An Insider’s Guide to Hiking in the Tushars

Monday, Oct 11, 2021 0

One of Utah’s best-kept hiking secrets, the Tushar Mountains deliver sun-dappled trails, wildflower-sprinkled meadows, shaggy mountain goats and forever views from rocky summits. Check out these six choice Tushar trails and make plans to discover Utah’s third-highest mountain range.

Written by Matcha

It’s easy to escape the frantic pace of everyday life by heading to southwestern Utah where unknown lands still beckon you to explore scenic treasures and discover the pleasures of solitude. The Tushar Mountains, the state’s third-highest range, is such a place. The snowcapped Tushars, glimpsed from Interstate 15 to the west, offer trails that scramble to dazzling mountaintop views, twist across flower-strewn alpine meadows and climb sun-drenched canyons filled with golden aspen, waterfalls and wildlife. (Read: “Central Utah Byway: Beaver Canyon and the Sevier River Valley”)

Here are six of the best Tushar trails to get lost and find yourself.

1. Birch Lake Trail

The Tushar Lakeside Recreation Area is a perfect family getaway on the western slope of the Tushar Mountains. Pitch a tent by Lower Kents Lake, toss a line for trout, roast s’mores over a campfire and take an easy hike on Birch Lake Trail (#3625).

Begin from the campground or a nearby trailhead and hike 0.9 miles through shady woods to Birch Lake, a picturesque pond tucked against an open ridge. Watch deer drink from the lake and return to the campground for a 1.8-mile hike. For extra credit, scramble up the ridge south of the lake to a spacious viewpoint on its 9,221-foot summit.

2. Skyline National Recreation Trail

The 23-mile Skyline Trail (Read: “How to Day Hike Three Different Sections of the Scenic 23-Mile Skyline Trail“), a stunning 8.3-mile section of which is designated a National Recreation Trail, is one of Utah’s unheralded footpaths. The trail, easily broken into three day-hike sections, edges along the western crest of the Tushar Mountains, passing beneath its highest peaks including Delano Peak and Mount Holly. Closed to ATVs, the trail sections are done as out-and-back hikes or point to point with a car shuttle.

The best hike is the southern 8.3-mile section (the Skyline National Recreation Trail) with breathtaking scenery, skyscraping peaks, flower-sprinkled meadows, herds of shaggy mountain goats and forever views across the western deserts. Start the trek at Big Flat Trailhead and end at Big John Flat. The seven-mile middle trail section also boasts dramatic scenery, passing through high grasslands and spruce and fir forest to Mud Lake. The third segment, running eight miles from Mud Lake to Blue Lake and then up to Bullion Pasture Trailhead, has more elevation gain than the other sections but the scenery is equally spectacular, and you’ll be alone all day.

3. Delano Peak Trail

The iconic summit hike in the Tushar Mountains is the Delano Peak Trail, which climbs 1,700 feet in 1.5 miles to the 12,169-foot rooftop of the range (Read: “How to Summit Three 12,000-footers in the Tushar Mountains“). The trail, beginning near Big John Flat, is surprisingly easy with gentle grades up Delano’s wide West Ridge as it ascends through tundra meadows studded with tiny alpine flowers that normally grow in northern Alaska. Bring binoculars to spot Utah’s largest herd of mountain goats lying on snowbanks or frolicking among boulders.

After catching your breath on the rounded summit, sign into the mailbox register and enjoy the views from Capitol Reef to the east to hazy Nevada ranges on the western horizon. Return to the trailhead on FR #123 or head south along the range crest for 1.5 miles to 11,985-foot Mount Holly. Descend its west slope to the Skyline Trail and walk northwest back to Big John Flat and its superb campsites.

Hikers making their way along the scenic Tushar Skyline Trail.

Photo: Jay Dash Photography

A broad view of the Tushar Range.

Photo: Jay Dash Photography

4. South Fork of North Creek

Trail #062, following the South Fork of North Creek, offers a backcountry adventure through the western flank of the Tushars. Start five miles northeast of Beaver at the South Fork of North Creek Trailhead and hike 12 miles alongside the tumbling creek to turquoise-colored Blue Lake, a sparkling gem tucked beneath looming Mount Belknap and Mount Baldy. The trail, fording the creek over 60 times, threads through aspen groves and scented pine forests in the deep canyon.

Watch for black bear, deer, elk and other wildlife.

For a shorter hike, trek two or three miles up the canyon until you want to turn around. Alternatively, descend the Skyline Trail from FR #123 and follow the trail downhill to the lower trailhead.

5. The Pocket Trail

The Pocket Trail (#216), one of Utah’s great unknown hikes, ends at its namesake, a stunning alpine cirque nestled below Delano Peak. Start the six-mile, round-trip hike at Bullion Pasture Trailhead off FR #123 and descend through verdant meadows to Pine Creek. After crossing the stream, the trail passes through an old-growth spruce forest to a high ridge, then contours into The Pocket. Perhaps the most gorgeous place in the Tushars, The Pocket is ringed by rugged cliffs and a large moraine left by a retreating glacier. Expect sparkling creeks, summer wildflowers and plenty of solitude.

6. Bullion Canyon Trail

While the Bullion Canyon Trail (#074) climbs 5.5 miles up Pine Creek west of Marysville, you can take an easy hike on the first mile of the trail to Bullion Falls. This spectacular waterfall, fed by snowmelt from the crest of the Tushars, plunges 75 feet off a quartzite cliff, breaking to foam and mist on tumbled rocks below. Return to the trailhead for a two-mile, round-trip hike. If you’re energetic, continue up the canyon past well-preserved miners’ cabins from the 1800s and aspen groves to Bullion Pasture and the upper trailhead off FR #123.

Regardless of which hike you choose, you’ll find solitude and beauty in the Tushars. This mountain range is the perfect Utah getaway to pitch a tent at Big John Flat, lace up your boots and hit the trail.

Learn more about Utah – Life Elevated

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