Field Guide: The Peaks of the Wasatch Mountains

Ben Lomond = 9,716 feet

Named: Ben Lomond, north of Ogden, was named after the mountain Ben Lomond in the Scottish Highlands because early settler Mary Wilson Montgomery thought the mountain range resembled the Munro, Scottish “mountains,” which are a meh 3,000 feet above sea level. Our Ben Lomond is 9,716 feet high.


About: They say the Paramount Pictures logo, known as Majestic Mountain, was modeled after Ben Lomond. Supposedly William W. Hodkinson, the founder of Paramount and a native of the Ogden area, drew the pyramid-shaped peak on a napkin during a meeting in 1914. The napkin is lost so we’ll just go with it.

Conquer: Four different trailheads to the north, south, and east of Ben Lomond’s base, lead to the summit. The standard route ascends gradually from the North Ogden Divide trailhead. The most popular route starts from Willard Basin to the north. This is the shortest and easiest way to climb the mountain but requires a long drive on dirt roads south of Mantua. This route goes to the top of Willard Peak and then traverses the ridge over Ben Lomond. You’ll be able to bag two peaks in one day! 

wasatch mountainsMt. Olympus = 9,026 feet

Named: Mount Olympus, because every range has a Mt. Olympus, right? 

About: Mount Olympus’ elevation is only 9,026 feet above sea level, but its profile dominates the Salt Lake City skyline and captured the early settlers’ imagination, who, perhaps lacking actual imagination, named it Olympus after the mythical home of the ancient Greek gods—Zeus and the gang. Because of its imposing presence on the Wasatch and its easy-to-access trailhead along Wasatch Boulevard it is perhaps the most-climbed peak in the range, and, we think, a litmus test for new Salt Lakers. We won’t believe you really live here until you’ve scaled its heights. Think of it as hazing.

Conquer: This strenuous (really) and heavily trafficked hike is a 6.3-mile out-and-back featuring a river and and constant views of the valley below as you ascend. And you can bring your dog. But be warned, the trail is mostly exposed, hot and dry (avoid during peak summer) and the final ascent is as unrelenting as the will of Zeus. 

wasatch mountainsTwins Peak (Boards Fork Side) = 11,330 feet

Named: Twin Peaks (Broads Fork side) There are actually two sets of Twin Peaks in the Wasatch. These are  the “Broads Fork” Twin Peaks, overlooking the Salt Lake Valley.

About: “Broads Fork” Twin Peaks are 11,330 feet tall, the second highest in Salt Lake County. Standing atop either you can see the other.

Conquer: The trail to the top is a 10.5-mile-out-and-back beginning near Salt Lake City in Big Cottonwood Canyon. It’s not an easy hike but the views are worth it, especially for birders from June to September.

wasatch mountainsLone Peak or Pfeifferhorn = 11,253 feet / 11,325 feet

Named: Lone Peak or Pfeifferhorn Lone Peak and recorded as “Little Matterhorn” on USGS maps. Pfeifferhorn’s name comes from Chuck Pfeiffer, a local climber who was leader of the Wasatch Club.

About: East of Salt Lake City and visible from North Salt Lake to Provo. It rises sharply from the valley floor to its peak over 11,000 feet, making it a hard climb to the summit, but easily accessible.

Conquer: The steep granite cirque provides climbs ranging from Class-3 scrambles to difficult 5.10s under the Yosemite Decimal System. Its access, proximity to alpine lakes and short (but steep) trail make it a popular hike year-round. The easiest route involves moderately steep hiking and a short scramble. It offers panoramic views from the summit and sometimes mountain goats can be seen above upper Red Pine Lake below.

wasatch mountainsMt. Timpanogos = 11,752 feet

Named: Mount Timpanogos, a word supposedly from the Timpanogots tribe which translates as “rock” (tumpi-) and “water mouth” or “canyon” (pano.) Locals  just call her “Timp.” Because the mountain’s profile looks (vaguely) like a reclining woman, legends abound about the tragic death of an Indian maiden and a star-crossed brave, yada, yada, yada. (See page 82 for the tale.)

About: Timp is the second highest in the Wasatch, peaking at 11,720 feet. The north end of the mountain is home to Timpanogos Cave National Monument with ranger-guided cave tours daily. During the warmer months, at Timpanogos Glacier, a rocky lump found on that may have patches of snow all year, you can hear water running under the rocks and Emerald Lake, at the bottom of the cirque, often turns blue indicating that the glacier is probably still moving.

Conquer: The 14-mile (23 km) round-trip hike to the summit, with almost 5,300 feet of elevation gain is one of the most frequently visited in the Wasatch and a collegial rite of passage for BYU students.

wasatch mountainsMt. Nebo = 11,929 feet

Named: Mount Nebo, after one of the saddest stories in The Bible which says that at the end of his life, Moses stood on Mount Nebo in Jordan and looked into the Promised Land the Lord said he would never enter. Some early Bible-obsessed settler thought this peak of the Wasatch looked like the mountain in Jordan. Had he ever been to Jordan to make a real comparison? We don’t know. Maybe he was just having a bad day.

About: The southernmost and highest mountain in the Wasatch Range of Utah and way taller than its Biblical counterpart, Mt. Nebo is 11,933 feet high. (The one in Jordan where the Bible says Moses died measures only 2,330 feet above sea level.) 

Conquer: Mt. Nebo has two summits; the north peak is the highest. Several trails from east and west lead to the top, another approaches from the northeast and a bench trail runs along the east side. They’re popular, but strenuous trails, and dangerous for horses. An old hand once supposedly said, “There’s dead horses in every canyon on that mountain!” You can just take the Scenic Byway up to 9,000 feet then take the short hike to “Devil’s Kitchen,” a hoodoo-filled area like you see in southern Utah.

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Jeremy Pugh
Jeremy Pugh
Jeremy Pugh is Salt Lake magazine's Editor. He covers culture, history, the outdoors and whatever needs a look. Jeremy is also the author of the book "100 Things to Do in Salt Lake City Before You Die" and the co-author of the history, culture and urban legend guidebook "Secret Salt Lake."

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