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LEWIS PEAK MAY NOT BE THE HIGHEST, BUT VIEW GETS VERY HIGH MARKS

The main destination along most popular hiking trails - Timpanogos Peak, Kings Peak, Mount Nebo, etc. - is the highest peak in the immediate area. However, when it comes to views, tallest isn't always best.

For example, Lewis Peak isn't the highest peak in the Wasatch Mountains between Ogden Canyon and the North Ogden Divide but it does have the best views of the area and is the most majestic peak located between Mount Ogden and Ben Lomond peaks. Perhaps that's why the U.S. Forest Service made a special 1.5-mile spur trail to the peak - 8,031-foot above sea level - back in 1978.There are four other peaks between North Ogden and Ogden Canyon that are higher than Lewis, but all are unnamed. The tallest is 104 feet higher than Lewis at 8,136 feet above sea level, but is set back to the east.

The Lewis Peak trail is an extension of the north section of the Skyline Trail in Weber County. This trail, now a part of the Great Western Trail too that stretches from Canada to Mexico, is best known for its access to Ben Lomond Peak via the southern segment. However the southern trail to Lewis Peak, though less used than the Ben Lomond section is worth a hike. The Lewis hike also probably requires less than half the vertical climbing a Ben Lomond hike does.

The Lewis Peak trail offers outstanding views of Pine View Dam, Ogden Valley, the Ogden area and probably has the most spectacular views available of Ben Lomond Peak from a distance.

In fact, hiking Lewis may convince any doubters that Ben Lomond Peak was indeed the inspiration for the "Mountain of Dreams" on the famous Paramount Pictures logo. (William Wadsworth Hodkinson, an Ogdenite, was the founder of Paramount in 1914.)

Lewis Peak was named in the last 1800s for Lewis W. Shurtliff, the first man recorded to have climbed it. Why his first named was used is not known, but Shurtliff was a prominent figure in the Ogden area's early history.

Shurtliff was an LDS Church Bishop in Plain City and later president of the Weber LDS Stake from 1883 to 1922. Looking straight east from Plain City or Harrisville, Lewis Peak is the most prominent peak.

The Lewis Peak trail is generally less crowded that its Ben Lomond counterpart, but still for Memorial Day 1994, Lewis Peak had more than 50 different visitors. It is also a peak accessible about one month earlier in the spring and one month later in the fall than either Ben Lomond or Mount Ogden, because of its lower elevation.

- How to hike Lewis Peak:

From downtown Salt Lake City, it's about a 75-minute drive to the trailhead at the top of the North Ogden Divide. Take I-15 north to Pleasant View exit (No. 352) and go east on 2700 North to U-89. Then go 150 feet south to 2550 North and east to Washington Blvd. Travel north to 3100 North - a street that goes straight east to the North Ogden Divide, a paved road, but a steep, windy climb.

A paved parking lot and restrooms (no water) is on the south side of the road. The trail begins 50 feet to the south at 6,184 feet above sea level or 1,700 feet above the valley floor. It switchbacks in the pines about 1,300 vertical feet in 1.5-miles, reaching 7,523-foot elevation. It then follows an open slope and it's here where the spectacular views of Ben Lomond Peak are visible.

The trail climbs to about 8,000 feet above sea level in the next 1.5 miles and passes by an 8,110-foot unnamed peak. It's here where the trail splits and a sign states 7.5 miles to Pineview Dam or 3.5 miles to Lewis Peak. Continuing on, there are a few ups and downs, but most of the altitude gains have already been achieved.

Visible to the west are Coldwater, One Horse and Garner Canyons en route to Lewis Peak. Just south of Lewis Peak is Jumpoff Canyon.

The trail also passes by the old path that goes into Conduit Canyon and eventually reaches Ogden Canyon. However, the Forest Service quit maintaining this trail in 1980.

The trail passes by several more peaks, including the fifth in a series this one 8,136 feet above sea level and the highest around. Then, the trail hits its last junction. The path deadends southward one-half mile later or the spur goes west 1.5 miles to Lewis Peak. Some hikers have continued south along this so-called deadend portion of the Skyline trail by winding their way down Johnson Draw to Ogden Canyon, but there's no marked trail after 880 yards.

Lewis Peak is marked by a sign and offers plenty of rocky sitting places. Visible below the peak among other sites are Ogden's Defense Depot and the Lucin Cutoff.

Allow about three to three and a half hours for the hike to Lewis and about two and a half to three hours for the return. Total distance is 6.5 miles each way, though some guide books understate it at 4.5.

All sections of the Skyline trail are open to horses, hikers, mountain bicycles and also motorcycles. Several good camping spots are available along the trail.

There's no water along the route and only scattered shade after the first two miles. Flies and bugs can be common along the route, so carry repellent.

Some hikers may like the Pineview Skyline trailhead, near the portdock ramp, that connects with North Ogden Divide and Lewis Peak but it winds back and forth so much above Pineview that it becomes very repetitious. It is also longer and has less variety than the Skyline section from North Ogden Pass only.