Summit West Grandaddy Mountain in the High Uintas

Grandaddy Basin is a gorgeous area on the southern slope of Utah’s High Uintas Wilderness. There are enough streams, lakes, and trails to keep you busy for a week, but if you only have time for one hike, I highly recommend a summit of West Grandaddy Mountain. The route is not difficult, the views are splendid, and the round trip can be done in just a few hours.

Looking up at the ridge; pick your way between boulders and scree, then head south to the summit. (photo: Ryan Malavolta/Utahoutside.com)

At 11,494’ West Grandaddy is far from the tallest mountain in the Uintas. However, there is only one other peak in the basin that is taller (East Grandaddy Mountain comes in at 11,659’). This translates to incredible 360 degree views from the summit. Whether you are camping in Grandaddy Basin or dayhiking from the trailhead, this route begins in the same place. Start at the west shore of Mohawk Lake, and get your legs and lungs ready!

The buttresses near the summit of West Grandaddy Mountain provide a brief Class 3 challenge for hikers. (photo: Ryan Malavolta/Utahoutside.com)

From Mohawk Lake, hike west towards a prominent unnamed peak that shares the same ridgeline as West Grandaddy. There is a small alpine lake near the bottom of the ridge. The easiest line up to the ridge is a scree field that zigs and zags under some small cliff bands. The hiking isn’t tough, just steep and slow. After ascending roughly 500’ the ridge is gained. From here, simply walk the ridgeline south towards the peak. There is one difficult zone where hikers will encounter some large buttresses that require a brief Class 3 scramble. The buttresses are not the big worry here; rather, the unstable nature of the boulders that you will scramble on. Watch your footing and test the rocks for stability when possible.

After passing that obstacle, it’s an easy walk to the top of West Grandaddy. Unlike many Uinta peaks, WG has small stands of pine trees all over it. The summit area is quite large, and not nearly as dramatic as the classic summit pyramids that many climbers seek out. That aside, it’s an amazing place to spend some time! The views are stunning; the Grandaddy Basin area opens up below you and many of the lakes are clearly visible. To the north, the impressive peaks of the Naturalist Basin area tower mightily. Looking east reveals numerous other spires and mounds of the High Uintas, such as Cleveland and Squaw Peaks, each clocking in at well over 12,000’ high.

The views from the peak are outstanding. Hayden Peak, Mount Agassiz and Spread Eagle Peak are all visible from the summit. (photo: Ryan Malavolta/Utahoutside.com)

The summit cairn is the perfect place to kick up your feet and take a well-earned lunch break. My hiking partner and I could not find a summit register, likely due to the fact that West Grandaddy doesn’t see much human traffic. In fact, the only other activity we witnessed were two different groups of mountain goats wandering the nearby cliffs. Great views, clean air, and blue skies- it doesn’t get much better!

After you enjoy the summit, make your way down via the same route. It is possible to climb down from the ridge in different spots, but you won’t save a whole lot of time or distance. This hike will take most folks under 3 hours to complete, and that includes a lengthy break at the summit. Most ability levels will be comfortable making the trek, as there is very little exposure and only limited Class 3 hiking. West Grandaddy may not be the tallest mountain around, but with its unique and beautiful location, it is absolutely worth a trip.

The red line shows the ascent/descent route for West Grandaddy Mountain in the Uinta Mountains. Less than 1,000′ of elevation gain and a round trip of under 3 miles from Mohawk Lake. (Utahoutside.com)

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