Notch Peak is an interesting paradox. It is breathtakingly beautiful, easily identifiable, and incredibly rugged. However, because it's extremely remote, few people even know it exists. Located in Utah’s West Desert region about 50 miles west of the small town of Delta, it truly is in the middle of nowhere. Furthermore, the mountain’s iconic limestone face is only visible from the more remote, western side. This means that from any population center, including Delta, the mountain’s massive and nearly 4,000-foot face cannot be seen. Notch Peak is just north of Highway 6, which happens to be the main route from Utah to Great Basin National Park just over the border in Nevada. It has surprised many people returning from the park as they head eastward and are confronted with Notch’s western face (“How did we miss that before?!”). It’s easy to miss while driving to the west, but it is unmistakable on the drive eastward.
Notch’s distinguishing feature is its staggeringly huge western face that is formed by a large gash in the House Range, which is the namesake “notch” of the mountain. It has been speculated that Notch Peak has one of the tallest cliff faces in all of North America. Not surprisingly, this wall of nearly uninterrupted cliffs has tempted big wall rock climbers, and several technical routes have been established up the cliff. However, the gentle eastern slopes of the mountain are friendly to the average hiker and offer a fairly easy, non-technical route to the summit via Sawtooth Canyon. The mountain’s true nature does not become apparent on the standard, non-technical route until you arrive at a saddle just below the summit. Only there is the sickeningly huge cliff revealed, a sheer drop that is unnerving even to those not afraid of heights. Often the only way to feel semi-comfortable near the edge is to lie face down and gingerly peer over the edge of the dizzying abyss.
Notch has much more to offer than just an incredible cliff face though. The Sawtooth Canyon route is incredibly rewarding not only because it reaches the summit in only 3.5 miles but also because it follows a narrow, almost slot-like canyon for most of the way. Being in a remote desert area, the night skies and clear and unbelievably dark, so the stars shine very brightly. The other highlight of the Sawtooth Canyon route is the incredible variety of desert plants and animals found along the way; everything from pinyon pines, junipers, and cacti, to lizards and bighorn sheep. Perhaps the most incredible surprise along the route though, is the large grove of very ancient, twisted bristlecone pines that inhabit the upper slopes of the mountain. This grove easily rivals anything found in Great Basin National Park or California’s White Mountains.
At 9,654 feet, Notch Peak is the second highest peak in the House Range after Swasey Peak. The view from the summit is expansive and takes in much of Utah’s West Desert as well as eastern Nevada. Wheeler Peak and Mount Moriah in Nevada’s Snake Range are visible, as are Utah’s Deep Creek Mountains. On a clear day the Tushar Mountains to the east can be seen as well.