What’s the deal with the Utah peak bagging community? Who are they and where are their circles? For such a large population to live next to so many mountains, you would think this group of the climbing community would be quite active. Maybe I’m just out of the loop? I did just move here 18 months ago from Seattle. Cities like Seattle and Denver produce peakbaggers with summit totals in the thousands. I can’t seem to find anyone with more than 400 Utah summits. That may sound like a lot but I’ve climbed 100 my first year here. I know of climbers doing 200-300 peaks in one year in other states. Everyone I meet here says they been up Timpanogos like 15 times…huh, what’s the deal with that?

It’s possible everyone on the Wasatch Front is just spoiled living so close to 11,000 foot peaks. (Where else in the U.S. can you sit in a Home Depot parking lot while watching an avalanche drop 1000 feet?) Or maybe it’s because Utah gives away its finest peaks with trails to the summits. Since everyone’s been up the highest ones, why explore the lesser summits?

In an attempt to broaden the minds of the locals, I would like to present the Wasatch Core 77. Inside the four major Highways shown on the map below, you have 77 official peaks. Chances are you’ve got a few of these bagged already since this is the closest grouping of peaks to the biggest population in Utah. It’s very unlikely anyone has completed this list, but if you get going on it, you can be the first. Colorado has its “Front Range List”, Seattle has the “Home Court List”, and this is the Utah “Wasatch Core 77 List”.

the-core-77

A list like this has 3 purposes in my view.

Purpose One: You’ll always be going somewhere new

Finding a location to hike or climb is always a reason people fail to step out the front door. A list will always direct you to several possible locations, you’ll just need to pick the best given time of year and the amount of time you have that day. With the Core 77, some will require a full day, while others could be done while your wife is shopping in the Park City Outlets. With new locations for every trip, you’ll always be challenging yourself, improving on your route and map reading skills, and gaining a better appreciation for the region’s diversity.

Let’s just keep it real, there are only so many really cool mountains in Utah…so it would be good to expand your horizons to some smaller, yet still fun stuff as well.

Purpose Two: You’ll have options for climbing year round

Most hikers don’t utilize snowshoes as a way of hiking year-round. I would agree that climbing most Wasatch peaks would be a suffer fest on snowshoes in the winter. But, that little hill in the summer you wouldn’t even consider hiking is a worthy and usually very rewarding goal in winter. As a transplant from a place where no poisonous snakes live, I am not comfortable hiking the lower elevation mountains here in Utah. When I do, it’s really slow and I must look ridiculous meandering around the hill trying to stay out of the brush. In winter–no worries–this is when I grab those peaks.

Typically, these mountains have no names but if they are on the list they must be done. This winter, I’ve snowshoed up several Core 77 peaks, the lowest ones at the very bottom of the list. Each one had its own unique quality about it, and I get to remember the climb every time I drive by.

Three: It gives a goal and keeps you motivated to get out

Even for an obsessed peak junky like me, getting out of bed or out on a crappy day can be tough. As always, once I’m out on the peak, I’m glad I got out and accomplished something. Sometimes that extra push is the idea of checking off another peak from the list. This may sound crazy but it works for people. Once out, the other reasons we hike and climb remind us why we are there, not just to check the peak off the list. The list also helps when we find ourselves hiking up something not too inspiring. Worse than that, it also helps if the weather sucks, you can’t see squat but you are on the summit and that is that.

Nearing the summit of Mahogany Mountain near American Fork

A Note About Prominence

A short discourse should be given on what qualifies a peak onto the list. You may not find your favorite peak on the list yet you swear it’s inside the Core zone. Prominence is a relatively new concept being used to make decisions on what qualifies as a mountain. A basic definition of prominence is “the elevation rise of the peak, from the highest connecting saddle of another higher peak”. Basically, it’s how high a peak raises above other peaks, not its elevation above sea level. Think of it this way, the highest mountain in Utah is Kings Peak in the Uintas. There are two official summits on top. One has a prominence of 6,358 feet while the other is only 372 feet. The higher Kings Peak rises 6,358 feet above the highest pass between it and the next higher peak which happens to be in Wyoming. The highest saddle between them is somewhere just north of Evanston Wyoming at only 7,170 feet.

The lesser Kings Peak summit rises 372 feet above the saddle between it and the highest summit of Kings Peak (the next higher peak). There is some debate on what to set the “official peak” status at, some say 300 others say 400. In Utah, every bump has been calculated to 300 feet, giving Utah a grand total of around 4,345 peaks with 300 feet of prominence.

A unique find on the summit of Peak 6,194 or “Chair Hill” as I called it, the last peak on the list

Serious credit should be given to those who did the map work to figure these stats. Visit www.ListsofJohn.com for a good starting point to see where all the peaks are located throughout the state, as well as most western states.

