Summiting Magnificent Mount Timpanogos: Waterfalls, Wildflowers, Wildlife, & Wild Views—Oh my!

Elevation gain:5,384ft

Mileage: ~15 Miles RT

Summit: 11,752ft, the 2nd highest mountain in Utah

Difficulty: Hard, strenuous – due to altitude, elevation gain, and ~1.5 miles ea way of an unstable, tortuous, talus field

Happened to be in the area and made the spontaneous decision to hike Mount Timpanogos. So glad I did. By far, Mount Timp (as the locals call it) is my new, all-time favorite hike / peak. And I’ve done a ton of hiking across the country and around the world. I couldn’t stop smiling all the way to the 11,752-foot summit and back. Ok, maybe my smile was a bit of a grimace through the 1.5 miles back and forth across the treacherous talus strewn avalanche field.  Rest assured, the grimace quickly reverted to ear to ear, exuberant glee once I reached the summit and then again as I descended back down to the lake.

What’s make Mount Timpanogos so wonderful, you ask? Well, the title gave it way, but in case you missed it:

  • Abundant colorful, wildflowers of more varieties than I’ve ever seen
  • Dazzling waterfalls around nearly very switchback
  • Pristine alpine lake and snow field a couple miles from the summit
  • Muscular mountain goats guarding the upper slopes and frolicking by the lake
  • 5,384 ft elevation gain in altitude delivers a fitness challenge and solid workout
  • Sweeping views of Utah Valley from the saddle and spectacular panoramic views from the summit

This hike had it all—absolutely enchanting.

Started the trail in a steady rain, and walked up a verdant paved path for about a mile and a half or so before the pavement gave way to the elements.  Plentiful wildflowers and sparkling waterfalls distracted from the effort of the climb and the sun’s radiance soon highlighted all of the beauty, mist rising. The trail is easy to follow with plenty of switchbacks to help mitigate the elevation gain. It felt almost tropical at times.

The lovely Hidden Lake Basin and Emerald Lake are destinations for many, including the mountain goats.

Those who push on beyond the mile and ½ talus torture field and onward and upward still, are well rewarded at the summit.

Pay your respects to the kings of the mountain along the way. If you have good eyesight, you might spy the summit hut from thousands of feet below. It’s a bit daunting and exciting because it seems so far away, almost out of reach.

From the summit, you’ll take in dizzying 360 degree views of Utah Valley and Utah Lake to the west, Lone Peak and American Fork Twin Peaks to the north and expansive views everywhere in between.

Disclaimer: I experienced Mt. Timp in her July glory. I was told by locals that I wouldn’t recognize her in the Fall when the waterfalls are dry, the wildflowers have disappeared, and the green meadows have turned to yellow hay. Others report that Fall colors are nice here. Someday, perhaps I’ll be back to see for myself. In the meantime, if you’ve been in another season, let me know what it was like.

Notes: I’d say hiking shoes are a must to navigate the talus field. There were some hard core, ultra runners in trail runners. (I know – WOW!) Hiking poles are also a nice to have, given the elevation gain and loss. Layers are always smart at altitude. Be aware of weather changes and avalanche danger.

Getting there: I-15N to Pleasant Grove, exit 275. Follow N County Blvd and UT-92 E to the Aspen Grove trailhead.

Stay tuned: I’ll be posting the videos soon!

Happy trails!

Thanks, Jud! Taking in the panoramic Jud Wiebe Memorial Trail, Telluride, CO

Elevation gain: 1,300 ft (From 8,750ft to 10,050ft)

Distance: 3.1 miles, loop (Note the 2 ends of the loop are about a half mile apart)

Difficulty: Moderate ++, depending upon your fitness level and altitude acclimation, most of the incline is packed into the 1st mile either way you go.

This wonderful panoramic trail was the vision of former Forest Service Recreation Manager Jud Wiebe and it is indeed a vision—from the panoramic view of Telluride below, the mountains beyond, the aspen groves, the foresty vibes, and the wildflowers sprinkled along the trail. You’ll be breathless from the beauty and the thin air.

Ps. There’s a short offshoot waterfall trail here that’s a must do too. Post coming soon.

Getting there:  S. Take UT-46 E, CO-90 E and CO-145 S to N Aspen St in Telluride

Happy Trails!

Lovely Lower Calf Falls, Grand Staircase Escalante, Bolder, UT

Lovely Lower Calf Falls, Grand Staircase Escalante, UT

Distance: 6 miles to the lower tier of the waterfall (~8+ to the upper tier)

Elevation: ~500 ft

Difficulty: Easy (with a fair amount of thick sand walking)

Highlight: 126-foot cascade into a pool, giant petroglyphs

Only had time for the lower tier of perennial Calf Falls – it did not disappoint, but the people did. Unfortunately, my itinerary landed me here midday on a Sunday. Not the time to visit–far too many humans for my liking…

As you can see, this amazing gem is definitely worth a visit. Lower Calf Falls cascades over a nearly vertical cliff face into a large pool several feet deep and is enclosed on three sides by sheer Navajo sandstone walls. Pick up an interpretive pamphlet at the trailhead to learn about the flora along the trail and giant petroglyphs in the distance (too far to get a good pic).

