From the window of our Moab vacation rental 8A3 I can the La Sal Mountains every morning while eating breakfast and every time I step out the front door. The mountains are like a siren calling to me constantly. Finally I had had enough and knew it was time to go explore Mt Tuk in Moab's La Sal Mountains. FYI, the official name of the mountain is Mt Tukuhnikivatz but since that is nearly impossible to pronounce most people simply use the name Mt Tuk.
Anyone who has ever visited Moab has surely noticed the large mountains looming in the backdrop of every hike in Arches National Park. Those mountains are known as the La Sal Mountains and are actually the second tallest mountain range in Utah. The name La Sal originated from the earliest Spanish explorers and means Salt Mountains. This name is due to the snow on them that looks like salt in the summer time, there are no salt deposits in the mountains that I know of. Though lacking salt there are a number of abandoned mines in the La Sals.
Even though Mt Tuk is not the tallest of the La Sal Mountains, it is the most popular Moab's Alpine hikes. The hike starts out from La Sal Pass Road at the pass. There are two ways to reach the trailhead. First and most exciting is to climb the moderately difficult La Sal Pass 4x4 trail that starts in the small community of Pack Creek. Note that this area was heavily damaged after the Pack Creek Wildfire and I am unsure of the trails current condition. The second way to climb to the pass and the one most people use is to access La Sal Pass road from the community of La Sal, this road is passable by passenger cars.
Once to the pass you will find the well marked trailhead in a large meadow with Mt Peale looming in the background. Starting from the lovely mountain meadow you will the gradual rise towards Mt Peale. Eventually the meadow is interrupted by the occasional spruce tree until eventually the meadow is lost and the trees take over. The Mt Peale / Mt Tuk trail is through open range land and I'm fairly sure the trail receives more cow traffic than human traffic so watch your step if you know what I mean. It doesn't appear that the cows go about the tree line so the high you go the less cow patties you will encounter.
By now you may wonder why I keep interchanging Mt Peale with Mt Tuk when describing this hike. The trail doesn't really go to either mountain, the hiking trail simply ends at Fang Ridge, the ridge between Mt Peale and Mt Tuk. The view from Fang Ridge, between Mt Tuk and Mt Peale would make you swear you were in Colorado and not on a mountain in Moab, Utah. All around your are mountain tops raising above the tree line. So why do people choose to go to the lower Mt Tuk over conquering the taller Mt Peale? Mt Tuk is on the edge of the mountain and provides the best views into Moab's red rock desert. As a side note, be on the lookout for mountain goats that are known to frequent this area.
Once on Fang Ridge, Mt Tuk looks to be just a small hill that would not require much effort at all to climb. However, at 12,000+ feet the oxygen is thin and the hike can start to take its toll on you. See all the small rocks in the distance? They are actually the size of kitchen tables and move around when you walk on them making it very difficult to make any forward progress up the mountain.
Look how loose the rocks are in the Mt Tuk scree field! There is not really a trail here and every step must be carefully considered. Each rock wants to dance away when you step on it so please use extreme caution, a broken leg or twisted ankle hear would require a very difficult evacuation.
Notice how clear and blue the sky is in the picture and how dark it is in the picture above. They sky changed within just a few minutes. We were chased down from the top by lighting literally as soon as we reached the top of the peak. As with hiking in Colorado you will have to consider the weather when you plan to be on the mountain. Too early and it will be cold, too late and thunderstorms could ruin your trip. The best time to hike this mountain is in the summer. These pictures were taken in August. The Moab temperature was 100+ but it was cold up here.
If you are considering a Moab adventure we would recommend checking out the town homes at Moab Adventure Condo. We stayed with them and it was so nice to have room to relax and not be stuck in a cramped hotel room. Since the cost of the rental was split between two families it actually ended up being cheaper than a hotel room and much nicer. Not to mention the pool and hot tub were just sets from our condo.