Below is the Core 77 list of peaks put together from information from the Lists of John website. Names with quotations are not official but represent local features or something specific about the mountain. I also suggest spending $99 for the Utah USGS topographical maps on CD. Start printing maps, start a notebook full of trip possibilities. Be ready for those days you are free to get out. Don’t find yourself laying in bed talking yourself out of a great time peak bagging in the Wasatch.

Wasatch Core 77 Peak List

Peak NameElevation (ft.)
Mt. Timpanogos11,749
Timpanogos South Peak11,722
American Fork Twin Peaks11,489
Timpanogos North Peak11,441
Broads Fork Twin Peaks11,330
Pfeifferhorn11,326
White Baldy11,320
O’Sullivan Peak or Sunrise Peak11,275
Lone Peak11,253
Red Baldy11,171
South Thunder Peak11,154
Monte Cristo Peak11,132
Dromedary Peak11,107
Box Elder Peak A11,101
Mt. Baldy B11,068
Sugarloaf Mountain A11,051
Roberts Horn10,993
Upper Bells Peak10,877
Mount Wolverine10,795
Timpanogos East Peak10,791
Clayton Peak10,721
“Box Elder South Peak”10,626
Reed and Benson Ridge10,561
Honeycomb Cliffs10,479
“South Guardsman Pass Peak”10,420
Kessler Peak A10,403
Mill Canyon Peak10,349
“North Lone Peak”10,292
Miller Hill10,264
Gobblers Knob A10,246
Mt. Raymond10,241
Scott Hill10,116
“Box Elder SE Peak”10,057
“North Guardsman Pass Peak”10,026
Silver BM10,006
Ant Knolls9,860
“West Mill Canyon Peak”9,851
“Olympus/Thayne Divide Peak”9,780
“South Thayne Peak”9,776
“East Olympus Peak”9,773
Little Water Peak9605
Murdock Peak9,602
Reynolds Peak9,422
Park Benchmark9,363
Bald Mountain E9,346
Dharma Peak9,237
“Millvue Peak High Point”9,074
Mt. Olympus9,026
Iron Mountain A9,018
Mahogany Mountain9,001
“Mahogany North Peak”8,926
Big Baldy8,756
Bonanza Benchmark8,708
Thayne Peak8,656
North Fork Ridge8,626
Mt. Aire8,621
“Lambs/Toll Canyons Peak”8,618
Bald Eagle Mountain8,495
“Mt. Aire East”8,490
“Lambs Canyon South Peak”8,477
“Pine Hollow Peak”8,460
Church Fork Peak8,306
Grandeur Peak8,299
“Lambs/Parley Ridge Peak”8,281
“Glencoe Canyon Peak”8,190
“Heber City Overlook Peak”8,060
“Gap Trail Peak”7,685
“Mellow Mountain”7,670
“Home Site Hill”7,624
Quarry Mountain7,418
“Highland Drive Hill”7,267
PC Hill7,202
“Reservoir Overlook Peak”7,169
“Sundance Peak”7,093
View Benchmark6,682
“Soldier Hollow Peak”6,510
“Chair Hill”6,194


Eric Willhite has been hiking and climbing for over 20 years, traveled to over 40 countries and carried his 2 young children up more than 300 peaks. Visit him at www.willhiteweb.com.

About Author

Eric Willhite has been hiking and climbing for over 20 years, traveled to over 40 countries and carried his 2 young children up more than 300 peaks. Visit him at www.willhiteweb.com.

14 Comments

  1. I think part of the reason there aren’t more peak baggers in the Wasatch front is that climbing Mt. Olympus, with its fantastic views of I-215 and frequently the smog layer, isn’t quite the same as climbing Longs Peak or something like that. I skied Timpanogos for the first time last year, and for the most part the views are pretty amazing. However, I have to say I was pretty bummed when I topped out and was staring down at Provo. Not quite the same as the view from the Grand Teton.

    • Interesting perspective, I never would have thought that. Out of hundreds of peaks I’ve climbed around the west, I have found some of the Wasatch Front Peaks to be the most amazing because of the close proximity to a major city. Not that jagged peaks with glaciers and deep cut valleys aren’t great to look at but the change of setting for me has been wonderful. I love looking down on the city.

  2. Kendall and I skied chair hill last winter having no idea what was waiting up there. Imagine our surprise on reaching the top and finding a limestone barcalounger waiting.

  3. I think Eric has put together a great list of close in peaks and it just highlights to me the fantastic proximity of peaks that this area has (I live in Lehi) As a transplant from Washington State, I am enjoying not only the Wasatch peaks but also the lonely ones out in the west Utah desert such as Notch, Swasey, Wah Wahs’ and more. Again, a neat article and another list I will be having fun with.

