Backpacking to Kings Peak Summit in Utah

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The hike on Henry Fork’s trail to Kings Peak was a great backpacking and mountaineering experience for me. I think this was because of a few different reasons:

  1. This hike took a few days to complete. I know it can be done in one day, but I enjoy hikes more if you are able to spend a few days hiking.
  2. This was the last hike my dog was able to go on with me before he was hit by a car.
  3. I learn a lot about myself and how I fit in to society.

The hike began after an interesting series of dirt roads that brought us from the North back into Utah from Wyoming. The Henry Fork’s trailhead was right at the parking lot, and we began out hike.

henry forks trail kings peak utahWe got a late start that morning getting to the trailhead and didn’t actually start hiking until about 7pm. We started on the trail heading South through a meadow and into some trees.  We went over a couple streams and after about 2-2.5 miles it got dark and we set up camp. It was early June and there was a light snowfall as we cooked our dinner and retired for the evening.

Day 2 began with a sharp left in the trail that brought us right to the bank of a river. There was a broken/washed out bridge right here, but if you head South down the bank 100 ft there is a new footbridge!

After crossing the river we continued South into another meadow. This meadow, however, was more of a swamp for a few miles passing through a few patches of trees and next to a lake. kings peak utahAfter passing this lake an obvious basin straight ahead (South) is completely in view with Kings Peak sticking up like a pyramid between two smaller, cliff-like peaks.

From here the trail takes a bit of a turn to the left (East) and you climb up hill toward a pass called Gunsight Pass. As Kings Peak went out of view and we entered the pass we came upon a small lake and set up camp near it and ate lunch. After lunch we began our approach to the summit.

We continued through the pass Southeast, grass turned to scree, and the trail got steep. We headed toward the saddle, and though the climb was a bit strenuous, the view at the saddle of Painters Basin is beautiful and reminded me of something prehistoric. There is a large cairn pile at the top. We passed it and followed the trail down into the basin.

Once we were down at the basin floor, the trail kind of disappeared and we weren’t exactly sure where to head upwards. But you will want to look for a fairly large dip between some of the cliffs to the right (South). There is sloping ledge that goes up in a sort of Southwest direction. We followed this up to a grass/rock basin and continued West/Southwest until Kings Peak comes up on your left (South).

Kings Peaks Northeast ridge line was very tempting and we actually thought we lost the trail and were supposed to head that way. But we continued Southwest past this ridge and up to a Saddle that ran up King Peak’s West/Northwest slope. From here you can see South into the Yellowstone Drainage Basin. North between the two “cliff-like peaks” that sat on both sides of Kings Peak as you hike in from the swamp/meadow. To the Northeast is Painter’s Basin (where you most recently hiked up from).

Kings peak utah

At the ridge line

The rest of the hike is pretty straight-forward. You follow the ridge line to the Southwest until you can’t go up anymore. There are a few false summits, but if you keep going, I promise you will reach the top.

kings peak utah

We hung out at the top for a while, and then hiked back to out camp spot in Gunsight Pass. At our camp we reflected and realized that Day 2 included about 16 miles of hiking and 11000 ft of elevation gain and loss. We felt pretty satisfied.

Day 3 consisted of a slow, casual hike back to the car. It took a few hours from our camp to get back, but we enjoyed conversations and laughs. On our drive back, we stopped and ate some pie at a small diner.

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