Willard Mountain, Willard Peak And Ben Lomond
Passing through northern Utah on 3 July 2019, Zosia Zgolak and I stopped to tag a number of peaks--Willard Mountain, Willard Peak and Ben Lomond--overlooking the city of Ogden.  There are a number of different approaches for these relatively gentle mountains, but the one from Willard Basin has probably the shortest approach and the least elevation gain.  The catch is that this approach entails a long and difficult drive up a rough road.

From the town of Mantua, head south on Main Street which turns into Willard Peak Road past the junction with Fish Hatchery Road (LDS Church on the left).  The pavement eventually turns into gravel outside the town limits but is still suitable for 2WD vehicles.  About 6.7 kilometres beyond Fish Hatchery Road, keep right at a junction.  The road deteriorates at this point and becomes quite rough.  A high clearance vehicle is recommended to continue.  The road winds its way for the next 8.3 kilometres up to a large parking area with an information sign on a ridge crest north of Willard Basin.  If the gate is open, it may be possible to drive an additional 2.6 kilometres to the actual trailhead near a former campsite at the head of the basin.  From there, it may also be possible to drive an additional 3.3 kilometres all the way to the top of Willard Mountain.

On this day, we managed to drive only as far as the large parking area on the ridge crest since the gate into Willard Basin was closed.  Surprisingly, a forest ranger showed up shortly after I parked my car.  He first checked on the locked gate before coming over to chat with us.  He explained that the gate was to keep motorized vehicles out while snow persisted in the basin, but he reassured us that it was totally okay for us to enter the basin on foot.

We started the trip with an easy downhill hike along the road into Willard Basin.  Sure enough, some lingering snow patches still effectively covered some sections of the road near the head of the basin, but the snow was supportive enough to walk on and did not impede our progress.  The trail that runs up to the connecting ridge between Willard Mountain and Willard Peak was also snowbound, and we decided to skip it and continue along the road which began turning northward on the far side of the basin.  At one point, we left the road and took a short cut up a moderately steep slope to shave off some extra distance.  We picked up the road again higher up and easily followed it the rest of the way to the top of Willard Mountain which has basically been flattened into a big parking lot replete with guardrails and a park bench.
After the very bumpy drive up here, it was just as well to give my car a break and walk the extra distance. Zosia begins the trip from a large parking area on a ridge crest.  Behind her, the road to Willard Basin is closed to motorized vehicles on this day.
What's the name of this place again?? The road can be seen winding around the head of Willard Basin to the slopes below Willard Mountain (far right).  Willard Peak is visible at left.
Still some good skiing to be had in July! Zosia crosses one of several lingering snow patches still covering the road at the head of the basin.
The short cut saves a little over a kilometre of extra walking to get to the top. On her way up Willard Mountain, Zosia leaves the road here to take a short cut up the hillside.
The top is still a bit further away than it looks! Zosia regains the road going up Willard Mountain.

There's the real prize!

While hiking up the road to Willard Mountain, Zosia gets a great view of Willard Peak in the distance.


Inspiration Point, eh? Hubba, hubba! Sonny and Zosia enjoy the convenience of a bench on the summit of Willard Mountain (2863 metres).  This spot is also known by locals as "Inspiration Point".

The first time Zosia and I visited the shores of Willard Bay, we thought it was the Great Salt Lake.

Willard Bay is a man-made fresh water reservoir which is kept separate from the Great Salt Lake (distant far left) by a long dike known as Arthur V. Watkins Dam.


