Spectacular Views from the Loafer Mountain Trail to Santaquin Peak

Views along the Loafer Mountain Trail en route to Santaquin Peak, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Views along the Loafer Mountain Trail en route to Santaquin Peak

Santaquin Peak in the Wasatch Mountain Range isn’t the loftiest of peaks nor is it the most famous.  Even the trail to the top takes on the name of another peak, which (granted) is 2 feet taller.  But it does have advantages, including 1) a trail all of the way to the summit and 2) a fantastic view most of the way along the trail!

Quick Stats

Round Trip Length: 12.1 miles Trail Type: Out & back Elevation Gain: 4,355ft. Pets: Yes Fees: None

Views down to Payson Lakes, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Views down to Payson Lakes

It was sunny when I started out on the Loafer Mountain Trail (marked Loafer Mtn TR. 098 (6 Miles)).  It was also a fairly quiet morning.  I’ve heard that the Mount Nebo Highway can be absolutely overrun, and it seemed to be set up for a good deal of traffic.  However, on a Thursday in the middle of September, I’d seen less than a handful of cars (starting at about 7am may have had something to do with this, too).  We parked in the small parking area, donned our gear, started up my GPS, and took off down the trail.

A meadow on the first section of the Loafer Mountain Trail, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
A meadow on the first section of the Loafer Mountain Trail

The path descends through the trees – it’s a bit of a disappointment, since you know you’ll be climbing a lot of elevation later!  After only a tenth of a mile, don’t turn right on the Blackhawk Trail (TR. 084).  Instead, continue on the Loafer Mountain Trail.  These signs look new, so I expect they’ll be around for quite some time.

Views to Loafer Mountain & Santaquin Peak, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Views to Loafer Mountain & Santaquin Peak

The path passes through aspen woods with occasional meadows and/or views to the surrounding area.  The fall colors were just starting (they were apparently extremely late in 2023).  There are a few very wet spots in this area, and since the trail is also open to motorcycles, mountain bikes, and horses, let’s just say that the muddy parts were pretty torn up.  We used logs put down by helpful hikers and skirted the worst of the mud.

Early views to Mt. Nebo and Bald Mountain from the Loafer Mountain Trail, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Early views to Mt. Nebo and Bald Mountain

After not quite a mile, we came to the junction with the Bennie Creek Trail (TR. 071).  This one threw me for a loop; I had no idea where we were supposed to go or do… and sadly, the map on my GPS wasn’t terribly helpful.  We took a chance and continued straight (return into the trees and don’t cross the fence) – which thankfully was correct!  The path descends to cross a small creek (dry in September).

The Bennie Creek Trail Junction on the Loafer Mountain Mountain, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
The Bennie Creek Trail Junction

Only a tenth of a mile beyond the Bennie Creek Trail Junction, you’ll come to the turnoff for the Loafer Mountain Trail (horses and bicycles are still allowed, but motorcycles are not).  Turn right here and begin the ascent.

Wildflowers near the Loafer Mountain Trail turnoff, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Wildflowers near the Loafer Mountain Trail turnoff

The views improve as you climb higher.  At this point, you’re in a deciduous forest, so the oaks were red and the aspens were just turning yellow.  Spectacular!

An especially colorful hillside along the Loafer Mountain Trail en route up Santaquin Peak, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
An especially colorful hillside

Views also open up across the valley to so many other peaks, most notably Mount Nebo, Bald Mountain, and Dry Mountain.

Views to Mt. Nebo and Bald Mountain from the Loafer Mountain Trail en route up Santaquin Peak, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Views to Mt. Nebo and Bald Mountain

The trail is fairly steep as it switchbacks upward.  There are a few reprieves, though these diminish as you reach the treeline and the trail becomes rockier.  Use care, as the trail can be slippery with loose stones.  At one point, I heard an elk bugling in one of the valleys below.

Hiking up a steep section of the Loafer Mountain Trail near the treeline, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Hiking up a steep section of the trail near the treeline

At last, 3.4 miles from the trailhead, we reached a type of saddle (very nearly the ridgeline).  The views from here are fabulous, though they keep improving as you keep walking.

Standing in the "saddle" on the Loafer Mountain Trail en route up Santaquin Peak, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Standing in the “saddle”

The path continues to climb another short distance up to the ridgeline. The grade abates for a bit.

Heading up to the ridgeline on the trail to Santaquin Mountain, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Heading up to the ridgeline

About this point, I began to notice the clouds.  There had been puffy clouds in the sky most of the morning, but these clouds were well below us, creeping up the valleys.  I hoped this wasn’t a sign of what was to come.

