Hiking Mt. Timpanogos Via Aspen Grove Trail
Clocking in at 11,752 feet above sea level, it's not the tallest peak in the state or even the Wasatch Range (where it's second to Mt. Nebo), but Mt. Timpanogos (a.k.a. Mt. Timp) has its own appeal. Towering 7,000 feet over the Provo, it's the most dominant feature in the area and Utah's most popular mountain hike, worthy of both locals and visitors. With the chance to see moose, mountain goats, wildflowers, waterfalls, and gorgeous panoramas, there's really no reason not to put it on your bucket list. The best time for making an ascent of the mountain is from late spring to late fall, but you'll find people scaling the mountain year round. Here's a look at what you might expect, from a first timer's perspective.
You can reach the summit of Mt. Timp via either the Timpooneke Trail (14.5 miles; 4,668 feet elevation gain) or the Aspen Grove Trail (14.6 miles, 5,557 feet elevation gain). Either way, unless you're a speed hiker, the effort is one you'll need to dedicate your entire day to. For my first ascent, I chose the Aspen Grove Trail since this route includes passing by the Emerald Lakes. The trailhead for Aspen Grove is just a few miles from Sundance Mountain Resort and Aspen Grove camp area on the UT-92.
Like so many others, my friend and I opted for a weekend hike and were not unsurprised to find the parking lot already full when we arrived there at 7 a.m. Hiking up in the dark to see the sunrise is almost as popular as hiking Timp on a weekend or holiday. Just off the lot you'll find your last chance to use the restroom plus the Stewart Falls Trail and Aspen Grove Trail (though it's labeled as Timpanogos Hike - trail 52). A few shorts steps onto the trail and we were greeted by a ranger who wanted to make sure we knew what we were getting into and had adequate water. Between the two us, we must have had close to 10 liters, a bit of an over kill on what turned out to be a relatively cloudy day. In the future, I'd say 2 to 3 liters per person is plenty.
At a slow and steady pace, the trail didn't feel long or particularly steep, parts of the beginning were even paved. A good number of people were on the trail, but we still ended up being alone for a majority of the hike. We passed a couple waterfalls at the beginning of the hike and then followed switchbacks up into the higher elevations where pines and wildflowers dominated the landscape. Originally, we'd plan to take a lunch break up at Emerald Lake, but we ended up stopping earlier since neither of us had bothered to check where in the hike the lake was located (you'll find it just before the saddle, i.e. a lot further along than we expected). When we did finally get up to the lake it was already well into the afternoon.
It was really only when we got to the saddle where the Timpooneke and Aspen Grove Trails converge for the final mile or so up to the summit that it started feeling somewhat crowded. We had to cross a talus field overlooking a gorgeous ridge to get there, which was probably the least pleasant part of the entire hike. We passed several people on the way who were freezing because it gets really windy on the western portion of the mountain. Thankfully, we were more prepared (bringing along beanies, leggings, and a puffy jacket) than the poor souls who had decided the shorts and t-shirts they started the hike in would be appropriate for the summit. The last push up to the summit wasn't too steep, but it was strange walking up in the mists of cloud that obscured everything below us. Even with the clouds, we ended up getting a decent view of the surroundings during the twenty minutes we spent up at the top since the winds kept sweeping everything aside. The sun even popped out as we were making our way down.
It must have taken us six hours to get to the top, but we practically raced down to the parking lot after joining up with some friends who had taken Timpooneke up the previous day and camped. Coming down was just as scenic. We saw a whole herd of mountain goats way up on the cliffs and ran into a moose just before exiting the trail.
In summary, definitely worth doing even if you aren't in super good hiking shape. Just remember to bring warm clothes because the weather changes quickly and the temperature at the top is vastly different from the bottom plus lots of water and snacks to get you through the day!