Both trails are about the same distance, so it didn’t make sense to do an out and back. On the way up, we took the First Hamongog Trail, which from trailhead to lake, was just under 6 miles one way with 4,400 ft elevation gain. It is definitely a butt & calve kicker! The on the way down, we took the North Mountain Trail which was just under 5 miles one way (we took a few shortcuts, but normally it would also be 6 miles) and also dropped 4,100 ft. Both trails are on the bushwhacky side, with tall overgrown bushes. Pants and long sleeves are a must. The trail is also extremely sandy, so at the end of the day your feet will be super dirty, even if you wear trail gaiters.
One of the reasons I have never hiked to Lake Hardy before was because I was honestly intimidated. It’s just such a big day with a lot of elevation gain. I was worried I wouldn’t be in shape enough and that my brain would get into a negative mood, etc. However, I tried as best I could to mentally prepare myself, and just kept saying, “You have all day – there is no hurry. Just enjoy being outside.” I also made sure to wear my compression socks so that the following days they would not make my legs not so sore, and carried a bottle of just electrolytes to keep me from not drinking enough water. All my prep paid off and it ended up being one of the prettiest hikes I have done in the Wasatch Mountains. I can’t believe I waited so long!
One more note – while this is an off leash trail, we didn’t bring Charlie on this hike. He is 8.5 years old now, so doing a big day like this takes him a lot longer to recover. I also knew that the trail would be extremely dry this time of year, and I didn’t to carry his water for him, or make him use his backpack. It’s just not worth it at his age to put him in a situation where he won’t have fun, and risk getting an injury or dehydration. However, younger dogs who are used to this mileage/elevation gain and going earlier in summer will have an easier time with more water available. Just be sure to start early in the morning to beat the heat, since the trail is sandy and could potentially burn paws.
From I-15, take exit 284 and head East towards AF Canyon (UT-92). Take the Commuter Lane to avoid all the lights, and turn left on N 5300 W, at the light. Continue on Main St. through the round-a-bout, then right on 200 N. Turn left on Grove Drive. You will drive through a small neighborhood, and the speed limit is 25 mph, then around a corner it will be 5 mph. Turn left on N Alpine Cove Dr, then another left on Aspen Drive. This will now be a dirt road – drive to the end where the School House Springs TH begins at the large gate and water tank. I would say that 15 cars can fit here – you do not need 4WD. Here is a driving map.
Distance: 6 miles one way
Elevation gain: 4500 ft
Time: 5-7 hours RT
Dog friendly? Yes, off leash
Kid friendly? No
First things first – change out of the crocs and into my hiking shoes, then fill up my water bottle with Ultima electrolytes. I carried one extra pack with me to make at the lake. I’m always interested in trying new electrolyte brands and I like this one! My favorite flavor is the blueberry.
The parking area is at the water tank just before the gate.
The first 2 miles are uneventful, following the dirt road. There are sings everywhere saying, “No trespassing – stay on main road”.
The views south towards Utah Lake are pretty nice though!
At 1.3 miles pass the 2nd gate.
And 1.9 miles the 3rd gate, with Box Elder Peak perfectly framed.
Ahh finally looking North towards the general direction we will be hiking towards. Big Horn Peak is the one on the right.
At 2.1 miles pass the official Lone Peak Wilderness sign.
Reach the first Hamongog (aka meadow).
To create the loop clockwise like we did, turn left. Eventually you will end up back at this same spot from hiking the loop. There is a trail going straight, but that eventually dies out.
Your first er…water source. If you were desperate you could make it work, but the flow was extremely low. Maybe earlier in Summer there would be more.
Eventually you start to turn a corner below the second hamongog (meadow).
Reach the second hamongog (meadow). Here there are plenty of areas for tent or hammock camping, however, no water in October. We only saw one tent that was home to some hunters.
At the end of the meadow at 3.5 miles reach the next trail split. Stay right for Lake Hardy. Left will take you over to Lone Rock.
Whew, and now the trail gets really steep after the trail split. See the meadow below me? That is the second hamongog way below!
Keep an eye out for cairns to lead the way. Seems like there’s a few trails all around (probably game trails).
At 4.8 miles reach this really cool rock, with Mt.Timpanogos framed in the distance. From here the trail takes a sharp left turn uphill again.
Wow, the views were so cool this way! Hiking this route clockwise allows you to stay in the shade for most of the hike (if you start at sunrise).
Finally, a short relief from elevation gain. Felt strange to hike downhill even just a little.
Wow, another great view! This route just kept getting better and better. I feel like I should explain my outfit here. I typically hate long shorts, but, you’ll definitely want to wear something like these or pants. I knew I wanted to wear my Lily Trotters compression socks since it would be a big day, but thought it would be too hot to wear my leggings over them. So, the long shorts and long socks were how I decided to beat the bushwhacking. However, I should have also worn long sleeves because I got a pretty good jab to my right bicep on the way up. In short, I look like a nerd but at least I was comfy and didn’t scratch up my legs. Compression socks are super helpful for recovery on this hike!
As you turn the corner to start hiking North again, there is an okay trail but also keep an eye out for cairns again. Some areas they seemed to go all over, but we were able to pick up the trail in pieces.
Turning the corner. Doesn’t look like much of a trail, but we basically hugged the rock line as we aimed for the small saddle.
You’ll see another cluster of trees again, and you know you are close.
Wow, Lake Hardy for the win! What a beautiful lake – it felt like we were in the Sierra’s! It was super cold and windy up here – glad we brought layers.
First things first – I always take off my shoes to let my socks and feet dry out to prevent blisters, and I filtered more water to make another round of electrolytes for the hike down.
Next, I checked in with my ZOLEO to let friends know we made it safely.
Wish I could stay up here longer, but Charlie was waiting for us back home.
One of the campsites at the lake. This would be such a cool spot to backpack to as an overnight, then hit Big Horn and Chipman Peak the following morning before hiking back out.
On our way back down we aimed for the open meadow, and caught the other trail.
Ian looks so small in this meadow!
Time to descend. There were a few campsites in this meadow as well. Just a warning that there is no official trail split to get back down this way. Just follow the cairns and eventually you’ll find the trail. You’ll first go through a forested section.
Then, the views open once again and now you have a great view looking back to Utah Lake. Through here, the trail is only halfway present, the rest of the time look for cairns.
Just amazing! Box Elder looks so pretty surrounded by Fall colors.
In the less steep sections I tried to jog what I could, but my legs were starting to turn to jelly and it was getting really hot without the breeze. The section in between the the last photo and here was heavy bushwhacking, like so tall it was above my head. I would hate to have to climb up this way, yet I think this is the more popular route to reach Lake Hardy. We didn’t see any hikers on our route up, but passed 4 on this trail.
From Lake Hardy to this trail split was 2.2 miles. Turn right to complete the loop.
The trail leveled out finally, and it was back to jogging.
Your next water source – now that’s what I’m talking about! Look at the perfectly clear pool of water. I was thinking that if Charlie had come with us, he would have loved to lay down in it!
Passing through a field of tall ferns.
At 3 miles from Lake Hardy, you should be back to the first hamongog, where you first started the loop. Whoohoo! Only two miles to go. You’ll see on my map we took a slight shortcut on the way down. I highly recommend NOT doing it – it was extremely steep, loose scree. My trail nemesis! Just stay on the road.
Ian shows off his nice dirt tan! This trail is sooo sandy, that you’ll have dirty feet no matter what even with wearing trail gaiters. They were very helpful in keeping out all the tiny rocks and most of the sand. We both wear these gaiters and they hold up well – he gets the plain colors, I get the fun patterns!
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