South Ridge via Squaw Basin / Rock Lakes

South Ridge via Squaw Basin / Rock Lakes

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 40.71830°N / 110.6443°W
Additional Information Route Type: Mostly trail hiking, with some easy boulder scramb
Additional Information Time Required: A few days
Additional Information Difficulty: Class 2-3
Sign the Climber's Log


This route to the summit of Explorer Peak begins at the Rock Creek Trailhead, just below the Upper Stillwater Dam and Reservoir.

To reach the trailhead take U.S. Highway 40 to the town of Duchesne, Utah. From Duchesne proceed north on Utah State Route 87 for ±15.5 miles. As the road makes a bend to the right (east) turn left on State Highway 134 and proceed north ±3 miles to the town of Mountain Home.

In the center of Mountain Home turn left (west) on Park Avenue (6750 North), at the sign indicating Upper Stillwater Reservoir. Follow the narrow and winding (but paved) road for ±22 miles. Just before reaching the end of the road at Upper Stillwater Dam turn left at the sign indicating the Rock Creek trailhead, and proceed ±0.25 miles to the trailhead parking area. The trailhead is located near the northwest corner of the parking area.

Route Stats

One-Way Hiking Distance: 14.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,593 ft.
Avg. Gain per Mile: 328 ft.
Trailhead Elevation: 8,115 ft.
Summit Elevation: 12,708 ft.

Route Description

For the most part this route to Squaw Basin and Explorer Peak follows a well maintained and easy to follow trail, although there are a number of trail junctions which will be encountered along the way.

From the trailhead the trail contours around the west end of Upper Stillwater Dam, then continues to the far north end of the reservoir. Beyond the reservoir the trail rolls along through forested terrain for another mile or so, to a trail junction (±2.5 miles from TH). Take the right fork which curves east and south, then crosses the Rock Creek river on a well constructed bridge.

Now on the east side of the river the trail continues north until crossing the East Fork Rock Creek on another sturdy bridge. A short distance later another trail junction is reached (±4.0 miles from TH). Take the right fork which immediately begins climbing the slopes to the east via a number of switchbacks.

The trail levels off at ±9,800 feet and continues northeast for a mile or so, passing a large meadow on the right. Just beyond the far east end of the meadow another trail junction is reached (±6.75 miles from TH). Bear left as the trail begins climbing the slopes to the north, where it soon arrives at another trail junction (±7.0 miles from TH).

The right fork of this junction heads east and continues on ±2.0 miles to Squaw Lake. While this may be a suitable location for a base camp, a shorter summit day will be obtained by taking the left for which continues generally north another ±2.5 miles, where it ends at lower Rock Lake (upper Rock Lake is located just out of site a short distance northwest of the lower lake.

From lower Rock Lake look north towards Squaw Peak, whose west ridge descends down to a flat saddle to the west; this saddle is the next objective to head towards (Explorer Peak is still hidden from view behind the ridge well to the north of this saddle). There is no trail beyond Rock Lakes, so head north cross country towards the saddle. Initially there is some brush to contend with, but the terrain soon opens up and becomes easy walking across open alpine meadows.

Pass a small unnamed lake at the base of the saddle, then begin ascending the steep talus slopes leading to the saddle. The slopes are steep and contain some cliff bands, but these can be easily avoided.

Once on the saddle begin making a long and essentially horizontal traverse across the west facing talus slopes, until it is possible to gain the south ridge of Explorer Peak, well to the south of the peak. (From the saddle it is also possible to continue ascending to the northeast until gaining the ridge crest which extends west from Squaw Peak; this will avoid the somewhat tedious traverse across the talus slopes to the west, but will result in more elevation gain/loss).

Once on the south ridge of Explorer, proceed towards the peak. The ridge is long but does not involve any serious obstacles, other than a few small pinnacles which can be easily bypassed by short traverses onto the east side of the ridge. The final 100-feet of the summit block is ascended most easily by moving towards the west side of the ridge.

Essential Gear

This is an easy (although long) trail hike, with some easy boulder hopping - no special equipment will be required.

The meadows surrounding the peak are prime mosquito habitat - insect repellent is a must until late summer.

Water is abundant throughout the area - bring a suitable purification method.



Parents refers to a larger category under which an object falls. For example, theAconcagua mountain page has the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits' asparents and is a parent itself to many routes, photos, and Trip Reports.