As with many of the peaks in the Uinta Mountains, “Penny Nickell Peak” (Peak 12,127) has no official name. This peak usually gets ignored and is sandwiched between the higher "Cleve Peak" on the north and “West Clover Mountain” on the south. The peak has 345 feet prominence above the connecting saddle. The peak is unofficially named because of its proximity Penny Nickell Lake. Interestingly, even Penny Nickell Lake is unofficially named as per the USGS, but isolated and seldom visited Penny Nickell Lake appears in a booklet and several maps by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. They use two l's for the spelling, so I assume that Penny Nickell was a person(?).
“Cleve Peak”, “Penny Nickell Peak” and “West Clover Peak” are the three ranked 12,000+ foot peaks along a long and high ridge between Fox-Queant Pass and the Rock Lakes. All three peaks lie on the same ridge between the upper Uinta River drainage and the West Fork Whiterocks River drainage. There are actually several summits on the ridge, but these three have over 300 foot prominence from the connecting saddles and would be considered individual peaks by most standards.
These peaks in this area are rounded and not as rugged as some of the peaks in some other parts of the Uintas, but are worthwhile destinations. These peaks are almost never visited, but are some of the easier to access 12'ers in the Uinta Mountains. The mountain itself isn’t overly rugged, but does have some steep slopes surrounding the peak. The standard routes are walk ups, but there is boulder-hopping involved. Further, while most of the 12'ers in the Uinta Mountains require multi-day approaches, you can climb several peaks here in a really long one-day hike.
Like all peaks in the Uinta Mountains, except for Bald Mountain, Penny Nickell Peak has no trail to the summit. It can be climbed on a very long day trip, but the area is surrounded by many nice backcountry campsites in the basins and around the fishing lakes.
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 Juan Mountains in Colorado, the Uinta Mountains 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.
The Uinta Mountains are very rugged in the northeast section. Beginning at Hayden Peak and east to Mount Lovenia, the Uinta Mountains are not unlike the Tetons or other ranges. East of Lovenia, the peaks are more gentle, with a few rugged peaks (i.e. Red Castle and Henrys Fork Peak) scattered about until you are as far east as the Henrys Fork/Kings Peak area. East of Kings Peak, the Uinta Mountains become very gentle and the peaks are very rounded with only a few scattered cliffs about.
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.
Utah's 12,000+ Foot Peaks With 200+ Feet Prominence
Utah's 12,000+ Foot Peaks With 300+ Feet Prominence
Penny Nickel Peak from West Clover Mountain.
There are several driving routes to the trailhead, but this is the quickest. A good road map is needed.
From Roosevelt, take State Highway 121 north. This is where the elbow in Highway 40 is, right downtown, so the turnoff is easy to locate. Stay on Highway 121 north, follow it as is makes a sharp turn at Neola and heads due east. The highway will reach a "T" and turn south. At the "T", turn left (north) to the town of Whiterocks. From Whiterocks, drive northwest along the paved road. Not long after passing the fish hatchery, will be another junction. Go straight (not left). The road heads north, then east, then north again. At the next intersection, go straight and to the Elkhorn Guard Station.
Turn left and continue on the Elkhorn Loop Road, up Pole Mountain, and to Forest Road 110 before heading to Pole Creek Lake. Don't take the Elkhorn Loop to Pole Creek Lake, but turn right onto Forest Road 110. If you reach Pole Creek Lake, you overshot the turnoff. Follow Forest Road 110 north for about four miles to the signed (for West Fork Whiterocks Trailhead) turnoff to the left. Turn left to the trailhead. Most of the Elkhorn Loop as well as Forest Road 110 is gravel, but usually in good condition for cars, provided you drive slowly.
A moose as seen along the West Fork Whiterocks River.
Routes OverviewSuggested Routes
Most people will probably climb this peak in conjunction with either Cleve on the north and/or West Clover on the south. To climb the peak separately, the most practical route would be from the saddle north of the peak and between this peak and "Cleve". Routes that look good are marked as red lines on the below map.
If you really want a wilderness experience, try climbing Penny Nickell peak from the west. The basin holding Wild Goose Lake and Meadow Lake is certainly one of the least visited basins in the Uinta Mountains. All the basins on the west can be reached by traversing along the benchlands south from Fox and Crescent Lakes to the north. You could also cross the rugged passes north and south of Penny Nickell Peak as well.
The Purple Route is my route over all three peaks. The Red Routes are suggested routes that I have not tried, but look good.
The Grand Tour
It is possible to climb all three peaks mentioned above in one shot
. From the trailhead, you will climb over West Clover, Penny Nickell and North Cleve Peaks. This is a great route if no thunderstorms are present, but be aware that you will be above the timberline for a long distance, and this area receives many electrical storms. Don't attempt it if there are and thunderstorms present. This route can be done in one very long day for a strong climber.
See the route pages for details.
Some of the rocks on the ridge just south of the summit.
No permits are required. Normal wilderness rules apply.
There are many good campsites on the access road to the trailhead.
The peak is surrounded by many beautiful backcountry campsites as well. Queant Lake is beautiful, but is the most popular camping place in the area, so if you want something more quiet, it is better to find somewhere else. Cleveland Lake is also fairly popular as well.
Cleveland Lake makes a nice campsite.
When to Climb
July through September is the normal hiking/climbing season here. Mosquitoes can be especially thick in July. Winter road closures are a really long way from the trailhead, and climbing these peaks would require well over a week's time when the roads are closed. It is highly probable that these peaks haven't yet seen a winter ascent. If you did try it, I would estimate that it may take ten days or so (withouth a snowmobile).
Penny Nickell and the surrounding peaks as seen in April.
Mountain ConditionsWeather Forecast for Central Uinta Mountains
Here are some average highs and lows from the 12,139 foot elevation (3700 meters) in the Uintas (about the same altitude as the summit):