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Monday, October 27, 2014

Mount Timpanogos, Utah - Hiking to the summit on the Timpooneke Trail

Hiking Mount Timpanogos-  Utah! 


(All pictures were taken with my Nikon D3100- 
some were taken with my GoPro and are noted).

Being new to Utah (and a little neurotic) I spent a fair amount of time doing some research before we headed up this mountain.   Let's start with some background information acquired from good ole wikipedia. 

Mount Timpanogos, Timp according to the locals, is the second highest mountain in the Wasatch mountain range.  Timp's elevation is 11,752' above sea level with 5,270' of topographic prominence.  (The trail we took, Timpooneke had 4,652' of elevation gain).  Timp is the 47th most prominent mountain in the US and it took a little research for me to wrap my mind around the concept of "prominence".  According to wikipedia,  "In topographyprominence characterizes the height of a mountain or hill's summit by the vertical distance between it and the lowest contour line encircling it and no higher summit. It is a measure of the independence of a summit."  
Basically, Prominence is the peaks "steepness" is what I took away.  

The exposed portion of the mountain is made up "entirely of limestone and dolomite".  The word Timpanogos comes from the tribe who lived in the surrounding valleys. "Timpanogos Glacier is a rock-covered mass found on a long, north-facing slope, and usually has patches of snow the entire year". After my research I found it is common practice to "slide down" this glacier and then be rescued by the emergency services once you have hit a rock on your way down. Timpanogos Emergency Response Team ("TERT") has been established on the mountain on weekends to provide first aid and rescue to those inured on the mountain.   The Timp Glacier is one of the major sources of injury or death to hikers on Timp, (when they attempt to "glissade" down the glacier.)  While many do it safely, I decided that I was going to take the long (safer) way down. 

After doing my research I decided, okay, this seems like a LONG hike but everyone describes it as pretty easy and pleasant.  Some sites said it was 12 miles, some said it was 14, I decided I liked 12 better.  According to Wikipedia, "Although it is a 14-mile round-trip hike, with almost a mile of elevation gain, Timp's summit is one of the most-visited in the Rocky Mountains. " Okay so this is a popular hike, and should be fairly easy? 

I was very, very wrong. 

After doing research, I found out there there were two trails to get up to Timp's summit.  One, Aspen Grove, was a little shorter, but a little more challenging in the elevation department.  The other trail, Timpooneke, started at a higher elevation, had a little less elevation gain, and was a little more dog friendly.  We decided to take the Timpooneke trail up to the summit.  

PREPPING:  Usually Thatcher takes his big pack, and I take my little running camelbak.  We decided to both bring normal sized bag packs as we would need enough water snacks and supplies for the three of us.  We brought wraps for lunch, beer for the summit, water for us and the dog, my camera, my zoom lens, my tripod, my GoPro, and a few layers (I had a tank top, thick long sleeve shirt, my Lulu running jacket, pants, gloves, and a head band).  We knew it was going to be a windy day, and we knew it was going to be chilly at 11,700'.  Olive carried some snacks, a small first aid kit, bug spray, and sun block. 

We hopped on the highway and headed to the trail head and started our hike at 10am.  There was a little congestion in the parking area/entrance because there was a film crew filming a scene for the movie "War Pigs".

TRAIL HEAD: Taking 1-15 to Alpine Highland exit-  Follow SR-92 to the ranger booth (6$ to get in- 3 day pass).  Follow the Alpine Loop until you get to the Timpooneke Campground.  Just past the campground you will see a parking lot and the trail head.  There is a bathroom here as well at the base.  

Like I said, different websites had different numbers for total distance, and different categories of difficulty.  I used This Local Hikes Site as an idea and told Thatcher we would be going on a 12 mile hike.  He was a little apprehensive, but excited to hike Timp.  We were a whole lot LESS excited when we realized the total distance was just shy of 15 miles and would require some rock climbing.  

The first 5 miles of the trail was breathtaking.  A nice dirt trail, easy incline, waterfalls, bridges, and beautiful trees and vegetation.  

About 1.5 miles into the hike, we came across a sign for Scout Falls.  A left about 1000 yards takes you to Scout Falls. At the falls there was a gentlemen eating breakfast with a view, He told us he had been out on Timp hiking and camping for the past three days. 

We left the falls and went back on the main trail (right) to head to the summit.   We had Olive off her leash for about 90% of the hike.  She wore her pack which A) makes her help us carry some of the lighter things- clothes and snacks, and B) slows her down and ensures she sticks with us.  With her pack on she is quite perfect.  

As we made our way along the trail, the views just got more and more amazing. Of course I stopped to take about a million pictures and caught some pretty awesome shots of Timp and the Wasatch forest.   

2 miles into the hike you hit the "Giant Stair Case".  The elevation increases a little and rocks along the trail resemble a stair case.  