Mist creeping up the valleys along the Loafer Mountain Trail, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Mist creeping up the valleys

I totally loved this section of the trail.  While it’s still climbing, it’s not as steep as before, and there are views in so many directions.  Added to this, I’m in love with open yellow meadows and ridge walks.

Hiking along the ridgeline toward Loafer Mountain and Santaquin Peak, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Hiking along the ridgeline

We also found a few wildflowers.

Fleabane flowers on the Loafer Mountain Ridge, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Fleabane flowers

Up ahead, we could see Santaquin Peak… it seemed a long distance away still! The trail continues to wind along the ridgelines and through meadows (technically, you’re on Loafer Mountain at this point, as it extends from here to well beyond Santaquin Peak).  And the clouds continued to creep up the valleys.  It was fascinating in a wild sort of way.  But we still had mostly sunshine.  I also found a fallen-over sign that said “112.”  It’s probably a trail number, but I’m not sure where the trail goes unless it was the one unmarked trail that heads off to the right along the ridgeline.

The trail ahead up Santaquin Peak, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
The trail ahead

As the trail left the ridgeline to work up along the side of Loafer Mountain, the clouds continued to increase.  It was coming – coming – and then the mist was all around us and we were in a world of meadows, a few trees, and filmy whiteness.

Off the ridge and along the side of Loafer Mountain, heading for Santaquin Peak, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Off the ridge and along the side of Loafer Mountain

I was sad because I knew there would be even more great views, including down on Sandy Lake.  But the mist had its own charm.

The mist creeps over the Loafer Mountain Trail, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
The mist creeps over the trail

Along this section of trail, we met the only human being we saw all day – an older-side-of-middle-aged gentleman who always hikes Santaquin Mountain on the same day every year (or at least the same week – I think it coincides with his birthday).  He couldn’t get over how the colors weren’t out yet; usually, they’re past their prime by the third week of September.  Having never visited the Wasatch Range before, we didn’t know any better and were just enjoying what little color was showing!

Wildflowers along the side of Loafer Mountain, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Wildflowers along the side of Loafer Mountain

The first veil of mist lifted enough to give us some limited views as we reached the final turn to the left that would take us up Santaquin Peak, below the col between Santaquin Peak (left) and Loafer Mountain (right).  At this point, the trail becomes much rougher; I’d say some of the trail-on-scree sections border on sketchy Class 3 due to the exposure.

Looking down, nearly at the top of Santaquin Peak, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Looking down, nearly at the top of Santaquin Peak

At last, the route (it’s not really a path anymore) turns right and it’s a quick scramble up to the peak.  Yay!  You’re only 6.1 miles from the trailhead!

Views south to Payson Lakes and Mt. Nebo (if you could see it!) from Santaquin Peak, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Views south to Payson Lakes and Mt. Nebo (if you could see it!)

Views would have been fabulous up here on a clear day.  As it was, we were blessed with several breaks in the clouds that allowed us many more views than I would have thought given the mist and clouds.

Views northeast to the Wasatch Range from Santaquin Peak, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Views northeast to the Wasatch Range

Also, it didn’t thunder, and it didn’t rain long, which were both extremely good considering our position on top of a very exposed peak!  There is also a summit register complete with a mailbox.

The summit register mailbox on Santaquin Peak, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
The summit register mailbox

Since we were here, we enjoyed the shifting movements of the clouds while hiding behind a windblock and eating lunch.  As we packed up our gear, we spotted mountain goats over on Loafer Mountain – a whole herd of mountain goats!

Mountain goats on the side of Loafer Mountain from Santaquin Peak, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Mountain goats on the side of Loafer Mountain

We descended back into intense mist, but it cleared by the time we arrived back at the ridgeline walk.  The clearing-and-mist game continued as we hiked back down into the forest and then back to the parking lot.

Views down toward Payson from the Loafer Mountain Trail, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Views down toward Payson

Well before we got back to the van, we were pretty tired!  Yes, we’d just hiked 100 miles in Yellowstone, but most of those trails were fairly flat and well under 12.1 miles.  We’d also done Kessler Peak the day before, so our muscles were still pretty tired from that very steep trail.  It felt good to rest our weary legs and head back down into Sandy!

Fall colors and clouds along the Loafer Mountain Trail, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Fall colors and clouds

Round Trip Trail Length: 12.1 miles

Elevation Gain: 4,355ft. (7,697ft. to 10,652ft.)

