The summit of Mount Timpanogos can be view from nearly every direction whether you’re down in Provo, from the summits in the Cottonwoods, or just driving through Heber City. And ever since we saw its snow capped ridgeline when first visited Salt Lake, back in February of 2017, we knew we just had to hike it. On Saturday, September 14th, five of us, with two dogs, hit the Aspen Grove trailhead in hopes to be on the summit a few hours later.
At 11,749 feet, Mount Timpanogos (or Timp), is the second-highest summit of the Wasatch Mountains. From the Aspen Grove Trailhead, the round-trip hike is just over 16 miles and climbs a whopping 5,492ft of elevation. And according to AllTrails.com, the hike at a casual pace can take anywhere from 6-10hrs, so we decided to get an early start by hiking in the cold morning air at 7AM.
Shortly after starting the hike, the temperatures started to rise, just as we came upon a rushing waterfall (mile 1.3). Gregor, as good boys do, propped himself up on a boulder for his usual glamour shots. But there wasn’t much time to stop and enjoy, we still had plenty of hiking to do. The sun began to hit the trail at the same time we started climbing the first of many switchbacks of the day.
Crossing the Primrose Cirque, at mile 3.5, we approached the top of the headwall. Spirits were still high, and our legs were still fresh. This was the point when we first started to cross sections with snow hiding out on the north side of slopes. Just three days before, Utah got hit with its first snow of the season and Timp received upwards of 6″ of fresh snow. By Saturday, only an inch or two remained in the shadowy areas. Or so we thought.
After climbing up and over the headwall, into the Hidden Lakes basin, you reach a meadowy area. We traded rocky landscape for an alpine grassy one. Here is where we saw our first and, unfortunately, only mountain goat of the day. Expecting to see dozens of goats, lining the high walls that surrounded us or on the ridgeline as we hiked past them, we never saw any more. But that didn’t take away how stoked we were to be here. The steep switchbacks were now behind us, and we could wander up the easy grade of the trail.
Above the Timpanogos basin, in the shadows of the summit, we crossed our first snowfield (mile 6.4). Sure the earlier week’s snow didn’t help, but I couldn’t help but think that most snow that remained was from this winter. This was also the point on the hike when we desperately wished we had brought our micro-spikes, that we left in the truck, with us. The snow, because it was still in the shade, was very hard and slippery. Normally, not an issue, except this had a no-fall zone off to our right in the form of a 100ft cliff. Once we realized the situation we were in, I quickly put Gregor back on his leash so that he didn’t get too close to the edge and slide off.
We took a short break to catch our breath, and eat some candy, before taking on the steep climb up to the Saddle (mile 7.5). This section of trail was easily the steepest part of the hike and filled with loose scree rock. But once we made the saddle, the group stoke only began to rise more and more, and so did the wind. No longer blocked by the massive rock that is the Timp ridgeline, the westerly winds began to whip our group as we hiked along the exposed ridge.
From the saddle, it’s less than a mile to the summit, but it looks like some of the most daunting section of trail. Ahead, you can only see tiny specs of other hikers ahead of us. Like little ants, they lined the switchbacks that climb the left shoulder of the mountain. But we were almost there, and couldn’t wait to see the view from the summit.
Up the switchbacks, on a trail lined with loose stones, we climbed. With Gregor attached to his leash again, he pulled me up the whole way. A hiker we passed, earlier in the day, told me a story about a dog off leash knocking a hiker off balance and, sadly, resulting in the hiker falling to their death. After hearing that story, and seeing how narrow the trails were ahead of us, I did not want to put anyone in that position. And plus, I wasn’t going to complain about Gregor pulling me up the hill, making my hike easier.
After 4 hours and 12 minutes, the 5 of us reached the hut on the summit of Mount Timpanogos. Finally, after nearly 3 years, we were standing on top of one of the most iconic peaks in Utah. We all signed our names into the record book. Being able to share this moment with Courtney and my friends, especially Luke who was visiting for the weekend (from sea level nonetheless), was one that I’ll never forget.
From the summit, we ducked behind a cliff edge to get out of the wind, for a well deserved lunch and break. After eating one of the most delicious turkey sandwiches, I took the drone out to get some shots to really show the perspective of this unique mountain. And what stunning shots I got!
We headed back down the same way we ascended, and enjoyed the afternoon warmth on the whole way down. And after nearly 8 hours of hiking, we made it back to the parking lot we left from. Exhausted would be an understatement. Both Gregor and Bee immediately passed out on warm blacktop between our trucks, while the rest of us removed our hiking boots and took a seat into our camp chairs. This was truly one of my favorite hikes I’ve ever done. Just the way the landscape changes with every mile, it is unlike anything else I’ve ever done, and honestly can’t wait to hike it again!