  4. It would be pretty sweet to have a list for the Wasatch North of Parley’s, West to I-15, and I guess bounded by 80 once it heads North and I-84 in the North? I suppose I could also just produce it myself…

  5. Okay-I did the work. Here are the 40 peaks with greater than 300′ prominence bounded by I-80 on the east and south sides, I-15 on the west, and I-84 on the North:

    Thurston Peak 9,706′
    Francis Peak 9,540′
    9491 9,491′
    Grandview Peak 9,410′
    Lewis Peak A 9,304′
    9260 A 9,260′
    Bountiful Peak 9,259′
    9158 9,158′
    Lookout Peak B 8,980′
    8901 8,901′
    8722 8,722′
    8650 8,650′
    8580 D 8,580′
    Big Mountain A 8,472′
    8420 C 8,420′
    Gold Ridge 8,396′
    Deadox Benchmark 8,376′
    Black Mountain D 8,260′
    Redrock Peak 8,170′
    7288A 7,288′
    The Hogsback 7,947′
    Bald Mountain I 7,869′
    7857 7,857′
    7824 7,824′
    7779 7,779′
    7607 A 7,607′
    7500 A 7,500′
    7500 D 7,500′
    7460 D 7,460′
    Dale Benchmark 7,376′
    7364 7,364′
    7300 E 7,300′
    Dude Benchmark 7,212′
    Little Mountain F 7,032′
    6815B 6,815′
    6933 B 6,933′
    Mahagony Ridge 6,876′
    6556 6,556′
    6516 6,516′
    6140 H 6,140′

    • Shea,
      Good job putting that together, knowing how to use that website will open your eyes to all kinds of trip possibilities…it sure has for me. I also came up with the same number when I did it last year. I am currently doing this “list making” for the entire state. I’ve got 35 zones. I called the one you did the “North Core Zone”. I’ll attach what I did below. I had given them unofficial names in order for me to recognize them all by a name. Of the 35 zones, I’ve made lists for the 10 closest zones to my home. I’ve made a map and planned a route for each peak on every list. I would have finished making each list this winter but have been distracted building my new website. Here’s what I called them:

      Thurstan Peak 9,706
      Francis Peak 9,540
      Francis/Thurstan Peak 9,491
      Grandview Peak 9,410
      Lewis Peak A 9,304
      “Sessions Mountain West” 9,260A
      Bountiful Peak 9,259
      “Sessions Mountian East” 9,158
      Lookout Peak B 8,980
      “Swallow Rocks” 8,901
      “Sessions Mountain North” 8,722
      “Bountiful Saddle Peak” 8,650
      “Swallow Rocks North Peak” 8,580
      Big Mountain A 8,472
      “South Lewis Peak” 8420C
      Gold Ridge 8,396
      Dead Ox Benchmark 8,376
      Black Mountain D 8,260
      Redrock Peak 8,170
      The Hogsback 7,947
      Bald Mountain I 7,869
      “Mormon Flat East Peak” 7,857
      “Big Mountain Pass South Peak”7,824
      “Parleys Summit Peak” 7,779
      “Mormon Flat West Peak” 7607A
      Perkins Peak 7500A
      “Mt. Wire True Summit” 7500D
      “Red Butte Canyon Peak” 7460D
      Dale Benchmark 7,376
      “Mormon Flat South Peak” 7,364
      “Tonks Peak” 7288A
      Dude Benchmark 7,212
      Little Mountain F 7,032
      “Wood Hollow Peak” 7300E
      “Norwood Canyon Peak” 6933B
      Mahogony Ridge 6,876
      “Tunnel Peak” 6815B
      “Porterville Two Peak” 6,556
      “Hennifer Peak 6,516
      “Porterville One Peak” 6,140

  6. Very nice. After I started going on it, it quickly became apparent that it would be best to have a Wasatch range list; complicated by the fact that determining the boundaries is a bit tricky. Furthermore, as if those aren’t enough to keep one busy for awhile, the Oquirrh’s have plenty of high-prominance, impossible-to-get-to-because-of-ownership peaks to cause frustration.

    • The “Oquirrh Group” of 39 peaks is a challenging list I am hoping to complete over the next 8 years. The private property issues I’ve worked out. I plan to do a majority of the northern peaks during a traverse from I-80 near Lake Point, hiking for 2-3 days all the way to Butterfield Canyon. Doing this in early spring when the roads up high are still snow covered should keep visitors away. A few low peaks near the I-80 smokestacks will have to be done as “mid-night missions”. More difficult are a few peaks in the south end on Camp Williams Military Base. Once the others are all done, I’ll start writing Camp Williams, asking for permission. It’s also possible there are only 38 on the list as one is very close to the copper mine. The USGS map for the area is old…it’s possible the highpoint is completely gone.

  7. Ashley Williamson on

    Eric, another you might have learned by now is that on the Wasatch, women are peak baggers too. They dont just shop in Park City while they wait for their husbands 😉
    Thanks for the list. Im on it.

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