Monday, November 19, 2018

Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island

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Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
Castle Rock (6,649 ft) is the highest summit on Stansbury Island, just West of Salt Lake City. It's the second largest island in the Great Salt Lake, and was named after Howard Stansbury who led the expedition in the area. Stansbury Island is a fun geological feature as well - it is dotted with shale, limestone, and dolomite rock. A large part of the island is private property, and used by cattle ranchers. It's very important to stay out of the private area -it is routinely watched by land owners and crossing into that area serves a large fine. Hiking this route to Castle Rock will keep you out of the private land, so you can still make the summit to this desert-like peak.

Ready to hike? Beware that there is no trail - this is a cross country hike but it's fairly easy in that there is no bushwhacking and you can't get lost with the completely open terrain. The hard part is the elevation gain which is just over 2,100 ft in 3.5 miles. There is also a small stretch of easy scrambling towards the summit for the last 1/4 mile. This is a very unique area, but conditions can also be harsh. The best time to hike here is in early Spring or late Fall. Depending on the winter, it can also be done then. You'll want to hike here with cool temperatures as there is zero shade and water. Get an early start - though its only 7 miles RT it took us almost 6 hours to complete.

This trail is dog friendly but beware of cattle (if they like to chase them), and again, having no shade or water. The first time I attempted this hike in 2014, we quickly ran out of water because the other my friends dogs chased cows for about 2 miles total and the temps got warm really quick so Charlie got way too hot. Dogs also need to feel comfortable scrambling over rocks - some may need a boost over the rocks. In this case a dog harness would be nice to have. 


From SLC head West on I-80. Take exit 84, past the Morton Salt Company. Turn left at the stop sign. Then continue along the roughly paved road (it turns to gravel) for 7.6 miles, until you reach a large white "NOTICE" sign and turn right, following the fence line. Park where you feel comfortable. 

Here's a driving map.


Distance: 7 miles RT
Elevation gain: 2,184 ft
Time: 5-7 hours
Dog friendly? Yes, off leash
Kid friendly? No
Fees/Permits? None

Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
 Turn right at the large white notice sign. Drive as fas up as you can - most people can make it up the first small hill with an SUV or larger. Small cars will need to park a little lower.
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
 Start by following the fence line. 
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
You'll quickly hike a steep section along the fence. Keep going until you get to the end of the fence then head North.
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
Now the fun begins. Hiking cross country here is really easy - there's zero bushwhacking. 
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
Keep aiming up and right (NE) to reach the shoreline/bench area.
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
 Eventually you'll see the saddle and the summit. Keep following the shoreline until you reach the white arrow. Here, you'll want to stay on the left of the black rock ridge area as you hike up. It's easier to climb up than the right side (we took this down and it was really steep).

The blue arrow is the summit.
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
 Our pup pal Heidi, is a 1 year old German Sheppard. She has TONS of energy so this was a great hike for her.
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
Getting close to the black rocks I pointed out before. 
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
Whew - it was sweating so much on this section. No wind plus working hard uphill, and I was down to my tank top.

Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
Halfway up and Charlie takes a break to yawn. Silly pup! It's also bandana season - we love the slip on bandanas from Twelve Paws!
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
 Looking over to the saddle and peak. The clouds were coming in fast. Here we found a decent game trail that cut diagonally across to the saddle. 
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
Annnnd back to my long sleeve shirt. I immediately cooled off once on the ridge from the wind. Only 1 more mile to go!
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
 We started to make our way across the ridge. Stay as close to the ridge the rest of the way - if you drop down, you'll have to work that much harder to get up.
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
Snow! I was so glad it was snowing and not raining as we had expected. It's never fun when your gear gets wet. But this - this was fun!
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
I went from having my base layer tank of to three layers within 20 minutes! 
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
 Up and down, over the hills...
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
 We couldn't see the peak anymore, but we weren't going to stop.
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
Looking back down the ridge.
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
The last 1/4 mile is all scrambling. The dogs needed a boost for one rock, but otherwise they made it themselves. 
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
The snow stopped but the clouds lingered.
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
Making our way higher and feeling good now!
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
Aww I finally got a photo of Charlie smiling! He loves this stuff. 

Is that...blue skies I see in the back?!
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
A few more climbs up, first. I freaking love FitnessFox Headbands - get 25% any item using the code "HIKE" at checkout!
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
 And we made it! Summit selfie! Sad that we didn't have any views though!
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
I gave Charlie his command to get on the rock behind me. "Load up!" I said. But instead of jumping on the rock he jumped up on me!

We had some snack and hot tea from my thermos, then it was time to head down.
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
 Ooh, dark and eerie skies as we hiked back down.
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
By the time we got off the ridge it was back to warmer temps and sunny skies. That's Utah for you!
Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island
A good sign the pups enjoyed their hike!





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Hiking to Castle Rock, Stansbury Island

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