Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Hiking Mount Ellen

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Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
Mount Ellen (11,522 ft) & Mt. Ellen Peak (11,506 ft) are in the Henry Mountains, about 45 minutes - 1 hour south of Hanksville, UT. The Henry Mountains are an island of sort, as they are surrounded by three of Utah's National Parks - Capital Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands. Mount Ellen is a hulk of a mountain, composed of two distinct parts. The first is the North Ridge, which has the 3 highest summits in the Henry's.


 At the far northern end of the ridge is the pyramid-shaped peak which goes by the name Mt.Ellen Peak. At times in the past and during early mapping expeditions, it was used as a campsite where geologists took triangulation measurements by & for the USGS. On top are several old tent platforms. The highest peak, however, is the peak just before Mt. Ellen Peak, called Mount Ellen. The second distinct part is the South Ridge, which includes the mining area known as Bromide Basin. The highest point is what I refer to as South Ridge Peak, and has  an old and now-unused solar powered radio tower on top.

The trailhead for Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak start from Bull Creek Pass - driving up this dirt road is best suited for a high clearance car. We did have one Outback Subaru drive it, but got a flat tire. Our Jeep Wrangler and Toyota Tacoma made it just fine. The road is randomly grated, and requires crossing a few creeks. 

Since the drive from SLC is about 5 hours, we camped at Wickiup Pass, which is only 2.5 miles from Bull Creek Pass, and has one large camp area with two fire rings. However, there is a campground further down BLM0095 called Lonesome Beaver. Both camping areas are primitive, so you will need to bring your own water. There are no restrooms or fees. Leave no Trace principles apply.


From Hanksville, drive south on HWY 95 for 10.4 miles. Turn right onto the dirt road, BLM0095. Stay on this as it turns into Granite Road. Once you reach Sawmill Basin Road (at the "T) turn left. Follow this road as it again turns into BLM0095, and follow the signs for Bull Creek Pass or to wherever you are going to camp.

Bull Creek Pass to Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
Distance: 5.8 miles RT
Elevation gain: 1,024 ft
Time: 3-5 hours
Dog friendly? Yes, off leash
Kid friendly? Yes, older kids with hiking experience

Bull Creek Pass to South Ridge Peak
Distance: 2 miles RT
Elevation gain: 2,086 ft
Time: 2-3 hours
Dog friendly? Yes, off leash
Kid friendly? Yes, older kids with hiking experience
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 Camping at Wickiup Pass, you will be at a 4-way intersection. To get to Bull Creek Pass, turn Right. As a side not, you could get to Bull Creek Pass from the West side of the Henry's but driving time is much longer.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
Lots of space for camping under shade.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 Good morning from Wickiup Pass camping area! I knew I was going to be hiking with super fast hikers in our group, so I needed some caffeine to get me going. I ended up creating my new favorite morning camp concoction - 1 packed of Instant Coffee, and 1 packet of hot chocolate = instant mocha!
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 When we drove into the Henry's is was totally dark, so we had no idea what we would be waking up to. Little did I know, it would be a glorious morning! I walked up the small hill from camp, and was able to get a panorama of the Henry's looking North.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 We were hoping that we could drive all the way to Bull Creek Pass, but too much snow was blocking the road. We stopped where we could, and walked the extra 1/2 mile to the trailhead.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 At Bull Creek Pass, looking East. The trail starts to the left (North) of this sign.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 We started hiking later than we wanted to, around 10:30am. The sun was already beating down on us.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 The trail to Mount Ellen is well defined, and you can clearly see your first destination.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 Sometimes the trail cuts over a rocky path.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 Charlie always looks back to see if I am coming - what a good boy!
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 Because it was around 80F, even at 11,000 ft, I make Charlie carry his own Ruffwear Approach Pack. In it, he has two 16 oz water bottles, doggie poop bags, and a bowl. To cool off, he likes to hike through the remaining snow patches.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 Near the ridgeline, you will lose the trail. Just continue following the ridge, up and over the small boulder fields. The rocks aren't big enough that you have to jump or wear scrambling gloves, but be weary of where you step - most rocks are unstable.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 Getting closer to the summit.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 Summit of Mount Ellen! Mt. Pennell and Capital Reef in the distance.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 See the white line in the distance? That is Capital Reef National Park and Boulder, UT is almost directly West 37 miles as the crow flies.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 Charlie takes in his view. Bull Mountain is the peak directly above Charlie's head.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 To get to Mt. Ellen Peak, continue along the ridge for another 3/4 mile. The trail drops about 400 ft, then you have to hike back up to the peak. Mt. Ellen Peak is only 14 ft lower in elevation compared to Mount Ellen. It looks close, but it's deceiving!
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 Charlie and I make our way up the small switchbacks.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 Mt. Ellen Peak!
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 We took a snack and water break on the summit, and Charlie decided to take a nap.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 Group photo!
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 Working our way down and back over to Mount Ellen. To get back to the TH simply retrace your steps to Bull Creek Pass.