Facilities: None

Fees: None

Autumn colors along the Loafer Mountain Trail, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Autumn colors along the trail

Trail Notes: This is a very steep, grueling hike.  Bring plenty of water.  It could also be very hot in the summer, as much of the route is exposed; you wouldn’t want to be out here in a thunderstorm.  Yes, it’s true that the Loafer Mountain Trail takes you up Santaquin Mountain and never quite arrives at Loafer Mountain.  You could scramble up Loafer (just to the southeast), but that would be quite a trek on its own.  My favorite part of the trail was the sheer number of views in all directions, especially in the meadows.

Views down toward Payson and to the Wasatch Range from the Loafer Mountain Trail en route to Santaquin Peak, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Views down toward Payson and to the Wasatch Range

Trail ★

Road ★

Signs ★

Scenery ★

Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this? ★

Overall Rating: ★

Cliffs on the northern ridge of Loafer Mountain from Santaquin Peak, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Cliffs on the northern ridge of Loafer Mountain

GPS Coordinates for the Loafer Mountain Trail to Santaquin Peak

TH: 39.9407740°, -111.6440850° (39°56.44644′, -111°38.64510′ / 39°56’26.7864″, -111°38’38.7060″) (7,717ft.) (0.0)

Blackhawk Trail Junction: 39.9414790°, -111.6418490° (39°56.48874′, -111°38.51094′ / 39°56’29.3244″, -111°38’30.6564″) (7,706ft.) (0.14)

Meadows in the mist... I apparently took most of my photos whenever the sun was out!  Loafer Mountain Trail below Santaquin Peak, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Meadows in the mist… I apparently took most of my photos whenever the sun was out!

Bennie Trail Junction: 39.9519930°, -111.6409160° (39°57.11958′, -111°38.45496′ / 39°57’07.1748″, -111°38’27.2976″) (7,811ft.) (0.96)

Loafer Mountain Trail Junction: 39.9530210°, -111.6419430° (39°57.18126′, -111°38.51658′ / 39°57’10.8756″, -111°38’30.9948″) (7,709ft.) (1.09)

A rift in the mist below Loafer Mountain, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
A rift in the mist

Saddle: 39.9679110°, -111.6446890° (39°58.07466′, -111°38.68134′ / 39°58’04.4796″, -111°38’40.8804″) (9,500ft.) (3.39)

Santaquin Peak: 39.9833190°, -111.6237380° (39°58.99914′, -111°37.42428′ / 39°58’59.9484″, -111°37’25.4568″) (10,612ft.) (6.12)

End at TH: 39.9408170°, -111.6440740° (39°56.44902′, -111°38.64444′ / 39°56’26.9412″, -111°38’38.6664″) (7,716ft.) (12.09)

A baby greater short-horned lizard along the Loafer Mountain Trail, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
A baby greater short-horned lizard

The gpx file for Santaquin Peak via the Loafer Mountain Trail can be downloaded – please note that this and the GPS Coordinates are for reference only and should not be used as a sole resource when hiking this trail.

Download GPX File size: 210.3 KB Downloaded 9 times

(Note: I do my best to ensure that all downloads, the webpage, etc. are virus-free and accurate; however, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that might result, including but not limited to loss of data, damages to hardware, harm to users, from use of files, information, etc. from this website.  Thanks!)

Mist among the aspens along the Loafer Mountain Trail below Santaquin Peak, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Mist among the aspens

Getting to the Loafer Mountain Trailhead

From I-15S, take Exit 250 for Payson.  At the end of the exit ramp, turn left to pass under the highway and enter the city of Payson.  After 0.5 miles, turn left onto UT-198 E/E 100 N – follow signs for the Peteetneet Museum.  Then turn right onto N 600 E 0.5 miles later (again, follow the museum signs).  Continue straight on this road for a total of 12.0 miles as the road winds into the mountains.  The small parking area will be on the left.

Maple leaf along the Loafer Mountain Trail, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Maple leaf along the trail

If coming from I-15N, take Exit 248 for UT-178 and 800 South.  At the bottom of the exit ramp, turn right on W 800 S for 1.7 miles.  Turn left on S 600 E Peteetneet Blvd an drive straight for a total of 11.4 miles up into the mountains.  The small parking area will be on the left.

Visual trail map and elevation profile for my hike up Santaquin Peak via the Loafer Mountain Trail, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
Visual trail map and elevation profile for my hike up Santaquin Peak via the Loafer Mountain Trail

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