Utah is a desert state, the second most arid of the 50 states, and yet it also has mountains located in all 29 of its counties. No other state has that kind of steady mountain geography. There are no vast plains or lowlands. Mountains pop up throughout the state — Utah is mountain territory.
Among high points of the 50 individual states, Utah's Kings Peak ranks sixth in total elevation. Best hiked in July through September, it is rated as a "Class 2" climb, according to Don W. Holmes, author of "Highpoints of the United States."
This means ascending Kings Peak requires "Rough cross country travel . . . boulder hopping and use of hands for balance." It is almost a 30-mile round-trip hike from the trailhead parking lot to Kings and back.
There's also a legend out there that Sir Edmund Hillary of New Zealand, one of the first two men to climb Mount Everest in 1953, also hiked to the top of Utah's Kings Peak. If ever proven true, this tale adds extra importance to Utah's King of peaks.
Not a legend though is that today's Kings Peak was undiscovered until the mid-1960s. Prior to satellite measurements, the U.S. Geological Survey pegged today's South Kings Peak as Utah's tallest. Any hikers going to Kings Peak prior to 1966 would have scaled the state's second-tallest peak instead.
Even though Kings Peak is the highest "point" in Utah, it isn't really the mountain with the sharpest rise from the surrounding terrain.
For example, most of the valleys surrounding Kings Peak are at just over 10,000 feet in elevation. This means there's a difference of just 2,700 approximate feet from valley to peak in the area.
In contrast, Mount Peale (12,721 feet above sea level) has the greatest difference in this vertical relief category. Moab, at about 4,000 feet elevation, means Peale rises about 8,721 feet above its surrounding topography — the most of anywhere in Utah.
Utah is also a large enough state that some peculiarities exist in its mountains. For example, generally the farther south you travel, the higher the timberline (not accounting for variances in south or north facing slopes.) For example, this means that Thurston Peak, Davis County, at 9,706 feet above sea level, is well above the treeline. Yet Signal Peak, Washington County's highest point at 10,365 feet, is completely forested in.
What are the 10 tallest peaks in Utah? What are its most significant mountain ranges? What are the high points in each county?
Here are some lists to best answer those questions. (Note: you won't always find universal agreement on all these peak elevations or names because of variances on peak/high point definitions, measurements and official names, unofficial titles or the lack thereof.)
The 10 tallest mountains in Utah (with names):
1. Kings Peak, Uinta Mountains, Duchesne County, 13,528.
2. South Kings Peak, Uinta Mountains, Duchesne County, 13,512.
3. Gilbert Peak, Uinta Mountains, Summit and Duchesne counties, 13,442.
4. Mount Emmons, Uinta Mountains, Duchesne County, 13,440.
5. Mount Lovenia, Uinta Mountains, Summit and Duchesne counties; 13,219.
6. Tokewanna Peak, Uinta Mountains, Summit County, 13,165.
7. Mount Powell, Uinta Mountains, Summit County, 13,159.
8. *"Wasatch Peak," benchmark, Uinta Mountains, Summit County, 13,156.
9. **Wilson Peak, Uinta Mountains, Summit and Duchesne counties, 13,049.
10. ***"Squaw Peak" benchmark, Uinta Mountains, Summit County, 12,990.
*Wasatch Peak is not officially named but is a benchmark listed on maps.
**There are 14 unnamed peaks over 13,000 feet above sea level in the Uinta Mountains. That number may vary, depending on the definition of a summit or peak.
***Squaw Peak is not officially named but is a benchmark listed on maps. (The "Squaw" name has also fallen out of favor in recent years among committees on U.S. place names because of its derogatory slant toward Native American women.)