Without question, Grand Staircase Escalante is National Park caliber and deserves to be preserved and protected. Stay tuned for more posts on this area!

Soapbox: If you bring pets, please pick up after them! This trail and falls area is small and quickly becoming overrun and overused. One fellow watched me watching him get a bag out to pick up his big Labrador’s poop, and then when I turned away, he walked away from it. ARRRGH! No respect for fellow hikers or nature. They should permit this hike, at least on weekends, and fine those who litter/leave dog poop. Don’t get me started about the imbeciles who bag poop and then leave it. I can’t get my head around people who go somewhere to appreciate nature and then defile it.

Getting there: Take highway 12 to the BLM-managed Calf Creek Recreation Area. Parking lot has limited parking. Go early or you may have to park along the highway.

Exploring Enchanting Water Canyon—a Multifaceted Gem, Hildale, UT

Length: ~3 Miles roundtrip to the mini waterfall or as long as you’d like to take it, up and over and across the rim.

Difficulty: Moderate+ (To the waterfall is easy, after that, the hike becomes more difficult with elevation gain and a mix of route finding, scrambling, and bouldering. Route finding can be perplexing, if not impossible at the top where it becomes a choose your own adventure experience.)

Elevation gain: 2,208 ft (This only comes into play if you hike beyond the waterfall.)

In the spring, the reward of a short hike (~1.5 miles ea way) is a beguiling, mini waterfall tucked into a slot canyon grotto. Beyond the waterfall, you’ll encounter an interesting, often difficult-to-follow trail that involves some scrambling, bouldering, some exposure, and heights. Not surprisingly, this picturesque canyon is a popular spot for canyoneering. Supposedly you can get to “White Domes” from here, but it’s difficult to ascertain how. I’ll update this post if / when I find a good route to them in the future – cross-country, over the top, or traversing up the rocks from the bottom.

Notes: If you’re in it for the waterfall, early spring is your best bet. The waterfall disappears as the months get hotter and drier. Watch the weather for flash floods. Avoid weekend crowds by going early on a weekday. If you’re going to wander on the rim, I suggest you use GPS or Alltrails, as finding the route back down the canyon can be tricky (understatement). Parking is free.

Getting there: I-15 N to UT-9 E/W State St and UT-59 S to Utah Ave in Hildale. Take Utah Ave to Water Canyon Rd. Follow the dirt road to the parking lot.  

Happy trails!

Zion’s Sublime Subway: Bottom Up—Is Tops!

Distance: ~9 mile round-trip (out and back)

Elevation: ~1900ft

Difficulty: Moderate, depending upon your fitness level. (Zion National Park’s rating is strenuous.) Steep and exposed initial descent and return ascent, otherwise fairly mellow trail with lots of stream crossings / stream walking, some rock-hopping, and minor scrambles over boulders. (Good idea to have some longer hikes with some elevation challenge under your belt before attempting.) Since footing can be precarious at times, especially at the Subway itself, but also along the way, expect the hike to take longer than mileage would indicate. Also, you’ll want to take the time to savor the beauty that surrounds you.  Average hike times range from 5 to 9 hours.

Definitely one of my favorite Utah hikes so far—epic scenery, waterfalls, the magnificent, iconic beauty of the Subway, and a solid workout.

More than 1 of us accidently took the wrong “trail” down.  Not sure how that happened – maybe it too early in the morning, too much excitment. If it looks and feels like you’re navigating down a precipitous, vertical avalanche area —retrace your steps back to the trail and continue on. While the descent and ascent are steep, they are on a definite trail.

The hike description noted a strenuous and steep descent / ascent so we didn’t think we’d gone astray until we found the real trail (pic on right) on the way back.

Apparently, there are some dinosaur tracks just off the “trail” somewhere – their whereabouts remain a mystery to me. I’ll let you know if I find them on my next trip.

Keep your eyes out for snakes, toads, and trout.

And yes, there’s also a top-down route to the Subway that requires canyoneering, rappelling, and swimming. It may be in my future—will report back, if and when.

Heads-up:

  • Walking stick with a solid rubber end and grippy shoes highly recommended. (You’ll be traversing many slippery rock sections through the stream and at the subway itself. Be cautious – safe is better than sorry. Many helicopter rescues occur here. Don’t be one of them.)
  • Be aware of flash flood danger and heat exhaustion exposure. Get the weather report and double-check with rangers. I went in April and it was 90 degrees by midday—some fellow had heat stroke on the trail. (Bring plenty of water, a hat, and sunscreen.)
  • This is a day use only area and permits are required. An advance lottery system applies from April to October and calendar reservation applies from November through March. There is also a last-minute drawing and you can always check for cancelations day of—unlikely, but we met a couple who nailed both a same day cancellation opening for the hike and a campsite so you never know. (Permits are $15 for 2, $20 for up to 7, and $25 for up to 12 people.) Lottery, reservation, and permit details here.

Good luck – it’s soooooooo worth it!

Getting there: Left Fork Trailhead on Kolob Terrace Road

Happy Trails!