The Top 10 Hikes in American Fork Canyon (called AF Canyon by locals) are located near Lehi, Utah and home to the Timpanogos Cave National Monument and Alpine Scenic Loop Road. In summer, you can drive over the entire scenic loop road, however in Winter it is closed for a bulk of the road. You can still enter via the East entrance at AF Canyon or via the South entrance in Provo Canyon just past Sundance Resort. AF Canyon is home to several outdoor activities – biking, camping, swimming, backpacking, dirt biking, snowmobiles, and of course my favorite, hiking!
The Top 10 Hikes in American Fork Canyon
Julie Andrews Meadow is located in American Fork Canyon, along the Timpooneke-Chris’ Flat Trail (#151). Early summer is the best time to hike here, just as the field is as alive as Mrs. Julie Andrews was in the movie, The Sound of Music. The grass is green, the wildflowers are blooming, and snow is scattered along the northern end of the Timpanogos ridge. The views are endless – to the North is the Little Cottonwood Ridgeline, to the East is Heber Valley, and to the West is Utah County.
The Pine Hollow Overlook provides an amazing view of the North side of the Timpanogos basin. It’s a perfect hike in Fall because you pass several meadows and Aspen groves that showcase their Fall colors, plus the temperatures are cooler. There are several access points for the overlook – the official Pine Hollow Trailhead, Tibble Fork Reservoir (the longest route), the Salamander Flat Campground, or the Summit Trailhead.
Box Elder Peak (11,101 ft) is the large, well known peak in between Mt. Timpanogos and Lone Peak – it dominates the ridgeline above, and to the North, of American Fork Canyon. Because the summit is over 11K, it is a popular hike among Peak Baggers. The best way to hike Box Elder Peak is to turn it into a loop hike so you get to see more of the mountain and experience a new trail. The route isn’t for the beginner hiker though – the long, steep trail is sure to give your calves a workout, and leave you out of breath. On the way to the summit, the trail gains 4,900 ft in just 7 miles – whew!
Silver Lake is a beautiful high alpine lake that sits just below the Little Cottonwood Canyon ridgeline on the south side. This moderate trail slowly gains elevation, so it’s not super hard to reach this awesome destination. The trail passes by some boulders, crosses a stream, climbs up 3-4 long switchbacks, and finally reaches the lake after only 2.2 miles (one way). This is a great hike for dogs to be off leash, and there is plenty of water for them to drink from.
Horse Flat Trail (aka Primrose Overlook)
The Horse Flat Trail starts from the Summit Trailhead, and passes through several meadows, large Aspen groves, and shaded areas before finally reaching the overlook. This trail is really well shaded, and is perfect during Fall when all the Aspen trees are changing colors. Keep in mind that the Alpine Loop Road is only open during from late June to the end of October, or whenever the first snow arrives. This trail is great for dogs off leash, and even kids can hike this route.
You can’t talk about American Fork Canyon without mentioning Mt.Timpanogos! Hiking Mt. Timpanogos (11, 752 ft) is one of the higher peaks in the Wasatch Front, coming in 2nd behind Mt. Nebo. Though Mt. Nebo is the tallest peak in the Wasatch Mountains, it sees less than half the amount of hikers than “Timp” (as us locals call it) does. Hiking Mt. Timpanogos is almost a rite of passage for many Utahans – once completed, many will openly offer up their experience, advice, and how many times they’ve summited.
Mill Canyon Peak (10,349 ft) sits on the backside of the Wasatch Mountains and offers amazing 360 degree views. For a 10,000 ft peak this is a relatively easy summit – there’s a trail most of the way and no scrambling. You will get a huge reward in scenery and views on Mill Canyon Peak. This trail is only half shaded so you’ll want to start early to beat the heat. Bring plenty of water for you and the dogs.
The Tibble Fork Loop Trail (trail #041 & #040) starts at the Tibble Fork Reservoir, hence the appropriate name. This hike can be done year round, but I find it to be the prettiest during Winter when the trees are laden with snow, the reservoir is frozen over, and the trail offers a certain quietness. The trail steadily gains elevation for the first 2 miles, cuts through an amazing aspen grove and open meadow, then connects back to the Tibble Fork stream and main parking lot.
Stewart Falls is a two tier waterfall located near Sundance Ski Resort in Provo Canyon. The best time to hike here is in late spring, when the snow has melted from the trail and the waterfall is raging. This is a great hike for all levels of hikers since it’s not too long, not too steep, and mostly shaded. Because of this, the trail gets very crowded on weekends. Arrive early to beat the crowds. This 200 ft waterfall is surrounded by a large rock face, and if you look closely, in Spring you’ll see other small waterfalls near it.
First Falls is the, well, the first waterfall along the Aspen Grove Trail, a popular route to the Mt. Timpanogos summit. After we hiked Stewart Falls, head over to this trail since it starts from the same parking lot. First Falls is only 1 mile up the Aspen Grove Trail, and is paved for half of it. The first half is rocky, from when the forest service reconstructed the trail due to a wash out from heavy snow melt. The second half is paved from when the trail first went in, in the early 1930s. First Falls is fun for the whole family, and those looking for a short, yet scenic destination.
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