Mt. Tukuhnikivatz (12,482′)

We had gazed upon the La Sal Mountains for the past three days as we ventured around Moab, Arches, and   Canyonlands. Even though the arches, red canyons, hoodoos, towers, and other crazy rock formations were the highlights; the La Sals kept drawing my attention. If you visit in the Winter or Spring, the La Sals will likely be covered with snow as well; which adds to the awesome contrast. Partway through the second day of our trip, Elizabeth came up with the idea to hike one of the La Sals. For some reason, the idea never really occurred to me; so, I was thankful that she suggested it!

I didn’t know much about the La Sals, so we Googled options after dinner. What I found was that the La Sals seem to be overlooked by a lot of visitors to the area; like I had initially. I did find some good information after digging a little bit though. The La Sals are composed of three main grouping: North, Central (Middle), and South. The three highest in the range are located in the central group: Mt. Peale (12,721′), Mt. Mellenthin (12,645′), and Mt. Tukuhnikivatz (12,482′). Naturally, we gravitated toward this higher grouping and we found that Mt. Peale and Mt. Tuk were fairly easily accessible via the La Sal Pass trailhead. To give credit, the primary source of information we used was Summit Post:

So, why did we decide to climb the 3rd highest instead of the highest in the range? Well, elevation isn’t everything and the dramatic ridge of Mt. Tuk was easy to spot from all around the area. Also, there is a relatively new trail up to the ridge of Mt. Tuk, which make it a great hike and it seems the most accessible. We were slightly disappointed to find the views a little bit hazy, but it turned out to be a wonderful hike and summit.

The winter access is quite a ways from La Sal Pass, so this may not be a great year-round option.
The reds promptly shift to greens as you arrive in the La Sals; despite being only about 30 miles away by road.
Trees! It was nice to find some shade after the prior three days.

The top of La Sal Pass prominently promotes Mt. Peale as it is the highest mountain in the range. Although, the trail to the top of Mt. Peale is far less defined as you get up higher. We talked to a local (probably the only either hiker we saw all day) who found the route up Mt. Peale to be very difficult and decided to attempt via our Mt. Tuk trail. Well, this requires a traverse across a class 3 ridge known as the Razor Fang; so, you’re actually better off sticking to the Mt. Peale trail (named Burlfriends Trail) and tackling the challenging slope on that side of the ridge. Anyway, I’m mostly writing this for future reference.

Mt. Tuk is blocked by the trees to the left.
Both the Burlfriends Trail and the Tuk Trail share a path for the first half mile before parting ways
Mt. Peale is an impressive looking mountain that I’d like to hike on my next visit maybe.
As the sign indicates, there is a nice trail for the 1.5 miles up to the ridge. After that, you are left with a sizable, class 2 or 2+ rock scramble to the summit.
We traded in the lizards of Moab for the mountain goats of La Sal.
Mt. Tukuhnikivatz (12,482′) or simply Mt. Tuk as most call it for short.
Looking back at La Sal Pass and South Mountain (11,817′)…the lone peak of the south La Sals. Also, you can see a small lake known as Medicine Lake on the left. Medicine Lake is small, but is interesting to me as it is an aid station on the Ute 100 course. The Ute 100 is a new 100 mile trail running race put on by Sean “RunBum” Blanton, who is the race director for the Georgia Death Race and many other southern east coast races. More on this later.
Mt. Peale as we approached the ridge.
Mt. Mellenthin (12,645′)
The Razor Fang traverse over to Mt. Peale from Mt. Tuk looked like a lot of effort.
The path to the summit of Mt. Tuk looks simple enough once on the ridge, but it is a steep rock pile with relatively loose rock.
Officially on the ridge…we were so happy to back up in the mountains!
South Mountain from the ridge.
The route up Mt. Tuk
A little hazy, but you get a nice view into Castle Valley. Castleton Tower is on the right.
The route up was very rocky as advertised!
The route up was very steep and lacked any defined path, so we tried to wrap around the side before heading up.
Nope, no easy way up. The trail is steep rock regardless of how you wrap. We found that the path is actually easier if you stick to the steeper section right of the ridge on the way back down.

It was slow going on the looser rock, but it was a nice and flat summit and a great day to enjoy up there; if not a little windy.

It was a little hazy, so I edited some summit shots for brightness.
It was a little hazy, so I edited some summit shots for brightness.
The prominent ridge was stared up at from all over Moab.
Castleton Tower on the right and what my PeakFinder app said was Tent Mountain (who knows?).
Brightened to cut through the haze.
The other side of Mt. Tuk was even steeper.

Mt. Tukuhnikivatz (12,482′)

Time for some panos!

Alright, let’s zoom into this pano. now so we can see the north group of the La Sals better…

Mt. Mellenthin on the right and the north group in the middle.
Mt. Mellenthin on the right and the north group in the middle.
Here is a zoomed photo of Manns Peak (12,272′), the high point of the Ute 100 course. We talked to a local who told us about a great new trail built on the final stretch to the summit. He was very excited when I told him this was built in support of the Ute 100! Last year was the first year of the race and he had never heard of it. He raved about the great views from Manns Peak!

A few pictures from the way down…

See you next time Utah! Next stop, Telluride!

DVD Extras:

Here is a preview video of the Ute 100! Registration opens on Oct. 29th, so I might not be ready to sign-up in time this year, but this race is definitely high on my list! Here is the race website if Googling is too much work: