. In about 20 minutes the entire heard of about 100 elk had disappeared far down the valley into a forested area. Now I know why the locals don’t want anyone up here in their mountains. They want to keep all the elk to themselves.
On the summit, I rested, signed the register and ate lunch. I still had a long hike back down to my truck, so I didn’t linger too long. I headed down the same way I came up. I skirted Lewiston Peak on the northwest side instead of heading all the way back up to the summit. The hike down was uneventful except that it was warm now on the South Fork Road and the flies from the cows were bothersome.
This 5 mile hike with 2,700 ft of elevation gain was extended to 12.2 miles and gained 4,400 ft hiking from the Ophir Road. It took me 7 hours for the full hike. This was my 7th hike in 7 days, all of them were P5k’s. Tomorrow on to Mt. Nebo .