Bonus Peak - South Ridge Peak!
If you have the time and/or energy, I recommend hitting the South Ridge Summit. We walked back down the road, to this gully, and picked what looked like the best route to the ridge. The snow was too soft, and I was afraid I would be post holing this route. Three of us hiked straight up, just to the left of the snow, and the rest of the group hiked up and to the right. Both ways work and are super steep gaining 2,000 ft in just 1 mile to the summit.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 Deciding on the best route.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 I hiked to the left of the gully, and you can see how small the rest of the group looks across the field.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 Hiking to the ridge. Super steep!
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 Once on the ridge, you can follow the old ATV road to the summit, which you can see off to the left.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 Finally the trail evens out a little.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 Once on the South Ridge Peak, you will see the old solar-powered radio tower. There were all these little flies or bugs that kept attacking us, so we didn't stay long.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 The solar panel with the Abajo Mountains in the distance. The LaSals are off to the left, but hard to see in this photo.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 On the South Ridge Summit! Mt. Pennell (which we would be hiking the next day) and Mt. Hilliers off in the distance.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 Heading back down, I took a slightly different route since I knew the cars were parked further down the road from where we started hiking. However, I wish I would have went down the way I came up.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 Mount Ellen ridge behind us.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
 Back at camp after a long day of hiking, making dinner.
Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak
Charlie fell asleep as soon as we got to camp. He did a great job!
Mount Ellen trail map
Driving Map from the turnoff on Hwy 95 looking Southeast. Here's a link to the Google Map.
Mount Ellen trail map
 A close up of the driving map to Wickiup Pass & campsite.
Mount Ellen trail map
 Wickiup Pass/campsite to Bull Creek Pass and the Mount Ellen TH.
Mount Ellen trail map
Mount Ellen/Mt.Ellen Peak trail map looking Northeast.
Mount Ellen trail map
 Close up trail map from Mount Ellen over to Mt. Ellen Peak.

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Hiking Mount Ellen & Mt. Ellen Peak

5 comments:

  1. That was a long day of hiking...great job:) Poor Charlie! He was exhausted. Glad he had his bed:) Thanks for sharing:)

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  2. Thanks for the great trip write up! I'm coming out in September and hope to hike this with my little Aussie dog. She's 11 yrs old but very fit and active so we'll se how it goes. How did Charlie's paws handle the rocks? I was concerned about a trip ended pad tear so I bought mine some Ruffwear boots.

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    1. The rocks weren't that bad, but then again, Charlie is used to hiking in that type of terrain. I'm sure if you and your dog frequently hike she'll do fine. Boots may help if she has soft paws. - Alicia

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  3. This was an awesome description, I really appreciate it! I was there a few days ago but tight on time. I was just scoping it out as I intend to summit Utah's 10 most prominent peaks in 10 consecutive days later this year to raise $10,000 for Saint Jude Children's Hospital. Your description may have saved me an extra planning trip. Thank you!

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    1. thank you! and good luck with your peak bagging & St. Jude's! -Aalicia

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