Thayne Peak is located in the Central Wasatch Mountains above Salt Lake City. The mountain separates Thayne Canyon from Porter Fork. Millcreek Canyon is located north of Thayne Peak. It is one of the major canyons that cuts through the Wasatch Mountains. The canyon is heavily forested compared to the more alpine canyons farther south. The slopes of Thayne Peak are also surrounded by trees. It is not as well known as many of the higher peaks even though the summit is a short distance along the ridge from the trail.
The name of the peak can be seen spelled as Thayne or Thaynes depending on which map or book you look at. The Wasatch Mountain Club map labels it as Thayne so that is the name I will use. The peak can be reached from many trails but the most common include the Desolation Trail and Thayne Canyon. The Desolation Trail is one the longest trails in the Central Wasatch. It can be followed from the top of Millcreek Canyon all the way down to this trailhead. The entire Desolation Trail hike is between eighteen to twenty-four miles in length.
The view from the summit of Thayne Peak is very good. Across the canyon to the north is Millcreek Ridge with Grandeur Peak, Church Fork Peak, and Mount Aire. To the southwest is Mount Olympus and the Wildcat Ridge. Looking south and southeast is Mount Raymond and Gobblers Knob. Peak 9,776 is located south of Thayne Peak and is another worthy summit in the area. It forms the triple divide between Millcreek Canyon, Big Cottonwood Canyon, and Neffs Canyon. To the west is Salt Lake Valley and farther behind are the Oquirrh Mountains.
When driving up Millcreek Canyon, you will notice several limestone cliffs and walls on both sides of the canyon. The Thaynes Formation was deposited about 200 million years ago. It consists predominantly of sandy, gray limestone and green-gray limey siltstones. The Thaynes Formation is noted for its rich and varied collection of marine fossils. It contains fossils of crustaceans, fish, bivalves, gastropods, ammonites, shark teeth, crinoids, brachiopods, microfossils, and fragmentary remains of an early ichthyosaur. Thayne Peak and Thayne Canyon received its name from this rock formation.
To get to the Desolation Trailhead, drive from Salt Lake City, head south on either I-15, State Street, or 700 East. After a few miles, get onto I-80 heading east and take it about five miles to the I-215 Belt Route. Head south on the I-215 Belt Route for about 2 miles and exit at 3900 South. Take a left at the top of the exit ramp and cross over I-215 heading east. At Wasatch Boulevard, the first light, take a left and head north one block to the light at 3800 South. Take a right on 3800 South and head east. It will progress through a residential area before taking you up into the canyon. After about a mile is an entrance station. The trailhead is 3.4 miles past the entrance station on the south side of the road.
Neffs Canyon Trailhead:
From Salt Lake City, drive east toward Millcreek Canyon on 3800 South Wasatch Boulevard. At the first stop sign (Parkview Drive, 3700 East) turn right and go 1.1 miles to Parkview Terrace (4175 East, 4245 South). Turn left and continue to White Way (4275 South, 4260 East), turn right heading generally eastward and uphill to the end of the road. This drive will take you up a hill through a residential area. The trailhead is marked with a sign where you will see the parking area. The trail begins here as a rocky dirt jeep road. There is no parking allowed after 10:00 PM at this trailhead.
The Desolation Trail and Thayne Canyon start from the Desolation Trailhead in Millcreek Canyon. These two trails can be combined as a loop hike. Neffs Canyon is below the north face of Mount Olympus. The trail up this canyon eventually meets up with the Desolation Trail southwest of Thayne Peak. Books and maps show different trail mileages so the ones listed below are approximate.
The trail starts on the right side of the restroom and goes up the hill. There will be a sign that states trail mileages. A short distance down the trail will be a junction. The trail on the right goes to the Desolation Trail and Salt Lake Overlook. The trail on the left goes up Thayne Canyon and is the trail you’ll want to take. The trail goes past some rock walls as it starts switchbacks to the left. The route becomes more defined as the canyon narrows higher up. This part of the trail resembles a gully and most views are of the forest. It is full of snow in winter and usually in the shade. The trail climbs steeply in a few places as it meets up with a signed junction with the Desolation Trail. You’ll want to hike up the Desolation Trail now.
The trail starts going up a series of switchbacks up the mountainside. In winter, the trail may not be visible so some people head straight up the canyon from here. It is easier to try and follow the normal summer route though. A long switchback heads toward the pass located southwest of Thayne Peak which will be above the trail. The summit is a short distance from the trail to the north. The summit is located among the tress. You’ll have great views of the south side of Millcreek Ridge and the north side of the Mount Olympus to Raymond and Gobblers Knob.
