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Devil's Castle Traverse

Alta

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Devil's Castle Traverse

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  • Devil's Castle from Cecret Lake.  - Devil's Castle Traverse
  • Cecret Lake and Sugarloaf Peak (11,051 ft).- Devil's Castle Traverse
  • Stone bench and view of Devil's Castle about halfway to the saddle.  - Devil's Castle Traverse
  • View of the scrambling route from the saddle.  - Devil's Castle Traverse
  • Rock shelter at the saddle.  - Devil's Castle Traverse
  • View of American Fork Canyon.  - Devil's Castle Traverse
  • The face of Devil's Castle has several technical climbing routes--don't trundle rocks!- Devil's Castle Traverse
  • The first section of scrambling.  - Devil's Castle Traverse
  • Contributor John Badila on the first summit, checking out the rest of the route.  - Devil's Castle Traverse
  • Gaining the knife-edge between the first and second summits.  - Devil's Castle Traverse
  • Approaching the middle summit and summit register mailbox.  - Devil's Castle Traverse
  • Scrambling up a chute leading to the third summit.  - Devil's Castle Traverse
  • Nearing the third summit.  - Devil's Castle Traverse
  • On the third summit.  - Devil's Castle Traverse
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Stunning vistas. Great scrambling route.
Cons: 
Exposure may be intimidating for scrambling novices.
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Region:
Central Wasatch Mountains, UT
Congestion: 
Low
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Day-Use/Parking Pass Required:
Not Required
Total Distance: 
3.70 mi (5.95 km)
Trailhead Elev.: 
9,400 ft (2,865 m)
Net Elev. Gain: 
1,520 ft (463 m)
Trail Uses:
Hiking
Trail type: 
Loop
Dogs allowed: 
No
Recommended Equipment:
Other
Most technical pitch: 
Class II
Current Local Weather:
Powered by Dark Sky

Today

Mixed precipitation (1–3 in. of snow) starting in the afternoon.
45°F
25°

Wed

Snow (under 1 in.) until afternoon, starting again in the evening.
37°F
25°

Thu

Snow (1–3 in.) throughout the day.
36°F
23°

Fri

Light snow (under 1 in.) starting in the afternoon, continuing until evening.
29°F
18°

Sat

Light snow (under 1 in.) starting in the afternoon.
31°F
14°

Sun

Snow (under 1 in.) until evening, starting again overnight.
31°F
22°

Mon

Snow (1–3 in.) throughout the day.
26°F
20°
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

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The face of Devil’s Castle, a rugged cliff of dark gray limestone, makes a magnificent backdrop for Albion Basin. Alta skiers know Devil’s Castle for the open powder fields that form on its north-facing lower slopes. In the summer and fall, it’s a destination for adventurous hikers seeking one of the best scrambling routes in the Wasatch. 

The traverse route takes you over Devil’s Castle’s three distinct summits and requires routefinding skills to keep the scrambling in the low fifth-class range. This is a good route for expanding your scrambling skillset, but bringing someone with more experience is recommended if you haven’t done much rock scrambling before. None of the moves are difficult, but the exposure is spectacular and potentially intimidating. Your hands and arms should really be used only for balance; if the move you are contemplating seems harder, take a good look around to be sure you’ve found the easiest way.

The route starts at Albion Basin Campground. The road to the campground begins at Alta and is unpaved.  This road is usually open from mid-June until the end of October or the first substantial snowfall. Start by following the trail from the Albion Basin Campground to Cecret Lake (0.75 miles).  From here, a trail starts on the east side of the lake and switchbacks 800 feet up the scree slopes to the saddle between Devil’s Castle and Sugarloaf Peak. These slopes are prime habitat for pikas.  From the saddle, a quick side-trip west up Sugarloaf Peak (11,051 feet) will be hard to resist for peak-baggers; this is one of the Wasatch’s most-accessible eleveners. 

Beginning at the saddle, a faint trail follows the ridge east, which quickly steepens into a knife-edge. The route mainly stays on the right (south) side of the ridge crest. Most of the rock you’ll be climbing on is high quality and very solid, but it’s still important to check carefully for loose rock. The first crux section is a chute or inside corner that takes you straight to the first summit. Most hikers stop here, but there is plenty of great scrambling ahead for those not afraid of exposure. 

From the first summit the route descends a short step and then regains the top of the ridge, a very narrow knife-edge leading to the middle summit. This is probably the most exposed section of the route, but the top of the ridge broadens again after a few steps. At the top, be sure to sign the summit register in the mailbox. Getting from the middle to third summit involves a few more scrambling moves up a moderately steep inside corner, but the exposure is minimal. The third summit is a broad, flat-topped rock that is good for a photo op. Descend the other side through a notch with plentiful holds. 

Instead of retracing your steps back across the three summits, a loop route back into Albion Basin makes more sense if you’ve come this far. A faint track leads to a saddle to the east. From the saddle, cross to the north side of the ridge and descend back into Albion Basin. Look for mountain goats in this rugged, little-visited area. A bit of steep, off-trail hiking will take you to the gravel road at the bottom of the steep slope. This road will lead you back to the Albion Basin Campground, just follow it to the left (west) and downhill. 

Expect this route to take about half a day. Due to the exposure, definitely avoid this route if there is any chance of thunderstorms. On a clear day, though, it offers a unique combination of not much hiking, a lot of scrambling, and amazing views.

Updates, Tips + Comments

Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide + Map

Field Guide + Map

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(18 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(109 within a 30 mile radius)

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