Andy Nelson Peak & Navajo Cliffs • Highpoint: Kane County

Date Climbed
September 1, 2001

Elevation
10,027 feet (Andy Nelson Pk)
10,080 feet (Navajo Cliffs)

Distance
5 miles round trip
(Sum of both hikes)

Time
4 hours

Gain
920 feet

Conditions
Clear, humid

Prominence
847 feet (Nelson Pk)

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Nelson Peak & Navajo Lake


Navajo Lake from Nelson Peak

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I was on a fast three-day journey to southwest Utah over Labor Day weekend, with plans to visit three county highpoints. Two would be easy while the third, Delano Peak, would be the big hike for the short trip. The drive to Henderson was uneventful, and I started today leaving early from my folks, making the nearly 200-mile drive to situate myself in the highlands of southern Utah. First up: the highpoint of Kane County.

Much of Kane County is stunning high desert canyons and mesa country, notably, home to the Grand Staircase National Monument. But as is often the case, the highpoint is a bland peak tucked into the county's western corners. In Utah, though, "bland" is relative. What's bland in Utah would pass for unbelievably gorgeous anywhere else.

The highest point of land in Kane County is within spotty forest atop the Navajo Cliffs, where Kane and Iron County come together. It's not a peak or anything interesting, just a fluke of the boundaries. However, the county's highest peak is nearby, a symmetrical, forested hilltop called Andy Nelson Peak. I planned to visit both. Both are nearby Navajo Lake, a popular boating and fishing locale. First on my agenda was Andy Nelson Peak. I drove to the end of the Te-Ah Campground, parked and started the hike along the Virgin Rim Trail. The trails are new and well done, popular also with mountain bikers.

I went south along the Virgin Rim Trail about 1.5 miles, gaining 400 feet, eventually coming near the saddle separating Navajo and Andy Nelson Peaks. When it felt right, I left the trail and charged directly up the steep hillsides, gaining about 500 feet in a quarter-mile to top out on Andy Nelson's summit, which was broad and treeless, somewhat a surprise. The views were pretty nice, but obscured by the surrounding trees. The better views were on the descent, looking north and east across Navajo Lake and points beyond.

The hike out didn't take long, and the whole journey took just two hours, covering four miles. It was only late morning, plenty of time to explore more for the day. Next up, I wanted to visit the official county highpoint, atop the Navajo Cliffs to the north. I drove north along state route UT-14 to the Iron County Line sign, then going west on FR-66 (Deer Valley Road) for two miles to FR-1642, which is in abysmal shape. I got about a half-mile farther in before parking, and walking the rest.

I walked the remaining 3/4-mile of the road to where it ended in a thicket of low, dense trees. According to the map I needed to walk a few hundred more feet west to top out on a faint ridge. This I did, doing my best to keep the bearing, but I was forced to dodge brush along the way. I did get to the top of said ridge, not really sure if I was close or not. Then I spied an old cairn built by Andy Martin, progenitor of the county-highpoint hobby. If Andy thought this was the highpoint, it must be close, I thought. I wandered some more and basically kicked, tagged, sat on or sidled next to anything that looked high or promising. At some point I had to call it good, and just walked back to the road and to my truck.

The drive out was nice, and I went another 10 miles up the road to Cedar Breaks National Monument. Cedar Breaks is a set of cliffs with awesome views, similar to the Grand Canyon, though just a fraction of the size. While at Cedar Breaks, I had a good view of my next objective, Brian Head Peak, just up the road. I would be there shortly.

(c) 2001, 2012 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.