(Distance is 2.75 miles from the trailhead to the summit with 2,876 feet gain)
This section of the Desolation Trail was originally built for motorcycles. It is very gradual compared to a normal hiking trail so don’t expect to get anywhere in a hurry. Try to stay on the trail and avoid cutting switchbacks. The trail is now located in the Mount Olympus Wilderness so motorcycles and vehicles are not allowed on the trail anymore. Thayne Canyon is the more direct route to Thayne Peak but the Desolation Trail is out in the open and offers better views across the canyon.
The Desolation Trail begins on the right side of the restroom and goes up the hill. There will be a sign that states trail mileages. A short distance down the trail will be a junction. The trail on the left goes up Thayne Canyon and is the trail you’ll want to take. The trail on the left goes up Thayne Canyon. The trail on the right follows the Desolation Trail. Take the trail on the right. There are numerous switchbacks that climb up the mountainside. The WMC map shows a total of thirteen. This leads to the Salt Lake Valley Overlook.
From the overlook it is another 1.5 miles of hiking to get to the next signed junction. This is where Thayne Canyon will come in from the east and join the Desolation Trail. The trail starts going up a series of switchbacks up the mountainside. In winter, the trail may not be visible so some people head straight up the canyon from here. It is easier to try and follow the normal summer route though. A long switchback heads toward the pass located southwest of Thayne Peak which will be above the trail. The summit is a short distance from the trail to the north. You’ll have great views of the south side of Millcreek Ridge and the north side of the Mount Olympus to Raymond and Gobblers Knob. The summit is located among rocks surrounded by trees.
(Distance is 4.75 miles from the trailhead to the summit with 2,906 feet gain)
Neffs Canyon is directly south of Millcreek Canyon. It is the rugged canyon that runs along the north side of Mount Olympus. It provides access to rock climbing routes for that mountain. The canyon was named after John Neff. He was an early settler that lived nearby who built a flour mill in Millcreek Canyon. Also of importance to spelunkers is Neffs Cave. It happens to be one of the deepest caves in the United States. The trail does not go to the cave but it is in the area. I will keep its location a secret.
The trail starts from the left side of the parking area. It climbs a short jeep track, until you reach the first landmark which is a water tower and a small service shack with a fence around it. As you continue up the trail, you will reach a small area with a little stream running through it. This is marked by a split in the jeep track. Continue up above the stream and it becomes a regular that takes you up the canyon. This will be 1.25 miles from the trailhead. The trail winds its way through some oak brush and is rocky in some areas.
The stream will eventually reappear as you hike up the canyon to a meadow. From the meadow is a good view of Mount Olympus. This is about 2.75 miles from the trailhead. The trail goes up a hill and then takes you up a boulder field. This area usually has avalanches in winter. The ridge above is reached by a long switchback. The trail then goes northeast toward Thayne Canyon Pass. Now you can follow the Desolation Trail that goes near the south face of Thayne Peak. It is an easy hike from here to the summit.
(Distance is 4.9 miles from the trailhead to the summit with 3,190 feet elevation gain)
Salt Lake Valley
Thayne Peak is located in Wasatch-Cache National Forest
There is a $3.00 fee per vehicle required when you leave Millcreek Canyon.
Dogs are allowed without leashes in Millcreek Canyon on odd-numbered days and with leashes on even-numbered days. If you want take your dog hiking on the weekend, it is recommended that you go on an odd number day because it is less crowded.
Bikes are only allowed in Millcreek Canyon on even-numbered days. Hikers should plan accordingly if you wish to avoid bicyclists on the trail
When to Climb
This mountain can be hiked year round.
The most popular time is from May to September. You can expect more solitude outside of those months.
Thayne Canyon and the Desolation Trail are on the shaded north side of the mountain. Neffs Canyon is located on the west side. During winter, there will be snow on Thayne Peak. Trails may be packed down by other hikers depending on current conditions. Snowshoes will be helpful on the upper part of the mountain.
Books and Maps
1) Hiking the Wasatch Book
: by John Veranth. Trails in this book include Thayne Canyon, Desolation Trail, and Neffs Canyon.
2) Hiking the Wasatch Map
: by the Wasatch Mountain Club. This map shows all of the trails to Thayne Peak in detail.