Box Elder Peak loop

Box Elder Peak

5400′ gain
12.6 miles
4:30 up, 3:00 down

On Sunday, I climbed my third 11’er of the week – Box Elder Peak, located north of the Utah Valley above the town of alpine. My work buddy Simon and I hit the trail at 6:30 from the Dry Creek trailhead, passing by a cool waterfall in the shady morning.

Horsetail falls

Soon we reached a grassy area where we had a clear view of Box Elder Peak to the south. The North Cirque is the most distinctive feature of the mountain, full of wavy uplifted rock bands.

Heading south to the mountain

We headed around the peak to the West along the Box Elder Peak trail. Past the Sleigh Runner couloir, there is a faint trail that heads upward and southeast toward the south saddle. We would have gone up the couloir but didn’t because we had no crampons – the snow was too hard to climb safely with just boots, so we took the grassy slopes instead.

Ascending to the south saddle

After reaching the south saddle, we headed up the steep ridge to the north using a climbers trail. The hike was steep but the rock wasn’t as loose as I was expecting.

South ridge route
Steep ascent to the summit via the S Ridge
Last two steps to the summit

The views from the top were surprisingly good. To the south, Mt. Timpanogos looks imposing. To the north, the entire Alpine ridge is visible including all three of the 11’ers I had climbed up to this point.

Summit pano (north)
Summit pano (South)
North Cirque

A strange thing about the mountains is that ladybugs seem to converge on the summit. I have no idea why this is but you have to walk carefully to avoid killing about a million of them.

Ladybugs all over the summit

We decided to descend via the North Ridge, which was melted out until the treeline where the ridge splits northeast and northwest. We got funneled left (wrong) by a snowbank and ended up bushwhacking down the north slope.

Bushwhack down the north slopes

It ended up being a really good move. We stumbled upon an abandoned trail which took us back to the main trail… in about a mile less distance. It’s a good day in the mountains when getting lost cuts a mile off your trip. We continued down to the main trail past a few nice stream crossings. The shade kept the hot 90+ degree heat at bay.

Abandoned trail / shortcut

I was pleasantly surprised by this hike.  It had a little of everything – nice shade, open montane meadows, water, and an alpine ridge run. The views on top were among the best I’ve seen so far. Although a long day hike for most people, I would recommend this one as an introductory peak since it’s not really scary at all and the payoff is big. For less gain one can start from the other trailhead and make a shorter day of it.

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