Locals call it “Mount Tuk,” but in the Native American Ute language it’s called “Tukuhnikivatz,” which means the last place that sees the sun.
At 12,482 feet in elevation, Tuk isn’t the highest peak in the range, but viewed from Moab, it is clearly the most prominent. From the summit, the expansive view takes in all of Canyonlands and Arches national parks, the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, and the landscape surrounding the Four Corners region, where the states of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico share a common axis.
Earlier this month, trail crews from the Manti-La Sal National Forest, in collaboration with the Canyon Country Youth Corps (CCYC), completed construction on the first official trail accessing the summit.
Manti-La Sal National Forest Recreation, Trails and Wilderness Program Manager Brian Murdock said the trail is a great addition to the agency’s nonmotorized trail system.
“It’s an iconic mountain of the La Sals,” Murdock told the Moab Sun News.
Murdock said that though people have been climbing Tuk for a long time, the route was haphazard, and that by constructing a “maintained system trail,” they could mitigate the impacts of other user-created routes.
The two miles of newly constructed trail can be accessed from the Burl Friends mountain bike trailhead at La Sal Pass. The Tuk trail branches off Burl Friends after a half-mile, and then climbs another 1.6 miles to a high saddle on a ridge between Mount Tuk, and the highest peak in the range, Mount Peale.
From there, Murdock said, it’s more of a route than a trail, that follows along an alpine tundra and flower-covered ridge, before turning into “fairly steep” loose rock that holds snow into July most years.
“It’s a very doable adventure,” Murdock said. “The views are unsurpassed.”
But Murdock advises starting early and ending early.
“It’s a lightning magnet up there,” he said.
Since finalizing the nonmotorized trail plan in 2013, the Manti-La National Forest’s Moab Ranger District has been working toward the construction of 35 miles of new trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
Murdock said that the plan came about by asking where there were holes in the recreation program. He said that most of the trails in the La Sals were developed through traditional uses such as livestock grazing and mining, and that they didn’t necessarily serve the needs of the recreation community.
Crews last summer built 12 to 15 miles of new, non-motorized trail, and Murdock said they plan to build 8-10 more this summer.
The CCYC is lending its services to aid in trail construction in the forest. The CCYC is an Americorps-affiliated program run through the Four Corners School of Outdoor Education, www.fourcornersschool.org.
In addition to helping complete the Tuk trail, the corps will assist in constructing trails into popular rock climbing areas in Brumley and Mill Creek canyons this summer. Last summer, it helped construct the Burl Friends and Jimmy Keen mountain bike trails.
CCYC program director Jake Deslauriers told the Moab Sun News that the program hires locals and members of the Native American population, and provides them with a $290-per-week stipend for five weeks.
“For a lot of these kids, this is their first job, their first time camping, and their first time living in a remote setting,” he said.
Deslauriers said that in addition to trail work, participants each day get a half-hour of education that includes resume writing, interview skills and environmental education.
“The goal of the program is to provide kids with skills and work experience so they can get jobs in the real world,” Deslauriers said.
Murdock said that it’s great to have the assistance of the CCYC, as well as wilderness volunteers and members of the Moab Mountain Bike Association, in helping with trail construction to expand recreational opportunities in the La Sals.
“Most people don’t think of high alpine mountains and cool forests when they think of Moab, but we have just that within a 30-minute drive from town,” he said.
Mountains offer summertime recreational opportunities on Mount Tukuhnikivatz
“Most people don’t think of high alpine mountains and cool forests when they think of Moab, but we have just that within a 30-minute drive from town.”
Drive 22 miles south from Moab on U.S. Highway 191 to state Route 46. Turn east and go 13 miles, passing through the town of La Sal. Turn left onto a graded U.S. Forest Service access road. After two miles, turn left again on the La Sal Pass Road. Follow this road eight miles to La Sal Pass. The road is passable to most vehicles, but there is a shallow creek crossing two miles in.