RT Length: 6.79 miles
Elevation Gain: 3528’
I’d attempted this peak last week (along with 2 others), but the gate had been closed just off the highway, just as the gates for the other two peaks had been. I was super bummed, and since all 3 of my potential peaks for the day had been shut down, I went home. (I leave my plan a, b, and c on the counter and if they all fail I go home because I solo and want to make sure someone knows where I’m at when I’m adventuring).
The gate to Hunts Peak said it was subject to seasonal closures, but didn’t have a reopen date. All the other gates said they were closed due to Sage Grouse mating/nesting/hatching season, and opening on May 15th, so I crossed my fingers the gate would be open today (May 16th).
I didn’t have a plan b today (mainly because I had a short window: my youngest has prom tonight), so I was thrilled to find the gate open.
From 285 it’s a 3.65 mile drive east on 980 to the good campsite. There are a few potential turn offs, but stay on 980.
At the junction of 980 and 982 you can either camp, or drive the .6 miles southeast and park just before the trailhead. Here’s the sign where the camping area is, and a view of the camping area (on the right).
Notes about this section if you choose to drive further: it’s narrow, there isn’t a spot to turn around/let someone pass, it can be muddy, and only 2 vehicles will fit at the parking area at the hill above the trailhead, so choose wisely depending on the day of the week you’re there and the time of day you’re entering. I have a 4WD vehicle, but didn’t need to put it into 4WD (good thing too, because my 4WD is currently out and I have a new truck on order that unfortunately won’t be here until the middle of summer: this seriously messes with my mountaineering plans!). Here are some pictures of the road
I parked my truck just before the second stream crossing at the top of a small hill. I’d advise doing this, especially if you don’t have 4WD (when I arrived it was dark and I didn’t want to chance it in my truck’s current condition). I parked and was on the trail around 4:40am. This was by far the warmest start to a hike I’ve had so far this year: 45 degrees at the trailhead! I opted not to put on my snow pants and was on my way (something I’d regret later). It was a short distance to the trailhead, and the creek was easy to cross.
I walked around the closed gate and followed the old road.
The road was easy to follow northeast
It was obvious this road hasn’t been used by vehicles since the fire, because there were downed trees all over the road. There was a little bit of snow as well, but totally manageable without traction.
Eventually the ‘road’ fizzled out. I followed the contour of South Rock Creek and then the mountainside as it headed east. In the daylight the route to the ridge is easy to see
I followed the drainage as far as I could, then headed east to gain the ridge. This was steep, but the bushwhacking was minimal due to the fire
I gained the ridge, and followed it southeast over this hump
I had a good view of Hunts Peak at this point
The rest of the route was straightforward: I went southeast over the hump, and then followed the ridge east to the summit
It was easy to avoid most of the snow, and what was unavoidable was consolidated
There was a short trek southeast to the actual summit
I summited Hunts Peak at 7:10am
It was very cold and very windy. I regretted not wearing my snow pants now. Pulsing my fingers, I descended the way I’d hiked in. Advice here: the ridges look similar, especially if you’re summiting in the early morning/dark. Be sure of your route down! Here’s the route back
Back over the bump
Here was where I encountered the most snow of the day. It was mostly consolidated, with the odd postholing up to my thigh
Now it was back down the ridge and down the gully, back to the old 4WD road.
Once back on the 4WD road it was easy to follow it back to the gate, keeping South Rock Creek to my right
At the gate I turned right and followed the road back to my truck.
I made it back to my truck at 9am, making this a 6.79 mile hike with 3582’ of elevation gain in 4 hours, 20 minutes.
Here’s the easy part of the dirt road on the way out. I didn’t see another person/vehicle/grouse all day. I did see a few antelope though.