Our random, yet highly entertaining, romp through the highly visited and less explored parts of life.
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For two years I lived and worked in the shadow of Thurston Peak, the county highpoint of both Davis and Morgan Counties in Utah. For two years I said I was going to hike it. But then I got a job transfer to Arizona, so I didn't. It's not actually that simple. I intended to, but the Farmington Canyon Road was closed for most of that time due to some landslides. I like to hike, but at the same time I can be a little bit lazy (efficient is the name I use when talking to people though). I wasn't quite up to the task of climbing from the bottom, or driving the 26 miles from Bountiful on backcountry dirt roads just to get to the trailhead near Francis Peak. So, I told myself that I'd wait for the road to open back up. So I waited, and before it reopened, I got transferred.
Two years later, I was back in town for a wedding, so in the interest of doing something else fun, I called up a friend and scheduled a hiking trip. We had several options, but decided to hike Thurston. At 9706 feet in elevation, it's respectable, but not terribly high just the same. Besides, from along the I-15 corridor, it looks like you drive to Francis Peak then have a light stroll over to Thurston with a little bit of up and down along the way. Hahaha. Yeah right.
We drove up Farmington Canyon to Francis Peak. Our first mistake was parking near the gate to the Francis Peak Radar Domes. There's a dirt road on the east side that takes you around Francis Peak to the Smith Lakes. We should have driven down that road and stayed to the left or generally straight ahead for another 3/4 mile or so to cut a substantial distance off of our hike, oh well. Hindsight is 20/20. We climbed under the gate, then summited Francis Peak, then promptly lost all of that elevation descending the other side.
We then followed the dirt road then the trail after the road ended. Up along the ridge is part of the Great Western Trail. I've been past bits and pieces of it as I've hiked various places in the Wasatch Mountains. This was probably the longest stretch I've done at any given point though. The trail varies- sometimes it's good, other times it fades. What was amazing to me was that it's not used more. It's within 30 minutes of hundreds of thousands of people, but we didn't see anybody out hiking it. We reached Thurston, and the trail skirted around the west side of it. We left the trail and climbed straight uphill to the top. A few pictures of the monument to Thomas Jefferson Thurston, whom the peak is named after, and a few more taking in the view, and we were set to head back to the vehicle.
The Morgan Valley from Thurston Peak.Thomas Jefferson Thurston was an early settler and built the first road along the Weber River into the Morgan Valley.
Davis County from Thurston Peak. The houses are sandwiched between the mountains and the Great Salt Lake.
Looking north toward Ogden from Thurston Peak.
The hike back was pretty uneventful, although it seemed like we started out going uphill, and ended the hike going uphill once again. Those small height variations visible from below turn out to be quite a bit bigger once you're up at the top! I love hiking the high elevation meadows.
Here's another view along the Great Western Trail looking at Francis Peak from the vicinity of Thurston Peak. There are several smaller sub-peaks along the way that are all a short distance off the trail if you're interested in ridge walking and peak bagging.
We made it back to the truck in around 3.5 hours of hiking time, with a trip distance of just over 9.5 miles. It was a great little hike. But driving past Francis Peak will definitely make the trip a little shorter.
Location: N° W°