"Priord Peak" is a very interesting peak in the Uinta Mountains. The peak has no name, but since it is near Priord Lake, I have called this Priord Peak. When viewed from the north from Priord or Norice Lakes, or from the east and East Ostler/Priord Pass, it appears as a very rugged and steep peak, and appears to be an extremely difficult climb, but in reality the south face is much more gentle, and a realitively easy climb. This peak is a long way from no-where, and completely unknown. This peak is a long way from the nearest road and it sees very few ascents (probably only a handful of people have reached the summit), and so this page will see few hits. All the better. The obscure climbs are what makes the Uinta Mountains so great. Don't expect to see any other people at all (even during summer holidays!) on this or any of the nearby peaks. If you enjoy solitude, these peaks are for you!
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.
Utah's 12,000+ Foot Peaks With 200+ Feet Prominence
Utah's 12,000+ Foot Peaks With 300+ Feet Prominence
Priord Peak (foreground, right of center) viewed from the summit of Yard Peak.
There are two main trailheads for the approach to the base of the mountain, and they are a long ways apart.
Hayden Pass/Highline Trailhead
The Highline Trailhead is located along State Highway 150 33.2 miles east and north of Kamas, or you could drive south from Evanston. You could also start at Mirror Lake, but you must pay to park there, and there isn't as much room to park.
Priord Lake Trailhead
First you must drive Highway 150 south from Evanston Wyoming, or east and then north from Kamas Utah. The North Slope (gravel) road heads east from Highway 150 either just south of the Bear River Lodge, or two miles north of the Bear River Visitor Center. After following the North Slope Road for two miles, turn right and follow the main road all the way (don’t turn into the scout camp) to the trailhead. The road is usually a washboard, but any car should be able to make it.
Christmas Meadows Trailhead
This is another possible route, but the approach to the peak is rather difficult from this direction, therefore the route/approach will be mentioned only breifly. This road to the trailhead also leaves from Highway 150. The Christmas Meadows (gravel) Road leaves Highway 150 and heads SE from about .7 miles south of the Bear River Visitor Center and right at milepost 46. Follow the gravel road to the trailhead.
Priord Peak from near Norice Lake.
These are meant to be overviews only, so for more details, please see the route pages.
Detailed map of the final portions of the routes to Priord Peak. Blue = Rock Creek and South Face Route. Red = Priord Lake Route.
ROCK CREEK AND SOUTH FACE ROUTE
This is the easiest route up Priord Peak, but it is a 13 mile hike (each way) just to get to the base of the mountain. The approach is very scenic though, so the extra mileage is not a burden. Breifly put: From the trailhead, follow the Highline Trail to the junction with the Mirror Lake Trail. Always stay on the highline trail and continue on the trail towards Rocky Sea Pass, passing several junctions along the way. Rocky Sea Pass is 8.2 miles from the trailhead. Continue east and down the steep east side of the pass to a junction. Leave the Highline trail here, turning left on the head of Rock Creek Trail. After another mile, take a right at the junction with the Lightning Lake Trail. The lake is another mile beyond. There are two other forks, and take a left at each one. Lightning Lake makes a good basecamp to explore the area and climb the nearby peaks. From the north end of Lightning Lake, follow the Head of Rock Creek Trail east and past Helen Lake. At any location between Helen Lake and the stream crossing just to the east, you can scramble up the steep slope to the north and to the summit of Priord Peak. There is much boulder-hopping and the route is steep, but this is still the easiest route to the summit. This route is 27 miles round trip and usually takes three days. Many days or weeks can be spent exploring the area and climbing the peaks along the way as this is some real wilderness country surrounded by countless peaks and lakes. See the route page for more details.
The south face of Priord Peak is the left side of this photo of the peak as taken from "South Yard Peak".
PRIORD LAKE ROUTE
This is the shortest route, but it is more difficult than the Rock Creek and South Face Route. Breifly put: From the trailhead at 9150 feet elevation, follow the East Fork Bear River Trail east. There is a 4-way trail junction just after the trailhead, but go straight (the trail that crosses this one is the Bear River-Smiths Fork Trail. After 4 miles, you will reach a trail junction. Turn right here on the trail posted for Priord Lake. Follow the trail across the good bridge and along the river up to Norice Lake, which is 4.75 miles from the junction and at 10,450 feet elevation. There are a few stream crossings and the trail is not exactly where the topo maps (Red Knob) show it. Priord Lake is another mile up the bench to the SW. The trail is very faded, but cross-country travel is easy. From Priord Lake, head south up the very steep north facing slope to Ostler/Priord Pass. Sometimes an ice axe is needed before late July. Look for an old trail to the pass. From the pass the rugged ridge can be followed west to the summit, but you must drop quite a ways to the south and off the ridge crest itself. This is a rugged route to the summit. See the route page for more detail. This route is 23 miles round trip.
The rugged east ridge (left) of Priord Peak.
CHRISTMAS MEADOWS AND AMETHYST LAKE ROUTE
This is another possible route, but the part of the route between Amethyst Lake and West Ostler Pass is very rugged, steep, and covered with loose rock. It may make an interesting snow climb early season, but at all other times, this is not a recommended route. I descended the pass to Amethyst Lake once (not on this peak climb) and that was enough of that route. Breifly put, you will hike up Stillwater Fork to Ostler Fork. From there, turn left on the Ostler Fork Trail to Amethyst Lake. From Amethyst Lake climb the steep north facing headwall while route finding around several cliffs. This route is extremely steep and laced with loose rock and can be hazardous unless snow covered. When it is snow covered (before mid July) and ice axe is absolutely necessary, and you had better know how to use it. If you can manage to make it to the pass, the rest of the ridge NE to the summit shouldn't be that bad. This is a scenic route, but is not the recommended route to this peak because of the climb to the pass. It is better to see Amethyst Lake and the pass on a different trip. The side trip up the pass from the Lightning Lake Route is mentioned on the Rock Creek and South Face Route Page. The route to the pass from the south side of the mountain is much easier.
There is a $3 access fee for parking at the trailheads along Highway 150. Other than that, there is no red tape.
When To Climb
Mid-July through Mid-September is the normal hiking/climbing season. This mountain would be pretty tough to get to outside the summer season, and the winter road closures are a long way from the trailheads.
Ostler/Priord Pass can be blocked by a huge snowbank (and sometimes a cornice) before mid July or even later, so make sure to take an ice axe just in case if heading out before mid-July.
Priord Peak viewed from Priord Lake. August 9, 2007. 2007 was an extremely dry and hot year, so there is usually some snow on around on the northern slopes.
Plan on three days from any route. The Priord Lake Route is the shortest route, and can be done in two long days by a very strong climber, but three days is still recommended.
There are many campgrounds along Highway 150, an on route to the Highline Trailhead, but expect them to be crowded on summer weekends, especially around holidays. There ar infomal campsites along the road to the Priord Lake Trailhead. Backcountry campsites are plentiful along all routes up to the timberline. The area around the peak isn't visited that often, and on my many backpacking trips in the area, I've always had a choice of any number of large lakes to have all to myself.
Contact the ranger station in Kamas for current road and trail conditions. Their phone number is 801-783-4338.
Weather 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):