Utah County High Point Trip Report

Mt Nebo (11,928 ft - North Summit, and 11,877 ft - South Summit)

Date: August 23-25, 2000
Author: Joe Stanford

5,107 foot (1557 meter) elevation gain
Starting elevation at Willow Creek Trailhead: about 6,888 feet
14 mile round trip (Willow Creek Trailhead to South Summit 6 miles, plus almost another mile to North Summit)
USGS Map 7.5 minute: Mona

Our Time: about 16 hours including round trip to North Summit, counting rests but not counting overnight, but part of this time includes hiking with heavy backpacks for overnight trip.

Description: We did not take the route-finding approach from the Northwest recommended by Hiking Utah's Summits (Huff and Wharton), nor did we start out with the Andrew's Ridge Trail on the Southeast recommended by High In Utah (HIU, Weibel and Miller). Rather, we started on the Willow Creek Trail from the Southwest (Mona) side, as described by Kelsey in Utah Mountaineering, 3rd Edition, 1997. I have previously been up the Andrew's Ridge Trail from the Southeast side and I like the Willow Canyon trail better. It is a bit steeper than Andrew's Ridge (I think Andrew's Ridge is longer than what is stated by HIU), but it is mostly in a wooded North-facing slope that is shady and comfortable. The trail is well- maintained and obvious to follow all the way to the ridge (and on to the South Summit). The only disadvantage of the Willow Creek Trail is the road to get to the trailhead, about 2 miles from the Mona electrical substation to the trailhead, which requires a 4-wheel drive high-clearance vehicle. Much of the road is reasonable, but there are some rough spots (5 mph or less). (In fact we shredded a tire while coming back down the road.) Within the first few hundred feet of the trailhead, one can scramble down to Willow Creek to get some water, but after that, the trail is far above the creek and the slope is very steep, so it would be very difficult to go get water from the creek. There was no other water on the entire trip. We packed all our water in for a 2 night trip and this slowed us down considerably on our first day until we made our camp off the trail about halfway up to the ridge. The next day, we hiked from our camp to the summit and back to camp, where we stayed one more night. The third morning, we hiked out. We had great weather for the entire trip, just enough rain the first day to keep the trail from being dusty, and just enough cloud cover the second day to keep us comfortable while we were hiking the ridge.

After the Willow Creek trail reaches the ridge, it reaches a saddle where it joins with the Andrew's Ridge trail coming up from the east. From there on, the route is as described in HIU. Getting to the South Summit was straightforward. There is one place where the trail splits and either continues along the ridge (with minor rock scrambling), or alternatively runs a little down and west along with west scree slope; either trail is well marked and gets you there.

The final mile from the South Summit past the middle Summit to the North Summit was by far the most difficult part of the hike. It took me 3 hours to make the 2-mile round trip, not counting time I spent at the North peak. If there were any question about the weather, I would not attempt this part. In sections where I was scrambling on all fours, I though I would be much safer rock climbing, where I would at least have a rope. Gloves saved my hands from being scraped bloody. The worst part of this section is from the south summit to the middle summit. I followed the ridge for a few hundred meters, and then dropped down to the west on a visible trail that dropped down maybe 50 meters to the base of the ridge and then led back up to the middle peak. Even though it was a visible trail, this section involved a lot of scrambling, I am not sure that it may have been better to follow the ridge. From the middle to the north peak is a little bit better. After following the ridge north from the middle peak for about 200 hundred meters, I came to a fork. The right fork followed onto the ridge, which from there looked formidable and impassable. The left way dropped down along a visible trail on the west scree slope, and then circled around to ascend the peak from the west and slightly north slope. This is the way I took to get to the North summit and it was comparatively reasonable.

On the way back, I picked up a well-defined trail on the east side of the ridge, maybe 20 meters off the ridge itself, which was actually reasonable and led back to the previously mentioned fork over the way that had looked impassable approaching it from the other side. I think this is the "good but not obvious trail" from the mid to north summit that HIU describes. The sign at the Willow Creek Trailhead says that it is 5 miles to the Nebo Summit, but I think that all the signs on the Nebo trails underestimate. I believe Kelsey (UM), who says it is 6 miles (10 km) from the Willow Creek Trailhead to the South Summit. As another example, there is a sign at the saddle where the Andrew's Ridge Trail and the Willow Creek trail meet that used to say it was 1 mile to the South Summit, but sometime around 1996, someone carved an extra set of lines in the sign to change the mileage from 1 to a Roman Numeral "II" (2) which is much closer to the truth. By GPS (as the crow flies) it is 1.6 miles, and with the trail windings it is probably close to 2 miles.


NOTES: While I have tried to be as accurate as possible in making GPS readings and recording them here, I make no guarantee as to their accuracy.

* Indicates points that are described in HIU, the others are not specifically described there. For some points, elevations in meters are given in parentheses, as measured by the GPS.

- Junction in road to Willow Creek trail head, take right fork (1642 elevation): 0429325, 4406483
- End of 4WD road and beginning of trail: 0432151, 4404354
- Sign to go sharp right out of creek bed to stay on trail: (2100 elevation), 0432273, 4404355
- Campsite on crest of minor ridge of westernmost swing of trail as it climbs: 0433988, 4403327
*- Junction at saddle with Andrew's Ridge Trail from east; sign: 0434999, 4404592
*- South Summit (elevation 3637): 0434403, 4407018
- middle summit: 0434581, 4407640
*- fork along ridge to north summit, can go onto west scree slope with quite a bit down then around and northwest of the north summit then back to the summit, or can go straight along ridge, picking out trail just barely (5-15 meters) below ridge on east side, though it looks impossible at first: 0434767, 4408005
*- North Summit (elevation 3657): 0434927, 4408270