Francis Peak, located di-rectly east of the Kaysville I-15 exit, is a popular summertime scenic backway destination in Davis County, offering access to the Sunset and Bountiful Peak campgrounds as well as the most spectacular bird's-eye views possible of the Great Salt Lake.
The road to the lofty radar domes that top the peak is officially known as Skyline Drive. It begins on Farmington's 100 East.It is paved for the first mile and then follows a winding, narrow dirt road for another 12 miles. Most cars can make this bumpy journey, though it is a back-country road.
There's a fork in the road at the top of the canyon, about eight miles up. The right (south road) leads to Bountiful Peak and eventually Bountiful's east bench, some 19 miles later.
The left road (north) heads to the radar domes operated by the Federation Aviation Administration and Air National Guard. A gate on the left fork is closed during snow season because of dangerous snow removal equipment. But this time of year it's almost always open.
Snow banks along the upper reaches of the road - 9,000-foot plus elevation - continue until mid- to late July. On a clear day, even the High Uintas are visible to the east.
A popular hike goes along a jeep trail northeast of the radar towers to the Smith Creek Lakes.
Francis Peak was once Davis County's craggiest mountain summit. However, some 22,000 cubic yards of material and 32 feet of the peak's height were removed to level the site for the radar domes.
While most maps list Francis Peak's elevation at 9,547 feet, that was its original height and doesn't account for the loss in height during the $2 million construction in 1958-59.
The natural height is now 9,515 feet, making it the fifth-highest peak in the county. The facility's base adds 55 feet and the radar domes chip in another 60 feet for a total of 115 feet in artificial height - making the peak, some could argue, 9,630 feet above sea level.
Only Thurston Peak, located about four miles north, is taller than that - at 9,706 feet.
The FAA originally wanted to locate the radar site above Salt Lake City, near Alta or Snowbird. But the National Guard was already using a temporary facility at Francis Peak, so that became the joint location.
Workers at the peak's construction site had to wear thick, long boots and carry sticks or pistols: Although snake experts said the reptiles can't live that high, someone forgot to tell the rattlers.
There were numerous nests of rattlesnakes uncovered in the building process, despite the site's almost 2-mile-high elevation.
In the late 1970s, a tramway was proposed as a quicker and more convenient access up Shepard Canyon to Francis Peak. However, the FAA's approval for the site got caught in environmental red tape and never became a reality.
Francis Peak is named for Esther Francis, a pioneer woman who settled Morgan during 1863. She surveyed the site for Morgan City, and Brigham Young suggested she be honored by naming a high peak for her.