Zosia and I took a short break at the summit of Willard Mountain before carrying on southward along the connecting ridge to Willard Peak.  We soon gained the trail coming up from Willard Basin and followed it across the lower west face of Willard Peak.  Leaving the trail here, we climbed up a moderately steep slope to reach the crest of Willard Peak's south ridge.  From there, we easily scrambled to the rocky top.
Some glorious ridge walking coming up! Zosia heads for Willard Peak along the connecting ridge from Willard Mountain.
Zosia is being extra careful because her boots have very little tread left! Zosia carefully traverses a lingering snow patch on the ridge.  This would be her point of descent into the basin later in the day on the hike out.
Some parties scramble more directly up via the north ridge at left. Zosia hikes below the west face of Willard Peak.  She would eventually climb up to the ridge near snow patches at far right.
Pretty easy. Zosia leaves the trail to climb up to the ridge crest.
Some route-finding and scrambling is necessary. After gaining the ridge crest, Zosia turns north to head for the top of Willard Peak.
It's not necessarily on the very highest point though! Here is the survey marker near the top of Willard Peak.
To be honest, it's hard to tell exactly where the highest point is! Zosia and Sonny stand near the summit of Willard Peak (2967 metres).
Box Elder Peak is now on my to-do list! This is the view to the north of Willard Basin from the top of Willard Peak.  The mountain on the left horizon is Box Elder Peak.
I would have been quite content to leave this one for another day, but... Ben Lomond steals the show to the south.
After taking another short break on top of Willard Peak, Zosia and I retraced our steps a little and continued descending along the crest of the south ridge.  Earlier from a distance, we had spotted a dangerously steep snow patch blocking the trail, and we were aiming to bypass this obstacle by staying as high on the ridge crest as possible.  The ridge crest itself has a few steep spots, but we managed to down-climb them without too much trouble.  Once we felt we had bypassed the snow patch, we began dropping down the slope in hopes of regaining the trail.  Partway down, I stumbled onto a faint game trail which ran parallel to the established trail but was just as easy to follow.  The game trail eventually peters out just before a low point on the ridge between Willard Peak and Ben Lomond, but here, the established trail regains the ridge crest and is easily picked up again.  We had no further difficulties hiking the rest of the trail to the summit of Ben Lomond.
That was fun! Some route-finding and scrambling is required to descend the south end of Willard Peak's summit block.
This is gonna be easier than I thought! While traversing the south end of Willard Peak, Sonny finds a good game trail running across the slope of wildflowers.  The city of Ogden is visible in the valley below.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

More enjoyable ridge walking ahead! Zosia regains the established trail that runs all the way to the top of Ben Lomond.
Almost there! Zosia approaches the summit of Ben Lomond.

A 3-summit!

Sonny and Zosia reach the summit of Ben Lomond (2953 metres).


Though lower, Ben Lomond is apparently more popular than Willard Peak. There used to be a lid with a commemorative plaque on the fixed tray, but it has sadly disappeared.  The summit register is now housed inside an ammunition box.
And some people hike up Ben Lomond via a trail on the ridge at left. It's much longer with more elevation gain though! From the top of Ben Lomond, Mount Ogden can be seen further south at far right while Pineview Reservoir is visible at left.
For our return, Zosia and I followed the trail northward all the way back to the connecting ridge between Willard Peak and Willard Mountain.  Along the way, we ran into the steep snow patch which was as dangerous as expected, but we easily circumvented it by simply climbing up and around before dropping back down to the trail.  The descent into Willard Basin from the connecting ridge was also fairly easy, and we even took advantage of some snow patches to do a bit of boot-skiing.  Once we regained the road, we settled into a mind-numbing plod back up to the gate and parking area.  Upon returning to my car, we stopped for a quick picnic dinner before commencing the long and bumpy drive back down the access road.
We should have taken the same game trail on the way back... Zosia hikes back toward Willard Peak (right).  The game trail that Sonny found earlier runs higher up the slope than the visible trail heading left.
The run-out was over a cliff, so this was the more prudent way to go! Zosia climbs higher to circumvent a dangerously steep snow patch blocking the trail.
Kinda looks better under a cloudy sky! Here is a last look at Willard Bay under an overcast sky.
I told you there was still some good skiing to be had here! Zosia boot-skis down a patch of snow after taking a short cut into Willard Basin.
Annoying but easy. Near the end of the trip, Zosia climbs up the road to get back to the parking area on the ridge crest.
The road doesn't look so bad here, but trust me, it's bad enough! The drive out on the rough road feels just as long as the drive in.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

The fantastic ridge walking and scrambling barely justifies the horrible drive to the trailhead! Total Distance:  17.0 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  8 hours
Cumulative Elevation Gain:  839 metres

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