 3-4 miles into the trail you are in Talus Field.   Here you will see a sign for Emerald Lake- which will not take you to the summit but is a nice shorter easier hike if you don't want to climb the prominence peak.  We did not head to Emerald Lake but followed the signs to Timp's Peak. 

I also put on my layers and was thankful for my hood and gloves!

At this point, you can see Timp's Summit (that pyramid) and it is still quite far away...... A little daunting I will admit.  This is a good time to turn around if rock climbing up this peak is not your cup of tea. 

That peak is Timp's summit. 

(Just before you reach the Emerald Lake split, you will see a sign for a toilet.  It is a pile of rocks with a view so if you need some privacy(ish)- there you go)

(That's where we were heading- that point-  this is where the hike got harder and harder) You follow a narrow path across that ledge and then scramble up to that peak- up very loose and steep rocks. 

GoPro picture - a rest with a not so happy Olive. 


At 5.5 miles, you hit the 11,000' pass.  At this point, Olive came up to the pass, saw the drops to each side, turned around and BOOKED IT.  I can't blame her- and being afraid of heights, I considered joining her.  It was a terrifying view with a long treacherous hike to the peak.  After we caught (and leashed) Olive, we started to make our way to the top.  We had made it this far, and as cliche as it sounds... there was no turning back.  I was going to sign that book!

(I let Thatcher borrow my stylish purple gloves- he will be bringing more layers next trip)

 This was also the point where I put my Nikon in my bag because it was the kind of hike you needed BOTH HANDS, and pay close attention so you don't go tumbling down. Don't worry I had my GoPro clipped on my bag on a lanyard so I could easily take a few pictures.


Go Pro view of where we had just came from- That teeny trail 

  I did not read about this tiny ledge, this barely path, and the fact that you would be scaling up the mountain, on the side of a cliff.  I really hate heights so I was really proud I was able to keep going.  I went slowly, and put one foot in front of the other, staring down at the ground and not at the edge of the cliff.  As scary as it was, I felt like we were watching a National Geographic film.  These views belonged on Planet Earth, or atleast one of the cool shots on Walter Mitty.   

These views were terrifying but absolutely amazing and these pictures do not do the views justice.  You will just have to hike it yourself!

GoPro-  Signing the book!

Finally, after a pretty scary climb with a ton of elevation, we made it to the top.  On the top of the summit is a little guard shack.  We sat in the shack for a few minutes and caught our breath (11,700' - hello altitude), and signed the log in book.  I was not enjoying the heights, the cold, and the 40mph winds, so we had a quick snack and headed back down to an area where we could enjoy lunch.



Go Pro 

 We were both a little sketched out by the ledge, the unsure footing, tumbling rock, and steepness.  We were so glad to get off that peak although the hike back down it was even trickier!  

Like I said, this hike was 7.5 miles each way.  I will say, by mile 9-10, we were exhausted.  Achey bodies and head aches set in and even Olive was started to drag a bit.   We realized what we thought was going to be 12 miles, was going to be 15 miles.  The last few miles of the hike were tough and we booked it down the mountain.  

8 hours and 15 miles later, we were back to the car with the most amazing sunset.  
And sore legs (and backs, and arms, and everything).

Three tired bodies headed home after a long long day.  Looking back, we had a great time and were so glad we did it.  We found this hike challenging.  As East Coast natives we are NOT used to climbs with this type of elevation.  While I am a distance runner, 15 miles up 4,500' is quite challenging.  I would do this hike again, but to Emerald Lake instead of heading all the way up to the summit.  If you are considering this hike, bite the bullet and do it- but make sure you leave early enough and be prepared for some steep climbs and 15 miles.  Also bring a ton of water- we used up all of ours by mile 13. 

I am so glad I was able to hike this mountain as it was on my bucket list and has been rated as one of the best hikes in Utah.  It was challenging, unexpected, but completely worth it.   If you go hike it, be prepared for the long distance, and challenging last bit to the top.  This was a humbling experience and a little taste of what King's Peak (highest peak in Utah) will be like next summer. 

Stay tuned for my GoPro video of the hike!  


  1. Crazy hike! Glad you kept going even though it was rough. Looks like you were rewarded with a beautiful view.

    1. Jamie, Me too! I hate heights but knew I would be so disappointed if I made it that far and turned around. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Okay wow, those GoPro photos are spectacular. What a sight! It must've been a tiring yet fulfilling journey. :] // ☼ ☯

    1. Carmen, I am always so amazed how awesome the GoPro pictures turn out! Its this tiny little thing with no screen and then you get home, load your pictures and BAM! Love the wide angle too! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. What a beautiful place!! Sigh, I am looking for some kind of adventure like that :)

    1. it was so beautiful- it was out of a movie! Wait till those boys get a little older and you will have the best hiking partners for ever :)


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