Along with many other protected areas in Utah, the Deseret Peak Wilderness was created as part of the Utah Wilderness Act of 1984. With over 25,000 acres of territory in the Stansbury Mountains, the area is surprisingly wet year round thanks to the 11,031 namesake peak that traps the passing scant amounts of moisture as it carves out dynamic canyons. These mountains have an interesting mix of trees because they straddle the desert and alpine regions known as Great Basin and Rocky Mountain climates zones. Juniper and sagebrush intermingle with aspen and Douglas fir while beautiful wildflowers cover the rolling meadows in the early summer. The cliffs are steep and jagged, making for a rugged and remote territory while only being about an hour drive from Salt Lake City.
South Willow Canyon Road is the main artery to access this wilderness area, which has only about 14 miles of trails within its territory. While there are not many trailheads here, the few it does have are plenty beautiful and plenty challenging. Deseret Peak can be done as a 6-mile trek with 2,300 feet of gain, so really not bad for a major peak. But if you want something a little more robust, the Stansbury Traverse takes you through the entire area along the spine. South Willow Lake Trail still has some decent gain but less than the previous two and takes you to an uncommon sight in the area, a body of fresh water. Being just east of Skull Valley means that wild horses are commonly spotted along the western slopes, but that side is much dryer and trail access is limited. Along with the occasional head of cattle you can also find badgers, deer, marmots, hummingbirds and hawks.
During the winter months the area is known for backcountry skiing in the chutes of Deseret Peak. In the summer backcountry camping is allowed when you follow a Leave No Trace ethic and follow these regulations. Mountain biking is not allowed, but you can bring you dogs or ride the trails on horseback. The autumn colors are decent, but not as spectacular as the Salt Lake Wilderness Areas. What you do get here is a break from the ever more popular wilderness zones closer to the major city.