Sunday, July 3, 2016

clayton peak

The longer we are out here in SLC, the harder it is to find hiking trails along the Wasatch Front that we haven't done yet.  There are plenty of trails out there, we just have to work a little more to figure them out, go a little further afield, not stick to the same, well-known and well-used trailheads.  I had suggested Mt. Superior but H pointed out that it could be very hot since it is on a south-facing slope, and offered Clayton Peak as an alternative.

Heading up the last steep section

We drove up to Brighton and parked in the lot.  There were already a bunch of cars there but we didn't see many people at first.  We got our boots on the dirt at 7:45 a.m., heading up the main trail alongside the Majestic lift to Lake Mary.  When we got to the Dog Lake junction, we turned left, away from Lake Mary (and, we hoped, the bulk of whatever other hikers were out and about).  H decided that we should walk around tiny Dog Lake first: there isn't really a trail all the way around, however, so our feet got wet and we discovered - or were discovered by - mosquitoes.  Despite not having any bug spray on, they weren't too bad, being much slower and less aggressive than Maine mosquitoes.

Deer Valley, Guardsman Pass road and Heber Valley

After that little jaunt, we got back on the trail which crosses ski runs while heading up to Snake Creek Pass.  That trail is NICE: shaded by huge evergreens, level, lightly trafficked, soft dirt underfoot, not at all rocky and while it climbs steadily, it is never really steep.  It would be a great trail for trail-running (not least because you could leave the mosquitoes behind - they were tagging along tenaciously).  Coming out of the woods onto the ski area access road at Snake Creek Pass, the world drops away on the other side, opening up into big views of Mt. Timpanogos and the Heber Valley.

Snowbird tram, Baldy, Sugarloaf and the Castle

We turned east on the access road and walked up it for about a quarter mile before reconnecting with the hiking trail that would take us to the summit.  This section was steep, rocky and very lightly traveled, and got us up to the top of Clayton Peak (10,721 ft.) pretty quickly.  Clayton Peak is also called "Mt. Majestic" and the views are majestic for sure.  Although it was a little hazy, it seemed like the whole world opened up around us, from Timpanogos to the Uintas to Park City to all the canyons along the Wasatch Front.

Golden mantled ground squirrel (not chipmunk)

We could see and identify eight ski areas from where we stood: Brighton, Solitude, Alta, Snowbird, Deer Valley, PCMR, Canyons and Sundance.  We could see cars making their way over Guardsman Pass and right below us, several little ponds shone in the morning sun; on the other side, both Lake Mary and the reservoir below Twin Lakes Pass were still full from spring run-off.

H with Solitude behind him

The spectacular views were not the only thing to captivate our attention: there were also some very brazen golden mantled ground squirrels who were convinced they could charm us into feeding them.  They, and a shyer least chipmunk, did their best but we remained unmoved and did not share our snacks.  Those ground squirrels sure knew what a ziploc bag being opened sounded like - they honed right in on us and were even brave enough to give our backpacks a sniff.

Wildflowers are getting going now

We went back down the way we came, descending very quickly on that lovely trail.  H pulled way ahead of me - I would have had to jog to keep up with him with my shorter legs - but waited for me at the Dog Lake/Lake Mary junction.  We had only seen two other hikers on the upper trail and now, as we headed down the last 3/4 mile, we wondered how many people we would pass, since Lake Mary/Brighton Lakes is so popular.  Actually we counted and we went by 156 other people, most just heading out.  That beats the Red Pine/White Pine count.  Wow.  But amazingly, we had the best part of our Clayton Peak hike practically to ourselves.  It's worth it to seek out the trails less traveled.

Hike stats: 6.8 miles with 2,000 feet of elevation.

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