ApproachFirst, drive to the town of Duchesne, which is along US Highway 40. From Duchesne, 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.
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Route DescriptionFrom 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 the trailhead (8000 feet elevation) at the Swift Creek Campground, follow the trail north. After just a short distance, you will reach a junction. Take a right here on the Swift Creek Trail. The trail switchbacks onto a ridge high above and to the west of Swift Creek so make sure to take plenty of water. After following the ridge for a few miles, the trail levels out and eventually reaches Swift Creek. The trail continues to follow Swift Creek, passing many beaver dams and ponds, crossing it twice on bridges 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 .75 miles, you will come to a junction. Turn left and folow 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. From Milk Lake, just continue contouring along the long and scenic bench, staying west of the Kings Emmons Ridge, South Kings Peak, and Kings Peak. One near Anderson Pass, climb up to the pass. If you head west a bit, it will be easier. From Anderson Pass, follow the ridge south over King Peak and then South Kings.
From here, you continue following the main ridge south to Mount Emmons, passing over Peak 13,306; Peak 13,387 (“Painter Peak”); Peak 13,247 (“Trail Rider Peak”); Peak 13,287 (“Roberts Peak”), and Peak 13,068 (“North Emmons”). It is a long traverse and you must do it in good weather. Most of the ridge is class 2+, but there are a few short class 3 and class 3+ sections.
Once you reach the summit of Emmons, there are several possible routes down Mount Emmons from the Timothy Lakes Basin. All are very steep. The route described here is just one possibility, and I believe it is the easiest route. From the summit of Emmons, backtrack along the ridge to the northwest to the saddle marked as 12,567 feet on the topo map. The basin is visible far below. Climb down to the basin. It is very steep, but manageable, but you have to be careful on the boulders.
From the basin, head west to East Timothy Lakes. You will pass through intermitted beautiful meadows, stunted timber patches, and swampy areas before reaching the lake. The total distance from summit to the lake is 2.75 miles with 2440 feet elevation loss, but the first part below the pass is very steep.
From East Timothy Lake, follow the trail to the SW for 1.2 miles to a junction close to Deer Lake. You have now reached your ascent route and simply have to reverse it back to the trailhead.
Time Needed For ClimbMost climbers will need 4-5 days to complete the route.
Essential GearThis ridge is very long, and completely above timberline. The weather is the number one concern. Thunderstorms and even summer snowstorms are very common. Bring a good pair of boots, and a pair that won't wear out after many miles of off-trail hiking/climbing. Since this is a multi-day trip, bring full camping gear.