The Mountains of Utah •
South Tent Mountain • Highpoint: Sanpete County
• Highpoint: Wasatch Plateau
• Manti-LaSal National Forest

South Tent as seen
from Skyline Road

The summit peeks
above a lower bench

Looking back at North Tent
from the summit brush and cairn

Date: July 16, 2006 • Elevation: 11,285 feet • Prominence: 3,365 feet • Distance: 2 miles • Time: 2 hours • Gain: 900 feet • Conditions: Clear, general high clouds


I began today with an energetic hike up Fishlake Hightop. That hike took just a few hours and when I was done, it was still mid-morning. I had planned for this, so I drove north through the towns of Salina, Manti and Ephraim, arriving into the Ephraim-Spring City area around noon.

South Tent Mountain is an attractive peak on the Wasatch Plateau above town. On top the plateau (which is above 10,000 feet), the mountains are more like smaller hills. South Tent Mountain is the highest point of the plateau. In Spring City, I looked up at the wall of cliffs and noted the skies were still mostly blue, few puffy clouds having built up. This was good news, as even a little moisture could make those roads treacherous and impassable.

I followed the directions given in the High In Utah book, heading east past farms into the Manti-La Sal Forest. Down low, the roads were dirt and in fine shape, but once the road entered the forest and started up the steep hillsides, things got interesting fast. The road became narrow, often only one car width wide, and heavily washboarded, so traction wasn't the best. The hillsides were open, so I had unobstructed views of the thousand-foot drop should I slide off the road for some reason. Higher up, one section had actually washed away, leaving a narrow ledge road to bypass it. It was short and had fresh tracks, so I went for it. Soon, I had arrived onto the plateau, so I took a moment to relax. I was 13 miles from my start in Spring City.

I still had to drive another three miles south toward Tent Mountain along Skyline Drive. Unfortunately, the roads were deeply rutted by ATVs. Some ruts were a foot deep, and since the ruts were ATV-wide, I couldn't necessarily balance my truck wheels on the ridges. Instead, I had to grind forward and hope I would not high center.

Finally, I came to the point on the road closest to South Tent Mountain. I parked and suited up, locked things up and started the hike at 1:30 p.m. The skies were still mostly stable. Should a rainstorm develop, these roads would turn to muck and I'd be up here for a day or two at least. While I had provisions to camp out if need be, I preferred not to be up here for a couple days.

There are two summits, South Tent, and the one closer to me, North Tent. An old road goes uphill on North Tent Mountain, and my plan was to get up this road a ways, then traverse over. But the road was in rotten shape, even for hiking, and after a few hundred, I looked down and saw a possibly better option. The map shows a feature called "Beck's Ditch" that runs along the base of both peaks. From up high, I could see it was an old water collector canal, with a cleared berm running its whole length. This seemed much preferable to where I was now, so I descended to my truck, then downslope to get to the berm alongside the ditch.

This plan worked beautifully. The berm was mostly free of brush and trees, but had tall grasses and flowering plants, and game paths in places. I followed this northeast for a half-mile. I was too close in to the hillside to see the peaks above me, so I guessed. When it felt right, I left the berm and started a steep hike up grassy and flowery hillsides, following open paths and rocks whenever possible. This worked well. I was now in the saddle separating the two Tent summits.

South Tent Mountain was still another 400 feet above, about a half-mile farther on. I followed paths and game trails and in twenty minutes, arrived onto the summit of South Tent Mountain. I found the benchmark inside a cairn, and one witness marker. The actual highest point seemed to be inside a small stand of brush a few feet from the benchmark. I signed in the log, stepped around and snapped a photo of North Tent. It had taken me an hour to get here, and I took a break to relax and admire the views.

After fifteen minutes, I started down. The downhill hike went quickly and I was back to Beck's Ditch in twenty minutes, then back to my truck after another twenty minutes, a total time of two hours for the actual hike. The hike had been a pleasure, and rather easy, once I discovered the Beck's Ditch option. Truthfully, I wanted to get down back to civilization before too long. Without much delay, I piled into the truck and started the bumpy drive down.

Other than being unbelievably annoying, the rutted Skyline Drive segment went quickly, and I even chatted with another guy in a truck, who had his young son with him. They were looking to hike South Tent, too. Now it was time to summon some courage and deal with that steep, rutted, narrow nasty road down off the mountain. I put the truck into four-wheel low and let it drive itself down the steep road. All I did was steer.

The narrow segment past the washout was no problem, but the washboarding would sometimes cause my truck to fishtail if I went faster than 10 miles per hour. Given there was no room for error, this was very unpleasant. I had a death grip on the steering wheel and just rumbled down the road, one yard at a time. In an hour or so, I was safely off the mountain and onto better roads. That was a tremendous relief.

It was nearing 5 p.m. and I'd had a long day, and was fairly ripe after two days in the bush and hiking three peaks, so I found a tidy hotel in the city of Mount Pleasant to clean and rest. This put me in good position for more easy hiking the following morning.

(c) 2006, 2019 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.