Mount Nebo Summit
Updated: May 22, 2021
It is nice to check off the tallest peak in the Wasatch range.
Elevation Gain: 3,619
Distance: 9 miles
After doing Mt. Timpanogos last year, I figured I needed to check off the highest peak in the Wasatch so Mount Nebo was added to the list. The Mt Nebo hike is shorter than Timp (9 vs 15 miles) and the elevation gain is less (~3,600 vs 4,600) but don't discount Nebo as it is very, very steep. We arrived at the Nebo TH at around 8:00 AM and it was a chilly fall morning with temps in the low 30s. It had snowed a few inches in the Wasatch range two days before so I was concerned that there would be snow at the peak which could prevent us from summiting. Fortunately, all of the snow had melted so it was time to bag a peak.
My companions on this hike were Brodie, Heather, their black lab, my dog and Sean and Tomas were about two hours behind us.
The trail starts along a livestock fence and there were cows at the parking lot. It felt more like a pasture than a high Wasatch summit hike. The lower part of the trail was east facing and there are a few short rollers at the bottom so we were quickly shedding layers. After exiting the cow field, you enter a wooded section for about 1/3 of a mile followed by the first steep climb up an open bowl which takes you to a lower ridge. Once on this ridge, you now shift to the west side of the hill with views down to highway 15. You go through a series of a few ups and downs before getting to an open saddle. Despite the fact that Heather is a stronger hiker, she made the decision to turn around as she knew her knees wouldn't be able to handle the decent if she continued up the next steep section. Brodie, Butter and I stepped up the pace and marched up the arduous, switchback laden ridge.
At the top of this section is a false summit which is a great place to take a break and absorb the views of Mona Reservoir and Utah Lake to the north. Now the “fun” begins. You dip down from the false summit for a bit and then you start the final push to the north summit along a very narrow and rocky ridge line. This is not for the faint of heart or a novice hiker as it drops off on both sides. It is not a cliff but certainly a 40-50+ degree slope running over a thousand feet. Brodie voiced what I was thinking as he exclaimed a few times, “I don’t like this” but he kept up a fast pace as he wanted to power through this challenging section. Butter meanwhile had no problems whatsoever with this sketchy stretchy and would look down on us from above with a look that expressed, "are you coming already". The final section required some scrambling but the main concern was the loose shale rocks. It was not technical per se but the loose rocks made it quite precarious.
We got to the top in about 3.5 hours and upon arriving at the north summit - we debated if the south summit looked higher. Brodie said the north summit it was "his summit" and we later confirmed that the north summit was indeed taller than the south summit by 51 feet which realized me of having to go back to hike the south summit.
As often the case, the descent from the top proved to be more challenging and I found myself working my way down on my butt a few times due to the loose shale. We got down in under 2.5 hours and our legs were definitely feeling the effects of the steep down. Our total time was 5:45 but our moving time was under 5 hours and my two younger buddies did it in about 4 hours (they ran down).
Overall, it was a pleasant hike and we only saw about 15 people all day which is very little considering it was a gorgeous fall Sunday. The Nebo hike is certainly not as pretty as Mt. Timp since so much of the trail is above tree line and along a ridge. I believe Sean summed it up by saying, “it wasn’t my favorite hike but it is nice to check off the highest peak in the Wasatch”.