San Juan County High Point Trip Report

Mt Peale (12,721 ft)

Dates: June 6, 1998 and October 28, 2001
Authors: Jennifer and Gerry Roach

This peak is not only a county highpoint, but also the highest peak in the La Sal Mountains. There are several routes on its loose talus slopes, and all are fairly straightforward. The first time Jennifer did Mt. Peale was May 1989 as part of the Triple Crown, which ascends the 3 high La Sal peaks surrounding Gold Basin in one day. Starting with Mellinthin (12,645 feet) above Geyser Pass, the route continues on to Mt. Peale, and then over to Tukunikivatz (12,482 feet). It's a huge day. Gerry and Jennifer returned in June 1998 to do the Triple Crown again, and this time we climbed "West Tuk," Tukunikivatz, Mt. Peale, Mt. Laurel, Mt. Mellinthin, and "Pre-Laurel Peak," then descended to our car, which was parked in Gold Basin. It was a strenuous day, with nearly 5,000 of elevation gain, and about 8 miles round-trip. If bagging several other peaks in addition to the county highpoint is not your intention, then the shortest way to climb Mt. Peale is the La Sal Pass Route.

The route directions in Miller and Weibel's book, "High in Utah" are accurate. Drive 21.8 miles south on Utah Highway 191 to the junction of Utah Highway 46 at La Sal Junction. Turn east (left) onto of Utah 46, and drive 12.8 miles to the signed, gravel road stating, "La Sal Pass." Turn left onto this excellent gravel road, drive 2 miles and turn left (west) onto the La Sal Pass Road at a marked junction. Drive another 7.4 miles to La Sal Pass at 10,125 feet. A 2WD car should be able to make it to here. Park at the obvious brown sign. Note that the road from the western side of La Sal Pass is a lot rougher, and requires a 4WD vehicle.

From the sign, Mt. Peale's route is completely visible. Aiming for the long gully that you can see on the mountain's west side, hike north and east through forest and occasional open meadows. There are some use trails in the area and also some old roads, which may help. Hike across undulating terrain, eventually cross a creek in an open meadow. You can follow an ancient jeep road here, and it takes you northeast to a foot trail. This trail disappears in the woods and deadfall, so it is best to have had a good compass bearing to help you to the base of the correct gully. Once you reach the bottom of the gully, there is easier footing, and occasionally, a use trail. If you do this hike early in the summer, the gully will most likely be filled with snow. Climb the gully for 1,300 feet to the ridge crest. There is an opportunity to leave the gully before the crest by catching the use trail, which takes you up to the 12,145-foot saddle. The use trail is quite distinct here in the talus. From the saddle, follow the ridge southeast, then east to the summit of Mt. Peale.

The US Mail box, which once housed the register, has unfortunately disappeared. In fact, there was nothing at all in October 2001, so we left a jar, paper, and pencil, which I am sure will vanish, too, as this is a fairly popular hike in summer months.

The trip statistics are 5 miles round-trip, and 2,600 feet of gain. The total hiking time was 6 hours.