Tallest 20 Utah peaks with names and NOT located in the Uinta Mountains:
1. Mount Peale, La Sal Mountains, San Juan County, 12,721.
2. Mount Mellenthin, La Sal Mountains, San Juan County, 12,645.
3. Mount Tukuhnikivatz, La Sal Mountains, San Juan County, 12,482.
4. Mount Waas, Grand County, 12,331.
5. Manns Peak, Grand County, 12,272.
6. Mount Tomasaki, La Sal Mountains, Grand County, 12,239.
7. Delano Peak, Beaver and Piute counties, 12,169.
8. Mount Belknap (or "Belnap"), Beaver and Piute counties, 12,137.
9. Mount Baldy, Beaver and Piute counties, 12,122.
10. Ibapah Peak, Juab County, 12,087.
11. Haystack Peak, Juab County, 12,020
12. Mount Holly, Beaver and Piute counties, 11,985.
13. Ibapah Azimuth, Juab County, 11,987.
14. Mount Nebo North Peak, Utah and Juab counties, 11,928.
15. Mount Nebo South Peak, Utah and Juab counties, 11,877.
16. Mount Nebo Middle Peak, Utah and Juab counties, 11,824.
17. South Mountain, San Juan County, 11,817.
18. Mount Brigham, Piute County, 11,757.
19. Mount Timpanogos North Peak, Utah County, 11,750.
20. "Mount Timpanogos South Peak," Utah County 11,722.
Utah's five most significant mountain ranges:
1. Uintas, high point is 3,528 feet above sea level.
2. La Sal Mountains, 12,721-foot high point.
3. Tushar Mountains, 12,173-foot high point.
4. Deep Creek Mountains, 12,087-foot high point.
5. Wasatch Mountains, 11,928-foot high point.
Tallest peak in each of the 29 counties:
Beaver: *Delano Peak, 12,169.
Box Elder: "Bull Mountain," 9,931 or 9,934.
Cache: Naomi Peak, 9,979.
Carbon: Monument Peak, 10,452.
Daggett *"Eccentric" benchmark, 12,276.
Davis: *Thurston Peak ("North Francis"), 9,706.
Duchesne: Kings Peak, 13,528.
Emery: East Mountain, 10,743.
Garfield: Mount Ellen, 11,522.
Grand: Mount Waas, 12,331.
Iron: Brian Head, 11,307.
Juab: Ibapah Peak, 12,087.
Kane: **Andy Nelson Peak, 10,027.
Millard: Mine Camp Peak, 10,222.
Morgan : *Thurston Peak, 9,706.
Piute: Delano Peak, 12,169.
Rich: Bridger Peak, also called Swan Peak, north ridge, 9,255.
Salt Lake: American Fork Twin Peaks, 11,489.
San Juan: Mount Peale, 12,721.
Sanpete: South Tent Mountain, 11,285.
Sevier: Fish Lake Hightop, 11,633.
Summit: Gilbert Peak, 13,442.
Tooele: Deseret Peak, 11,031.
Uintah: *"Eccentric" benchmark, 12,276.
Utah: North Nebo, 11,928.
Wasatch: **Mount Cardwell, 10,743.
Washington: Signal Peak, 10,365.
Wayne: Bluebell Knoll, 11,322.
Weber: Willard Peak, 9,764.
*Shared high point with another county.
**Unofficial name. Actual peak not named by USGS.
Tallest La Sal Mountain peaks :
1. Mount Peale, 12,721 feet above sea level.
2. Mount Mellenthin, 12,645.
3. Mount Tukuhnikivatz, 12,482.
4. Mount Waas, 12,331.
5. Manns Peak: 12,272.
6. Mount Laurel, 12,271.
7. Mount Tomasaki, 12,239.
8. "Pilot Mountain," 12,200.
9. "Green Mountain," 12,163.
10. Tukuhnikivatz North Summit, 12,048.
11. "Castle Mountain," 12,044.
12. "La Sal Peak," 12,001.
("titles are nicknames.)
