Pioneer & Sunset Peak Summits
Updated: Oct 24, 2019
· Sunset Peak Summit: 10,648
· Pioneer Peak Summit: 10,450
· Elevation Gain: 3,500+
· Distance: 7-8 miles (didn't track it with All Trails or Strava)
· Time: ~3 hours
I have summited many peaks with Sean Steffel, my nephew in law, and he is always my first call to go summiting because the man is always “down” for bagging a summit. Sean is one of the few people that I know that loves to summit as much as I do and like me - he has a laundry list of peaks that he wants to check off. The peaks along Pioneer Ridge were on both of our lists so deciding on a route was easy.
After work on July 17, 2019 we met in the Brighton Resort parking lot and headed up Brighton Lakes Trial. This trial is typically very crowded with tourist and this evening was no exception. But as you start to gain altitude, the crowds start to dissipate and by the time you get to the ridge- you are usually alone. Bright Lakes trial takes you by the “sister” lakes which includes Mary then Martha then Catherine. Once you pass Catherine’s Lake it starts to get steep for the last ½ mile or so until you reach Catherine’s Pass. At Catherine’s Pass junction you an go right (north) to Mt. Tuscarora, straight (west) takes you over the ridge and drops you towards Alta and left (south/southeast) takes you to Pioneer Ridge. Sean and I took a left and started the steep climb up Rocky Point which is at 10,490. At this point you now have a view of Supreme lift at Alta and the backside of Alta which is Dry Fork Canyon. We continued along this ridge which still had some snow patches thus validating the big winter of 2019. The ridge wraps around the backside of Sunset Peak and the approach to the summit is quite easy from a technical perspective- no loose rocks or scrambling required. Fortunately for us, we were on the top of Sunset Peak close to sunset so the colors and the 360 degree views were spectacular.
Sean is a huge fan of scampering down mountains but my older legs and more conservative tactics can’t keep up with his youthful exuberance so he and my dog take off towards Pioneer Peak. Speaking of dogs, I need to confess that I brought along my dog even though Big Cottonwood Canyon is a water shed area and therefore dogs are restricted. There are many signs informing hikers that dogs are prohibited so lesson learned (sorry Butter). Sean’s mountain goat like descending abilities enabled him to get down Sunset and up Pioneer before I got down Sunset Peak.
Pioneer Peak tops out at 10,450 and offers a bird's eye view of Snake Creek Canyon to the south. The wide open fields of Green Slope and Big Daddy’s make you dream of making big powder turns.
The sun was starting to go below the western ridge by Alta so we had to get a move on but we had one more minor summit to hit as we crossed Pioneer Ridge. Peak 10,321 was a quick jaunt and after crossing over that peak we started our descent down to the top of the Crest lift at Brighton. From there we simply followed one of the main ski runs down to Brighton Lakes Trail.
As we were concluding our hike, we were treated to an amazing sunset with pink and purple colors.