2014 Ranger Summary
The weekend of June 7 and 8 was the kick off of the Friends of Kings Peak Wilderness Intern program in Henry’s Fork Basin of the High Uintas Wilderness Area. Our Wilderness Intern, Mike Casazza from New Hampshire, helped during a Friends of Kings Peak weekend volunteer work trip to cut out the fallen trees in the Henry’s Fork Basin. He was joined by U.S. Forest Service Volunteer Ben Powell in late June. They worked until Labor Day in Henry’s Fork Basin. Between the two of them they:
- Spoke with 2,504 visitors in the Henry’s Fork Basin about packing out their trash, burying human waste and toilet paper, and camping at least 200 feet away from water sources and trails. This is up sharply from 2013 Ben and Mike watched the use patterns and decided to hike back to the trailhead on Thursdays, the first days of their tour to contact the maximum amount of weekend traffic.
- Encountered 59 groups of Boy Scouts, 29 of which exceeded the legal group size limit of 14 people. This number is also up sharply from 24 in 2013. Ben volunteered to hike into the basin on days off and was able to contact more scout troops whose trips start on Monday or Tuesday. They did define a real issue with group size violations finding that nearly half of all scout troops exceed the 14 person limit.
- Destroyed and naturalized 75 fire rings that had been built within the quarter-mile fire closure area at Dollar and Henry’s Fork Lakes. At the end of the 2013 hiking season after documenting 67 Steve was sent up with numerous signs to post both Dollar and Henry’s Fork Lakes. While doing campsite surveys I found a fire closure sign inside a fire ring partially burned at Dollar.
- Naturalized 105 more fire rings and illegal campsites that were located within 200 feet of water sources to improve water quality. This number is down from 2013, even with Campsite surveys being completed. This seems to be a function of rangers explaining the regulations and tying behavior to water quality.
- Buried 222 mounds of human waste and toilet paper also down from 2013. Again better messaging to visitors and more contacts.
- Collected 276 pounds of trash including a 46 pound deep-cycle marine battery, a four-person inflatable raft and a 40 pound wheeled game cart. This number is up sharply from 165 pound in 2013. Two factors are contributing to this, campsite surveys meant that FKP was looking at campsites thoroughly for legal status and visiting spots outside of the heavily used areas at the lakes. Ben and Mike also went out to spots such as Hessey Lake and West Fork Beaver Creek trail that haven’t been visited by FKP. The battery belongs to the sheep permit holder in Henry’s Fork basin and had been stored at the cabin south of Henry’s Fork Lake. It was found abandoned beside the West Fork Beaver creek trail about 3 miles from Elkhorn Crossing. The game cart was abandoned 4 ½ miles from the trailhead along the Henry’s Fork trail. FKP’s July worktrip passed a group of scouts exiting the basin on Saturday July 12th. We noticed two boys in the group carrying a large black duffle bag between them. Once we found the game cart we realized the troop took the cart in as far as possible until rock made travel difficult then left it. Wheeled carts are illegal inside wilderness areas.
- Assisted in inventorying 107 campsites in Henry’s Fork Basin for the U.S. Forest Service’s Wilderness program.
- Four Forest Service standard cairns were constructed on the Henry’s Fork Basin trail at the upper junction to define the system trail from a social trail leading back to Dollar Lake. These were constructed by the Utah Conservation crew returning from Painter Basin. Friends of Kings Peak finished constructing 60 feet of crush filled turnpike by the Snotel site at a stream crossing in June.
Every year over ten thousand people attempt to summit Kings Peak, the highest point in Utah. The most popular route is from the north starting at Henry's Fork trailhead. This 24-mile round trip hike climbs 3,500 feet in elevation, over Gunsight and Anderson Passes, with a boulder scramble to the peak from Anderson Pass for the last mile.
From the south, Kings Peak can be reached from the Yellowstone/Swift Creek trailhead, a 22-mile hike one-way. Access to this trailhead north of Duchesne, Utah, travels a dirt road for the final ten miles. An alternative route starts from the Center Park trailhead is also unpaved. Both of these routes are slow gradual climbs until they reach Anderson Pass. They see much less foot traffic than the Henry's Fork route and require an overnight stay or two somewhere along the route.
The routes from the east are from the Uinta Canyon trailhead over Roberts Pass and from West Fork White Rocks over Fox-Quent Pass. These two routes are about the same distance as the southern approach but the extra pass makes for a more strenuous hike.
From the north, the summit of Kings Peak is doable as a very long day hike, with climbers starting at dawn or earlier from the trailhead. Be aware there are often summertime thunderstorms and lightening. Plan to be leaving the summit and heading down by early afternoon to avoid bad weather.
In 2010, there were five search and rescue missions initiated for hikers who were "lost " in the area around or on Kings Peak. The majority of these lost individuals tried to shortcut the trail to save time on their descent and many of them spent a night out with no gear. Remember that the routes south or east from Kings Peak don't reach a trailhead for at least 22 miles one-way.
If you do choose the more popular Henry's Fork trailhead approach to Kings Peak, please note that there may be more than 200 felllow hikers per weekend day during July and August, also attempting to reach the summit. For this reason it is critical that you practice Leave No Trace Principles and understand the current wilderness regulations for the High Uintas Wilderness.