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Cherry Canyon Trail offers slightly easier, more scenic route to Lone Peak

Cherry Canyon Trail offers slightly easier, more scenic route to Lone Peak

(Emily Long)

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THE GREAT OUTDOORS — For any adventure lovers or adrenaline junkies, hiking to the top of Lone Peak should be on your summer to-do list.

Lone Peak is considered one of the most challenging and rewarding hikes in the Wasatch Range. Standing at 11,253 feet, this narrow, rugged summit sits atop near-vertical granite walls and offers clear views from North Salt Lake all the way to Provo.

There are a number of routes to the summit. While Jacob’s Ladder is the shortest, fastest, and perhaps best-known trail, the general consensus is that the Cherry Canyon Logging Trail is better maintained, much more scenic and slightly easier (albeit longer) than other routes.

The hike via Cherry Canyon is, indeed, gorgeous. At around 7 miles each way with more than 6,500 feet of elevation gain and several rock scrambles, this hike is not for the faint of heart or those with a fear of heights. However, even a short out-and-back on the lower sections of the trail is well worth a trip.

Hikers can find the trailhead at Orson Smith Park located at 2000 East and 12600 South in Draper. From Salt Lake City, take 1-15 South to exit 219/12300 South. Turn right at 900 East and take an immediate left onto 12400 South/Pioneer Road. Turn right onto 2000 East and continue onto Highland Drive. The park will be on your left. Water and well-maintained restrooms are available.

The trailhead is located up a short flight of wood stairs just north of the restrooms. Follow the dirt trail as it winds upward for .2 miles, then turn left and take an immediate right onto the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. At around .55 miles, continue straight as a dirt trail comes in from the right. You’ll follow the Cherry Creek Logging Trail to the north at mile 0.64, and then shortly after, turn right to continue on Cherry Creek and up short, somewhat steep switchbacks. This section is well-signed.

The trail then becomes rockier with loose dirt and gravel as it winds east and passes through Cherry Canyon and Bear Canyon. Don’t forget to look back at the view of the valley, especially if you start around sunrise. After about 2.5 miles, the trail begins to wind in and out of tree cover, which is a nice respite from the hot sun both on the climb and descent. It also levels out for longer stretches to give your legs a break. Just after the 4-mile mark, you’ll cross a spring, which is a good place to top off if you have a water filter.

You’ll continue to wind up and through a number of granite outcrops — great spots for snack breaks — for just under 1.5 miles before arriving in an open meadow in the south fork of Little Willow Canyon. Head off the trail and into the trees to the south (right) to visit the Outlaw Cabin, a 1960s structure in which you’ll find pots and pans still hanging on the wall. This is a great goal destination for the less experienced hiker.

An alternate trail connected to the Jacob’s Ladder route does go behind the Outlaw Cabin, but I'd recommend returning the way you came to get back on the Cherry Canyon route. This is where it gets a bit tricky and requires some route finding, as there is no defined trail. Continue your steep uphill climb to the left of the drainage. Some scrambling is required as you find your way through the rocks at the top. Be sure to watch for and follow the cairns. At the top of the scramble, you’ll land on the west wall of the Lone Peak Cirque with your first open view of the summit. Take note of landmarks that can guide you back down the right route.

Follow the scramble, still marked by cairns, up to the saddle before the final summit push. The last few hundred feet to the top involve some tough scrambling along exposed rocks with steep drop-offs. Use extreme caution and be mindful of hikers descending along the same route.

You can return using a different trail, but it’s not recommended, as it can be difficult to route find along an unfamiliar path. One of the most demanding parts of the hike is the descent, especially on the steep, loose gravel sections below the spring. Plan for frequent breaks along the way and do not attempt it if you do not have good hiking experience or are not physically prepared.

This is a challenging, full-day adventure, so come prepared. Start early (6 a.m. is a good goal on the hottest summer days) for maximum daylight and milder temperatures. Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes with good tread, carry first-aid supplies, sunscreen, bug spray, snacks, and 3-4 liters of water, at minimum, per person. It is also recommended to bring along trekking poles for assistance on the uphills and support on the downhills.

Note that the total distance and time for this hike can vary depending upon the exact route taken in each scramble section.

Difficulty: Advanced

Distance: 14 miles roundtrip

Time: 11-13 hours


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