Mount Emmons is the 4th highest peak in Utah, after Kings Peak, South Kings Peak, and Gilbert Peak. Mount Emmons isn't really rugged, but it's a massive mountain and is recognizable for miles around. The peak is a 30 mile round trip hike from the nearest road. Those not familiar with the Uintas may be surprized to hear that Mount Emmons is still one (out of 19) of the closest 13'ers in Utah to any road.
The Uinta Mountains are one of the few mountain ranges in North America that run east to west rather than north to south. Within the Uinta Mountains are about 2000 lakes, and some 900-1000 are full of trout. Along with the San Juans in Colorado, the Uintas have more contiguous area above timberline than any other area in the Continental United States. This is a beautiful area with many lakes, meadows, wildflowers, and some rugged peaks. Solitude is usually easy to come by once you leave the popular fishing holes behind.
One thing that makes Utah's 13'ers different, then say the Colorado 14'ers, is that the distances from the nearest roads are usually much greater for the Utah 13'ers.
Utah's 12,000+ Foot Peaks With 200+ Feet Prominence
Utah's 12,000+ Foot Peaks With 300+ Feet Prominence
Mt. Emmons (2nd from the left) from the SW on May 31 2008.
Getting ThereUinta River Route:
Note: These directions were updated as of November 2009 by SP member ZeeJay:
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.
Swift Creek Route:
First drive to the town of Duchene, which is along US Highway 40. From 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 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.
Dry Gulch Trailhead:
From the Yellowstone River Power Plant mentioned above, drive north along the Yellowstone River Road to the first major road heading east (right). With a map in hand, follow this gravel road east to Dry Gulch. From Dry Gulch, turn left and follow the road north through Dry Gulch to its end.
North slopes of ridgeline north of Emmons (south of Painter Basin) from Upper Uinta River drainage (August 1995).
The below information is meant to be an overview only, so for more details, see the route pages.
Uinta River Route
This is the easiest route to the summit of Mount Emmons. Teh route follows a good trail to the Chain Lakes (9.2-11 miles) where a base camp can be made. Form the Chain Lakes, the route to the summit has 2450 feet of altitude gain over two miles from 4th Chain Lake. The total distance from trailhead to summit is 26-28 miles round trip (depending on route variations) with 5640 feet elevation gain.
It is possible to climb Mount Emmons from Lake Atwood, which is the next basin beyond the Chain Lakes, but this is a longer route. See the route page for more details.
Swift Creek Route
Some say that this route is the easiest route to climb Mount Emmons, but I found it slightly more difficult than the route from the Uinta River. From the trailhead at the Swift Creek Campground, this route follows a good trail to the Timothy Lakes Basin.
There are several possible routes up Mount Emmons from the Timothy Lakes Basin and all are very steep. The total distance from the lake to the summit is 2.75 miles with 2440 feet elevation gain depending on route variations, but the last part up to the pass is very steep.
The total distance from the trailhead to the summit is about 25 miles round trip with 5440 feet elevation gain. See the route page for more details.
Mount Emmons from South Emmons.
Dry Gulch Route
This route is very seldom used and the trails marked on the map bear no resemblance to reality. The area has several long faded trails and a few old logging roads, but no marked trails. To complicate things, sometime before 1997, a huge storm caused a blow-down of several of the trees around the area south and east of Bollie Lake, which obscured what old trails there were. The route description will be rather brief as you must be able to route-find on your own to follow the route. A GPS comes in very handy in the forest.
This route follows and old track to Heller Lake and then follows an off trail route over into the drainage that is west of Jefferson Park and then to Bollie Lake.
From the lake, the route heads heads north to the ridge over Flat Top Benchmark (12,194 feet), and then along the long high ridge to Mount Emmons. You will climb over several highpoints along the way.
The total round trip distance from the trailhead to the summit of Mount Emmons is about 31 miles with much boulder-hopping. See the route page for more and important details.
This is a spectacular ridge run. Using the same standards that are used for the Colorado 14’ers, this ridge route has no less than eight 13’ers. This is the highest continuous ridge in Utah, one of the highest in the United States, and certainly the highest in the United States outside Colorado.
Briefly put, you will climb Kings Peak from the Uinta River or Swift Creek and follow the ridge all the way to Mount Emmons, where you will descend either the Uinta River or Swift Creek routes back to your vehicle. The route usually takes 4-5 days. See the route page for much more detail.
Mt. Emmons (far left), July 2001, taken near base of Kings Pk.
No permits are required.
When To Climb
Mid-July through Mid-September is the normal hiking season. In winter the road is opened to within 4 miles of the Swift Creek Trailhead. This is the only practical way in for a winter climb.
Emmons as seen from Kings Peak in late March.
Time Needed for Climb
Climbing Mount Emmons from any of the described routes is a three day trip. The entire Kings-Emmons Ridge will take 4-5 days to complete for most people.
The Uinta Basin (east) side of Mount Emmons as seen from Leidy Peak. October 1, 2005.
There are campgrounds at both the Swift Creek and Uinta River Trailhead. No reservations are needed. There are also many informal campsites near Dry Gulch.
There are many backcountry campsites along the trails. Some of the best ones for a are mentioned in the route descriptions.
All lakes mentioned in the route descriptions, and also the Uinta River and Swift Creeks have great fishing.
Information regarding the conditions for climbing Mount Emmons can be obtained from Wasatch-Cache National Forest, 8236 Federal Bldg., 125 S. State Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84128, (801)524-3900.
Weather Forecast for Central Uinta Mountains
Here are some average highs and lows from the 13,123 foot elevation (4000 meters) in the Uintas (about the same altitude as the summit):