LOCATION: In the Wasatch Range, southeast of Brigham City and east of Willard. Wasatch-Cache National Forest.
HIGHLIGHTS: This is an outstanding day trip from the Salt Lake City area. As you climb more than 4,000 feet, the route, which the state of Utah has designated the Willard Scenic Backway, provides spectacular high-elevation scenery, from mountain basins to the spine of the Wasatch Range, the Great Salt Lake and the Great Basin. It ends at aptly named Inspiration Point, on 9,422-foot Willard Mountain, named for Willard Richards, a counselor to Mormon leader Brigham Young. The route is usually open from mid-July to early October. On a historical note, uncontrolled fires and abuse of the land denuded Willard Basin, which you’ll pass along the way, early in the 20th century. That led to destructive floods. Environmental restoration (you’ll see terracing on the slopes) in the 1930s stabilized the area and restored its beauty.
DIFFICULTY: Easy to moderate. Late-season snow drifts can block the road in places. Watch for all-terrain vehicles.
TIME & DISTANCE: 4–5 hours; about 26.5 miles round-trip.
MAPS: URRA, p. 37 (F–H, 8). Wasatch-Cache National Forest’s Ogden and Logan Ranger Districts, Ogden Ranger District side (B–C, 5–7).
INFORMATION: Ogden Ranger District, Union Station Information Center. Seasonal road-opening and closing dates can vary due to weather, so call ahead.
GETTING THERE: In Mantua, which is about 5.8 miles east of Brigham City on U.S. 89/91, follow Main Street south through town to a Y junction at a city park. Zero your odometer there, bear left and then bear right at the Mormon church.
REST STOPS: Box Elder Campground is near the start of the drive. Waterless (although there’s a spring nearby) Willard Basin Campground (a.k.a. Spikecamp) at about 8,700 feet at Willard Basin, is at mile 11.2, only a couple of miles before Inspiration Point. There are undeveloped campsites early on the drive.
THE DRIVE: The asphalt ends at mile 0.5, and from there you will follow two-lane dirt-and-gravel Willard Peak Road (084) into a wooded canyon. The road narrows to a single lane at mile 2.6, and becomes rocky, rutted and serpentine as it ascends through shady forest, providing fine views of valleys east of the Wasatch Range. At about mile 7.2 you will come to a saddle [N41°25.655' W111°57.749']. The road dips down the other side and becomes rougher. Bear left at a fork. The right branch goes a short distance down some moguls to a pond, Perry Reservoir.
When you reach mile 9.4 you will be at a pass at about 8,300 feet, where there should be a sign indicating that Willard Basin is farther on. The road angles to the left of the sign and then loops around the basin. By about mile 11.2 it passes Willard Basin Campground [N41°23.511' W111°58.708'] at the site of a Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps camp. The narrow road continues its loop around the basin, and ultimately climbs to Inspiration Point [N41°23.458' W111°59.211'], at mile 13.2. The road makes a small loop around the point, on 9,422-foot Willard Mountain, and provides head-spinning views that stretch from the Wasatch Range across the Great Salt Lake and deep into the Great Basin. Park at the point and enjoy the views. Hardy souls can hike and scramble to the nearby summit of Willard Peak (which takes about 1.5–2 hours).
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication