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Utah Hike of the Week: Jupiter Peak
Getting there • From the Salt Lake Valley, drive east into Big Cottonwood Canyon and take a sharp left onto Guardsman Way. Follow the winding, ascending road until you reach a turnout at Guardsman Pass, which doubles as parking.
Directions • Ignore the more paved and obvious trails that head west and go north through a couple of deep ditches and straight up the steep slope toward the top of the hill. The steep climb is easily the most trying section of the hike, but one worthy of its namesake. As you ascend higher than some birds fly and straight toward the open sky, it feels like the highest god in the Ancient Roman pantheon awaits you at the top. You will find a ski lift instead. Take in a gorgeous view of the pine-blanketed world below, particularly to the east, then walk past the lift and follow the ridge line northeast toward the mountain — the actual Jupiter Peak. Mind the bees, butterflies and other assorted insects that flit among the flowers and bounce around your path, which eventually takes you to a fork when you reach the mountain. Take the ascending route (to the right of the alternative) that soon hangs right and brings you to a field of flowers — reds, yellows, purples, beiges, oranges and pinks, most of them a fragrant mirror of the gas giant's swirling colors. The trail keeps going until you reach a ski patrol shack, then heads straight up to a sticker-plastered pole, marking the very top of the peak. After taking in another beautiful view, head back the way you came in and mind the steep slope you started on.