Exploring the House Range

Heading into Miller Canyon
Heading into Miller Canyon

This past Friday and Saturday, my two boys and I decided to explore a new area for us—the House Range, out in the West Desert of Utah. This is a very remote mountain range in the Great Basin, 50 miles west of Delta, Utah. The highlight of this range is Notch Peak, at 9,654′ with a 3000′ vertical face. Only El Capitan in Yosemite Valley has a higher continuous face. Up in the northern part of the range is Swasey Peak at 9,673′.

We didn’t get away until almost noon on Friday and drove the two and a half hours out to the range. The turn off from highway 6/50 is at milepost 46, about 42 miles west of Delta.

Looking back toward Delta from the Southeastern edge of the House Range.
Looking back toward Delta from the Southeastern edge of the House Range.
Looking back down Miller Canyon Road with Sevier Lake bed in the background
Looking back down Miller Canyon Road with Sevier Lake bed in the background

We followed this dirt road a few miles to the Miller Canyon road, then followed this to the Notch Peak trailhead turnoff at Sawtooth Canyon. We took this road, which got a bit rough in parts for a minivan, to an old miners cabin.

Old miners cabin
Old miners cabin
The access vehicle
The access vehicle

 

From there we got on our mountain bikes and rode up to the Notch Peak Trailhead. From there we decided to ride up the trail to see how far we could get on our bikes. The trail went up a dry wash, quite sandy and gravelly. The boys were not having too much fun on their skinny tired mountain bikes, but with my fat bike it was a piece of cake, just floating over the loose stuff. We turned around after about a mile and a half because the boys were floundering in the loose stuff.

Lars heading up the road toward the Notch Peak trailhead
Lars heading up the road toward the Notch Peak trailhead
Notch Peak Trailhead
Notch Peak Trailhead
About 1.5 miles up the Notch Peak trail
About 1.5 miles up the Notch Peak trail

We then drove down Sawtooth Canyon back to Miller Canyon. After several miles up Miller Canyon the road began to branch. It became a maze of ATV tracks. We finally found a nice place to camp at the end of one of these tracks. It was primitive cowboy camping, no water, no tables, no bathrooms, no facilities. Fine with us. It was dead quite and beautiful.

Camp under a huge juniper
Camp under a huge juniper

 

After setting up camp we decided to hike up to the top of the rocky ridge next to camp. It involved lots of scrambling up granite boulders. We got about 3/4 the way up before it got too steep. It would have involved technical climbing to get to the top. Lars was pretty bummed we didn’t make it to the top and wanted to try, but there was no way I was going to let them go any further. It was fun anyways and the views back down Miller Canyon were nice.

Lots of scrambling up granite boulders
Lots of scrambling up granite boulders
Finn crawling through a tight spot
Finn crawling through a tight spot
Lars checking out the view
Lars checking out the view
Finn at our high point
Finn at our high point
And the view down Miller Canyon
And the view down Miller Canyon

We had beans and tortillas for dinner then built a fire with the abundant dead juniper branches all over.

Boys love to play with fire
Boys love to play with fire
Zombie?
Zombie?

The boys forgot to bring any reading material so I read John Keats poems to them that night in the tent. We also had a nice discussion about chupalcabas, the Jersey Devil, Big foot, and other such mysteries.

Nighttime reading material
Nighttime reading material

The next morning was beautiful and cool, with clear blue skies. After cleaning up our camp, we decided to go for a ride. We followed several tracks that turned into dead ends.

Heading up a dead end track
Heading up a dead end track
Dead end
Dead end

After one climb we hit another dead end, but decided to go on. We stashed the bikes, and hiked up a ridge to get a better view of the country around. It went on and on as far as we could see.

Rugged country
Rugged country
The high point of our off bike scramble after yet another dead end
The high point of our off bike scramble after yet another dead end

 

Heading down from another dead end.
Heading down from another dead end.

We then rode up another ATV track that headed further up Miller Canyon. Once again it was very loose, mostly sand and gravel with the occasional slickrock. The boys ended up walking much of it, while I was able to ride without any problem. I discovered that fat bikes are also ideal in the desert. Sand and gravel is no problem for fat tires.

Lots of loose sand and gravel
Lots of loose sand and gravel with occasional slickrock sections

I was also riding on a fairly new pair of Surly Knards which were great in this kind of dry, loose terrain. After a couple miles it got too steep and rocky to ride. I couldn’t bear to turn around before getting to the top of this saddle so I ditched the bike and continued on foot. The boys were far below walking. I finally topped out but the track rolled up and down on a high plateau and just kept going. As much as I wanted to go on, I figured I better turn around and see where the boys were. I jogged down the trail and was almost down the steep section when I saw the boys hiking up. They had stashed there bikes way down below because it was too loose for them to ride on their skinny tires (2″). We sat in the shade of a large juniper and ate some bagels. We then headed back down. The ride down was fast and mostly smooth. Once again, I was loving the fat bike on this kind of terrain.

This was a wonderfully remote and beautiful landscape. We only saw a tiny fraction of this range but are already itching to get back there. There were quite a few mining areas up Miller Canyon and we even saw a couple guys sluicing for gold. There are numerous other canyons I want to explore. Fat bikes seem an ideal way to explore this area, that is until you get to the rocky, mountainous areas. Then you are better off stashing the bike and hiking. As always it was great to escape for a short time and spend time with my boys.

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