I went to college in Provo, Utah and each morning as I walked to school I saw Mount Timpanogos towering majestically in the distance. I always wanted to conquer her but the thought of climbing up 4,500 feet in 15 miles seemed too daunting and too much work for me. I heard about the amazing views and sense of accomplishment after hiking to the summit but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it; let alone get others to join me.
Maybe it was fear that stopped me until my senior year, or maybe it was being lazy, but finally I said enough is enough. It was time to summit Mount Timpanogos. I gathered a group of friends from work and we set a date, the first weekend in October. We decided if we were going to do the hike we wanted to be at the top for sunrise. What exactly did this mean? It meant we started hiking around midnight the night before.
None of us got any sleep before hand. We were pumped up and ready to go. I was prepared. I had lots of water, my headlamp, and enough food… Or so I thought. We decided to take the Aspen Grove Trail because the trail was shorter, although steeper.
As we began I really couldn’t see much besides where my headlamp was pointing; there was no moon to illuminate our path and the mountain that was before us. We hiked and hiked. Up and up. After a few hours we reached Emerald Lake. Many people call it quits here and never make it to the top. We were not going to be those people. We didn’t care if there was a nice grassy meadow next to a lake with a shelter you could stay in; we had come too far to quit now.
We took a short break and started up the saddle to the summit. What we didn’t realize is that we would be hiking up a skeet field of loose rock. In the daytime I am sure it isn’t a problem finding your way up through the skeet field but in the dark it was a whole other ball game. None of us had hiked Mount Timpanogos in the dark, in fact only one person had even climbed it in the day. We were lost. We spent 45 minutes trying to find the trail without any luck until we saw a headlamp in the distance. We decided to go towards the light. After probably another 15 minutes we realized that wasn’t the trail we needed that was the Timpooneke Trail meeting up with our trail before the top. We headed back towards Emerald Lake when we saw headlamps way above us. We started shouting and they told us we needed to come up to where they were and the trail was easy to follow after that. By this time everyone was pretty exhausted but determined to get to the top before sunrise.
It took everything we had to get to the top before sunrise. In fact I think we only made it by a few minutes but standing at the top of Mount Timpanogos overlooking the Salt Lake and Heber Valleys was unlike anything I could have imagined. The sun rays began to break through the scattered clouds, the earth became warmer, and the cities below began to wake up. We had done it! I couldn’t believe it. After all these years Timpanogos had finally been conquered.
We took pictures at the top in an old shack and then decided it was time to head down. We decided to take a different way home which we thought would be faster. We decided to go down where there is usually a glacier but at this time of year it was just more skeet. We had a couple of girls who did not have good shoes and were not experienced hikers so this short distance took a long time.
Once we reached Emerald Lake we saw tons of wildlife. We passed a couple of mountain goats, deer, and other animals as we enjoyed the fall colors. As we hiked down I felt like I was hiking a new trail since I had no idea what it looked like in the dark.
Although this hike took much longer than I planned for it was a wonderful and trying experience. I learned a lot about myself. I felt like the lessons I learned while hiking I could apply directly in other ways to my life. I also learned to make sure you have enough water and to plan for unexpected delays. With about an hour and a half left I ran out of water (I did not plan for the extra few hours of being lost and slow down climbing) Running out of water is one of the worst things that can happen on a hike, especially during the heat. I vowed from then on that I would not put myself in that position. I now carry a water filter on every hike because you never know if you or someone else will need water.
About Mount Timpanogos
Located about 1 hour from Salt Lake City Mount Timpanogos is the 2nd highest mountain in the Wasatch Mountain Range with an elevation of 11,752.
There are two routes to choose from the Aspen Grove or the Timpoooneke trail. The Aspen Grove trail that is about 7 miles each way with an elevation gain of 4850, the second route is via the Timpooneke trail which is about 7.5 miles and gains about 4450 feet in elevation. Both trails are very scenic and depending on the time of the year you will be able to see different animals and wild flowers.
To get to the Timpooneke trailhead drive up American Fork Canyon until the road forks, take the right fork (part of the Alpine Loop). Continue driving towards the Timpooneke campground. Take the paved road about a quarter of a mile through the campground till you reach the parking lot.
Aspen Grove Route
To get to Aspen Grove trailhead drive up Provo Canyon and turn on Alpine Scenic Highway (Route 92) towards Sundance. Continue pass Sundance and look for the Aspen Grove parking lot about 2.5 miles from Sundance.