The past few weekends have been pretty busy for my husband and I and I was really looking forward to sleeping in and having a lazy weekend at home, BUT we’d been talking with some of my husband’s co-workers for quite a while about climbing Mt. Peale together once the weather got nice, and it turned out that this was the weekend that everyone could go. Soooo… my weekend of sleeping in ended up being a day shorter than I was hoping! But I was really glad that it had finally worked out and there was a day that everyone could go.
We were meeting up with several people for this hike, and we all live in different towns (1 from Cortez, and 2 from Moab) so we first met up with the person coming from Cortez and rode together to La Sal Junction to meet up with the two who were coming from Moab, and from there we all piled in to one vehicle and drove to the trailhead at La Sal Pass together.
Although the hike to the top of Mt. Peale is relatively short, (only about 2.5 miles) the elevation gain is approximately 2,600 feet, so it’s listed as a ‘strenuous’ hike. On top of that, you’re at a fairly high elevation where the air is noticeably thinner, so that adds to the difficulty as well. It was only about 8:30 when we left the trailhead so we knew we would get done pretty early in the day, but we had a little extra motivation to get to the top and back down quickly- thunderstorms were in the forecast for that afternoon.
The first half of the hike is fairly easy- taking you through an open grassy field and a few stands of trees. As you pass the tree line the hike becomes considerably more difficult and turns to basically scrambling up loose rocks to the saddle. This part almost beat me! We had climbed Mt. Tukuhnikivatz last summer with one of the people who was on this hike and his teenage daughter and we all found the last stretch of the hike on the loose rocks to be really sketchy. I think I remember us discussing at one point, whether or not we felt like it was a good (safe!) idea to keep going, or if we wanted to turn back. We had continued to the top and were glad that we had once we got there- it was a beautiful day and you could see really far in all directions- definitely worth the climb!
I guess I must have forgot how difficult I had felt that climbing up the loose rocks had been, because again, at one point I really thought about turning back and just meeting everyone else at the bottom. BUT there were lots of mosquitoes back down in the trees, PLUS, the person with the keys to the vehicle was in the lead. I weighed my options and quickly decided that I’d much rather keep hiking than turn back and be at the mercy of the mosquitoes for the next couple hours!
After the first section of loose rock, the hike got considerably easier. For starters, there was an actual trail after that, which helped a lot! It really wasn’t much of a trail, but at least the rocks weren’t shifting and sliding with each step you took.
By this point in the hike, I wasn’t a very happy camper. We were past the mosquitoes, so I was happy about that, but I was pretty banged up from the rocky section. My husband kept saying that he didn’t think we were going to be able to see much from the top, and all I could say in response (in gasping breaths) was that I didn’t even care at that point, I’d just be happy if I made it!
We finally made it to the top- I don’t know how long the others had been there, but I had seen a head poke over the side a couple times checking on our progress. I kept telling my husband to just go ahead- I was afraid the weather was going to get bad and I didn’t want him to miss making it to the top because he was waiting for me. But he stuck with me and we finally made it together!
Unfortunately we really didn’t have much of a view- the top of the mountain was partially in the clouds with more down below, so we could only get quick glimpses as the clouds moved past. By the time we finished our lunches, the others had been up there so long that they were starting to get cold and wanted to get moving to try to warm back up, so we all headed back down the mountain together.
I was happy to be going down instead of up, but even as we left the top I was already dreading that first section of loose rock that I had had such a hard time with on the way up. When we got to that part though, we all decided to try going back down in the snowfield- this made it SO much easier! It was pretty packed and slippery in some places and I could see that if you weren’t careful you might get going too fast, but we were all careful and being able to bypass the loose rock made the trip down much easier and faster.
On the way up my husband had seen a pika and tried to point it out to me. He kept trying to describe where it was, ‘See, right there- beside that big rock’ I couldn’t see it and to be honest, I was just trying to BREATHE and really didn’t care if I saw it or not! Now that I’m writing this I’m realizing that I may not have been much fun to hike with that day! I guess I should thank my husband (and the others) for putting up with me and not leaving me up there!
On the way back down we saw a marmot right along side the trail- it really didn’t seem to be scared of us and just sat there on a rock watching us watching it!
We heard one clap of thunder on the way back down, but nothing other than that. It rained a little when we were driving back to La Sal Junction, but even though it was cloudy we actually had pretty good weather that day- at least it wasn’t hot!
From Monticello: Drive north approximately 32 miles to La Sal Junction and turn right onto hwy 46. Drive approximately 13 miles through the town of La Sal and turn left onto Two Mile Rd. (Canopy Gap Rd) After approximately 2-3 miles you will come to a signed junction with La Sal Pass Road, turn left and follow this road approximately 7.5 miles to the trailhead.
Distance from La Sal to lodging in San Juan County, Utah:
- La Sal: 0 miles/0 km
- Monticello: 40 miles/64 km
- Blanding: 65 miles/105 km
- Bluff: 90 miles/ 145 km
- Mexican Hat:115 miles/ 185 km
- Monument Valley: 140 miles/225 km