Murdock Peak

Elevation: 9,602
Location: Wasatch Range, Utah

Murdock Peak is a well-hidden peak that sits more on the eastern side of the Wasatch than the western side. I climbed the peak in the fall of 1999, and the colors were outstanding.

Fall colors along the Big Water trail in Mill Creek Canyon I climbed this peak via the Big Water trail at the end of Mill Creek Canyon. Remember that hiking in Mill Creek typically involves a $2.25 charge as you leave the canyon, so be prepared for that. Drive the narrow road to the end of the canyon, and a large parking lot. Follow the signs as the better defined trail quickly branches right and up a steeper draw. I followed the trail by the stream and it dead ends quickly, requiring a steep bushwack to get back on the correct route (including a run-in with a large moose!).

Back on the correct path, you'll climb quickly up the intersection with the real "Big Water" trail. From here this gentle trail winds for several miles gaining very little altitude. You'll see why it is popular with mountain bikers and trail runners. Mountain bikes are only allowed on the trails on even numbered days, so you may wish to hike on an odd-numbered day to make it more peaceful. Keep following this trail as it arrives in a meadow around 8,500 feet with a few splits, but just stay on the obvious route heading east (a route to the right leads to Desolation Lake). You'll eventually reach a pass at just under 9,000 feet looking down into The Canyons ski area. From this pass you'll have to follow the gentle ridge up towards the north. A faint track can be found in spots, but off-trail walking is easy here.

View southwest from Murdock summit towards Twin Peaks Wilderness You'll clearly be able to see the bland summit of Murdock Peak and a small station on it's summit. When you've huffed and puffed your way up the final slope you'll be rewarded with a view back down the canyon and across and down Big Cottonwood Canyon also. The summit made for a nice lunch break in October of 1999, with the view down to all the changing colors. The trip back down is an easy one, retracing the route taken up. Once you're off the summit ridge, it's a long and gentle walk back down that wonderful Big Water trail. Somehow on an evening hike in 1998 on this trail I managed to sprain not one, but both of my ankles! Perhaps the trail is too easy?

Roundtrip distance is about 7.5 miles, and the elevation gained is 2,000 feet. The hike can be done in about four hours, but expect to take a little longer to enjoy this scenic part of the Wasatch range, especially in the fall, where this hike is probably the best I've seen in the Wasatch for fall colors.