Ever since our hike up Black Crook Peak, Dan and I have been embracing the desert hiking. We’ve established a (very) loosely defined goal of summiting as many Great Basin range high points as we can. With that in mind, we headed out to Maple Peak, the highpoint of the West Tintic Mountains.
Getting out to the West Tintic Range
We wanted something relatively easy and close to home this weekend—mainly because we’d slept in too much Saturday morning and didn’t have time to drive somewhere far and still summit. We eventually decided on hiking Maple Peak, the high point of the West Tintic Range.
I’ve written a bit about the Tintic mining district, but this would be my first time exploring the mountains around it.
Cherry Creek Road seems to be the main access to the West Tintics, and it’s a very well-maintained dirt road that rises and falls and winds its way through the range. I love how every mountain range out here seems to have its own unique character. The West Tintics are much mellower than other ranges we’ve explored, full of wide valleys and rolling hills. We also passed numerous campsites, which were remarkably deserted for a gorgeous Saturday afternoon.
We more-or-less followed the directions on SummitPost to find the start of the hike (though we missed it once and had to backtrack).
We came south through Vernon on UT-36. Just before 36 meets up with Highway 6, we made a right onto Cherry Creek Road (unmarked).
The road wound through a construction area, crossed a set of train tracks, and then turned to dirt and headed out into the rolling hills of the West Tintics.
From the turn off of 36, it was 11.2 miles to where we parked, at the start of the jeep road mentioned on SummitPost. There’s a large clearing on the left, just before the road crosses a cattle guard. The jeep road starts at the back of this clearing.
Stupidly, I started up the Jeep road in my Subaru, but quickly realized that I like my car too much to risk it. It might have been possible to get a half mile or so up the road if I really didn’t care about my paint job, but just wasn’t worth it.
Hiking Maple Peak, Utah
The weather was perfect for an early December hike. The mellow terrain, low elevation, easy route-finding, and good access make Maple Peak a great winter peak. As with most desert hikes, there’s no shade or shelter, so it would be pretty scorching to do in summertime.
The 4×4 road made for easy hiking, and we followed it up to the ridge.
The road eventually passes through a cattle gate, and then gets much rougher and steeper. It meanders alongside the ridge, until disappearing a little below the first rock outcrop near the summit.
From the end of the road, it was fairly easy, fun cross-country route finding. We picked our way through the rocks, past some interesting formations, and enjoyed amazingly open 360 views from the summit. This might be one of the best views for the least amount of effort that I’ve found.
We retraced our route back down and reached the car just as the sun was setting, which put us at just about 2 hours car to car. We decided to take advantage of the last bit of light to go check out Cherry Creek Reservoir—we’d been able to see it from the summit, and Dan is always looking for new potential fishing holes. It ended up being just about 2 miles further down the road from where we’d parked. Pretty, especially with the sunset, but not a super promising fishing location.
Below the reservoir, this pipe was spewing water out quite dramatically. Not sure what happened or why, but the sprays of water made for an interesting photo in the sunset.
All in all, a great quick afternoon hike out in the desert, and another Great Basin highpoint that we can check off of the list.