Tuschar Mountains' highest points:
1. Delano Peak, 12, 173.
2. Mount Belknap, 12,137
3. Mount Baldy, 12,122
4. Mount Holly, 11,985
5. Mount Brigham, 11,758.
6. Gold Mountain, 11,650
7. Edna Peak, 11,650
8. Copper Belt Peak, 11,383
9. Circleville Mountain, south, 11,331
10. Shelly Baldy Peak, 11,321
11. Lake Peak, 11,310
12. Signal Peak, 11,306
13. Circleville Mountain, north, 11,285.
14. City Creek Peak, 11,161.
15. Deer Trail Mountain, 10,972
Wasatch Mountain range peaks above *11,000 feet.
1. Mount Nebo North Peak, Utah and Juab counties, 11,928.
2. Mount Nebo South Peak, Utah and Juab counties, 11,877.
3. Mount Nebo Middle Peak, Utah and Juab counties, 11,824.
4. Mount Timpanogos North Peak, Utah County, 11,750.
5. "Mount Timpanogos South Peak," Utah County *11,722.
6. Twin Peaks (also called "American Fork Twin Peaks"), Salt Lake and Utah counties, 11,489 and 11,433.
8. Twin Peaks (also called "Broad Forks Twin Peaks"), Salt Lake County, 11,330 and 11,328.
10. Little Matterhorn Peak, Salt Lake and Utah counties, 11,326. (An unnamed 11,321-foot peak is east of Lake Matterhorn).
11. O'Sullivan Peak, Salt Lake County, 11,275.
12. Lone Peak, Salt Lake and Utah counties, 11,253. (Unnamed 11,154-foot peak is northeast of Lone Peak).
13. North Peak, Juab and Utah counties, 11,174.
14. Superior Peak, Salt Lake County, 11,132.
15. Dromedary Peak, Salt Lake County, 11,107.
16. Box Elder Peak, Utah County, 11,101.
17. Provo Peak, Utah County, and Mount Baldy, Salt Lake County, tie at 11,068.
19. Sugarloaf Mountain, Salt Lake County, 11,051.
*There are four tall unnamed peaks near the Timpanogos peaks. One summit is 11,441. The others are 11,383, 11,347 and 11,288.
The most vertical relief among Utah's mountains:
1. Moab (4,000-foot elevation) southeast to Mount Peale (12,721) is 8,721-foot difference.
2. St. George (2,880) north to Signal Peak in Pine Mountains is 7,485.
3. American Fork (4,566) east to Mount Timpanogos (11,750) is 7,184.
4. Salt Lake City (4,390) southeast to Twin Peaks (11,489) is 7,099.
5. Lake Powell (3,700 water elevation) north of Wahweap to Navajo Mountain (10,388) is 6,688.
6. Nephi (5,300) northeast to Mount Nebo North Peak (11,928) is 6,628.
7. Beaver (5,895) northeast to Delano Peak (12,169) is 6,274.
8. Tooele (4,900) southwest to Deseret Peak (11,031) is 6,131.
9. Richfield (5,303) southeast to Monroe Peak (11,226) is 5,345.
10. Parowan (5,970) south to Brian Head Peak (11,315) is 5,345.
Additional note: Starting in 2002, the National Geodetic Survey, in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey, increased the heights of many of the nation's highest mountain peaks — including those in Utah — because of a new calibration. The peaks aren't really higher, but the baseline they are being measured from is.
For example. Kings Peak is now technically 5.9 feet taller than before at 13,534 feet above sea level. Mount Nebo has gained 4.6 total feet; Mount Timpanogos has risen 4.4 feet; Lone Peak has added an extra 4.3 feet; and Mount Olympus is now an additional 3.7 feet above sea level.
It will be years before maps and most of these new calibrations come into the mainstream, however. This article has stuck with the traditional heights.
SOURCES: "High in Utah," by Michael R. Weibel and Dan Miller; "Highpoints of the United States," by Don W. Holmes; U.S. Geological Survey maps; and information collected by Winford "Dub" Bludworth of Salt Lake City, who has climbed 49 of the nation's 50 high points and all 29 county high points in Utah.