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Panoramic view from the Summit of Box Elder Peak. Silver Lakes Flat and Tibble Fork Reservoir are in the valley to the left. Timpanogos in the center, Utah Lake to the right.

My original plan for the summer was to do what I thought were the “7 Peaks of Utah County.” Come to find out, there are actually 8 significant peaks in Utah County, and the one that is usually left off the list? You guessed it: Box Elder, sandwiched between Timpanogos and Lone Peak (apparently it is easily missed because it isn’t visible from most Utah County locations, except the Highland/Alpine area?) So after thinking about it for a few weeks, I realized there is no way you can omit Box Elder, which stands at 11,101 feet, and decided to knock it off. My new list of peaks, from north to south, is now 1) Lone Peak 2) Box Elder 3) Timpanogos 4) Cascade 5) Provo Peak 6) Spanish Fork 7) Loafer/Santaquin 8 ) Mt. Nebo.

I made an attempt on Box Elder a couple of weeks ago, but a freakish June snowstorm had covered most of the mountain above 9,000 feet with slush. I made it to the saddle, and decided the conditions would be too much effort. With my brother Brandon in town for a few days, we rallied up the rest of the brothers for a late afternoon romp up one of the lesser known Wasatch Eleveners.

When I had made the saddle a couple of weeks ago, I wondered why it gets so little attention from hikers. The route has a great variety of terrain, vistas, and wildlife, and a view from the summit that is hard to beat anywhere in Utah County. Expect to see some deer, moose, and mountain goats if you keep a watchful eye.

Due to some work schedules, we weren’t able to get on the trail until around 1:45 pm. I had figured it wouldn’t be a big deal, as the trail is not difficult or too long. What we underestimated was the unrelenting heat and lack of shade. By the time we reached the saddle, most of us had downed over 100 ounces of water, and we were still behind the curve. There is little in the way of water to pump or treat after about 2 miles in to the trail, so be prepared with lots of water, especially in the heat of summer. We ended up finding snow on top, and melting some to get us back down. The snow won’t last much into the summer though.

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A moose in “Moose Alley.” There is a sequence of meadows and ponds that is prime moose habitat just a few minutes from the trailhead.

The trail is very easy to follow, and not very difficult. The first two miles picks up elevation at a steady pace. The route steepens at the beginning of the switchbacks up to the saddle and junction with Dry Creek. Near the top of the switchbacks, there is a fantastic boulder field with great views to the south. From the boulder field, it is just a few more minutes to the saddle. There is some prime camping to be had in this area as well, but no significant water sources.

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Up the trail to the saddle.

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View from the boulder field, looking south at the summit. Timpanogos is in the background. The trail follows the ridge on the far right.
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At the saddle meadow, where the trail joins up with Dry Creek from the Alpine side. Timp summit in the background.

From the saddle, the trail is faint and difficult to follow. The junction of the Box Elder trail and the Deer Creek trail looks like a 4-way intersection, and at best can be described as confusing. At the 4×4 post, take the trail that heads South, slightly to the left. After a couple hundred yards on this, you will notice a very steep gully that is a few hundred yards long. Stay on the ridge as best you can and head straight up the gully. This will deposit you on the ridge, with nice views to the east and west. From here, disregard trails that cut off to the west, and just stay on the ridge. The summit is about an hour from the saddle.

The last summit ridge is the highlight of the trail. To the west, extreme folding of the limestone rock has created a beautiful cirque that is home to a large group of mountain goats, perhaps more than three dozen. They can be seen feeding in the cliff bands all up and down the cirque. To the east are fantastic views of Timpanogos and Tibble Fork.

Box Elder is definitely worth the visit. The scenery isn’t as good as Timpanogos, but the views from the summit are just as good, if not better. With exception of some distant ATV noise near the beginning of the trail, this is a fantastic wilderness setting, with plenty of chances for solitude.

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The final push up the ridge to the summit. The cirque that is home to dozens of mountain goats is to the right.

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Derek tallying up the mountain goat total. We counted 34 today.
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Goats hanging out on the northwest ridge. Traverse ridge in the background.
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Box Elder snowcone. Nice way to beat the fierce midday heat.
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Brandon near the summit.
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Box Elder has some of the nicest view around, with Timpanogos to the south, and the Alpine Ridge to the north.

OTHER INFO

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Mick’s MountainSummitpostHyrum’s Hiking