Murdock Mountain West Ridge • Highpoint: Wasatch County
• Uinta Mountains

The gentle west slopes of
Murdock Mountain

Here's a cairn. Is this
the highpoint?

Maybe it's here

Or here...

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Date: August 15, 2006 • Elevation: 10,840 feet • Prominence: none (liner) • Distance: 1 mile • Time: 1 hour • Gain: 400 feet • Conditions: Unsettled, storms building

Two days after my exhausting hike up Ruby Dome in Nevada, I had worked my way back into Utah and was looking for something to do. I first looked at Willard Peak (highpoint of Weber County), but that venture came up short: my first try was via the forest road from the north, but I was concerned its quality was bad enough to possibly ding my vehicle, a rental. I didn't want to chance that. So I camped somewhere on the east side near the town of Liberty and followed the Ben Lomond Peak trail the next morning. However, the day was misty and drizzly, and the trail was overgrown. After 90 minutes, with just about 15% of the hike finished, and given the weather, I decided to cancel this attempt. The conditions were just not in my favor.

The hike was not a total loss, however. I saw my first moose ever while hiking down. Yes, moose live here! I saw him in the brush off the trail; he scampered away as he saw me. That was worth it.

It was about 9 a.m. when I came back to my vehicle, so now I had a full day to kill. Too late to start any long hikes (and the weather was staying kind of unsettled), I decided to go visit the only "easy" county highpoint in the region, the liner in Wasatch County. It's not a trivial highpoint, but neither does it require a full day or thousands of feet of gain. It'd be a perfect way to kill time and explore the area in eastern Wasatch County.

I made my way into the interior mountainous regions, passing through Coalville, where I stopped at their library for some maps and information, and then later in Kamas, where I got further information from the Forest Service. They require a $3 fee to park along the highway up in the mountains, so I paid the fee, got a pass and all sorts of brochures. I drove east along UT-150 into the heart of the mountains, following the highway for 28 miles as it gained steadily to just below 11,000 feet elevation. Along the way I was treated to vistas of high mountains, endless forest and gorgeous waterfalls.

In about an hour I had driven to the mile-marker 28, which put me close to the Wasatch County highpoint. From the pullout and viewpoint below Bald Mountain I could see my objective: a broad talus ridge emanating west off of a gentle peak called Murdock Mountain. I backtracked a tiny bit and parked in a broad gravel clearing very near the mile-marker post. This put me just across the highway from my objective.

The highpoint of the county is a result of a random boundary placement. It's not the summit of a peak, but a point along its west ridge at 10,840 feet elevation. This required a GPS and map, plus a compass for bearings. I walked into the trees and up the steep slopes, gaining about 300 feet quickly, but soon coming onto some gentle slopes and the talus-forest margin. I clambered up onto the talus and worked by sight south until I had surmounted the obvious (by sight) "ridge", as best as I could determine it.

I had pre-programmed a waypoint into my GPS for the highpoint, so when I checked my position I was too high by 100 feet and too far east (inside Duchesne County). I walked west along the rocks and through some small tree stands until the GPS seemed to say I was in the right area. Knowing that my GPS coordinate may have some error to it, I started seeking out anything that looked like a cairn, or any hint of previous visitors. I stayed on the ridgeline as best as I could. I walked west and then started finding cairns. Which one was correct? Who knows. To be sure I ended up visiting three cairns, and essentially walking the ridgeline faithfully so that at some point I had to have crossed the highpoint, even if I didn't know when for sure.

By the time I came upon the third cairn, I felt I had given the area good coverage overall, and had spent about 45 minutes already on the hunt. I can't say which cairn, if any, is the right one. I do feel that I stayed on the ridgeline enough so that I did the highpoint, even if unbeknownst to me exactly. Above me were some puffy clouds, and one set nearby dropping rain and lightning, so I got moving and decided to get back to my car. I had an enjoyable drive back into Kamas, stopping to have lunch near a set of huge waterfalls just down the highway.

(c) 2006, 2016 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.