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Mount Timpanogos via Timpooneke Trail, UT
mini location map2019-10-05
20 by photographer avatarddgrunning
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Mount Timpanogos via Timpooneke Trail, UT 
Mount Timpanogos via Timpooneke Trail, UT
Hiking avatar Oct 05 2019
Hiking15.51 Miles 4,653 AEG
Hiking15.51 Miles   8 Hrs   5 Mns   2.19 mph
4,653 ft AEG   1 Hour    Break
1st trip
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Two years ago, I first summitted Timp via the Aspen Grove trailhead. It was a fantastic hike under wintery conditions, but the summit victory was dulled a bit due to it being enshrouded by clouds. So, fast forward to last weekend, I was back for some summit redemption.

This time, even though I was staying at Aspen Grove--a mere 1/4 mile from the trailhead, I wanted to experience the other approach to to the summit, via the Timpooneke Trail. So, along with my son-in-law, we left the Aspen Grove lodge at 5:30 am and made the 20 minute drive on the Alpine Loop around to the Timpooneke TH. It is a popular trail, and even though we arrived before 6 a.m. there were already 20-30 cars in the parking area. It's a thing to hike Timp in the middle of the night, in order to be at the summit for sunrise, so likely, many of those cars had been there since the wee hours of the morning.

In any event, we were on the trail and hiking by headlamp around 5:50 am. The first three miles were in the dark. We passed Scout Falls (the trail actually criss-crosses over it a couple of times), but could only hear it.

As the eastern sky began to show the light of dawn, we had only encountered a couple of hikers and a few trail runners. As opposed to the steeper, Aspen Grove approach, the Timpooneke trail climbs relatively gradually--between 400 and 600 feet per mile. The more gentle grade makes the elevation gain feel a lot easier.

Above the falls, we came to one of a couple of alpine "basins," with more of a meadow-like feel. Around a corner and ascending from that basin, we traversed a long switchback that led to a north-facing drainage which had been choked with ice and snow that had melted from the inside out, leaving a large section of a "snow-tunnel" about 25-30 yards long with a 8-10 foot ceiling. Pretty cool spot that allowed for some wave-cave-like photo opportunities.

Beyond the ice cave, the trail ascends what I think they call the Grand Staircase up to the Timpanogos Basin, where Timp itself comes into impressive view on the southern end.

The trail skirts the basin to the west, though there is an alternate route through the basin that connects more directly to the Aspen Grove approach. We decided to take that alternate trail on our return from the summit.

Continuing up Timpooneke, the trail reaches the Mt. Timpanogos Saddle at around 11,000 ft. where it finally intersects with the Aspen Grove approach. Cresting the saddle is always impressive, as it opens the views to Utah Valley and Utah Lake below. It is also typically where the wind and real cold kicks in.

From the descending sunrise-summitters, we understood that the wind had been pretty strong before sunrise, but by the time we arrived at the saddle, it wasn't much more than an occasionally stiff breeze. Very pleasant by comparison with my experience two years ago.

There was a lot more traffic on the trail at the saddle, but no conga line.

The ascent to the summit was fun and filled with magnificent views on each side of the summit ridgeline. We saw a handful of mountain goats, grazing on the mountainside below, but the battery on my camera with the good zoom had died, so no good photos ...

At the summit itself, there are several perches on the north/east facing side that provided ideal resting spots in the sun and are protected from the breeze. We ate brunch, relaxed in the sun, and enjoyed the views.

We wandered past the summit towards the glacier and saw a solitary climber ascending the glacier. Looked cool.

After 30-40 min on the summit, we made our descent. At the saddle, we took the alternate route down towards the Aspen Grove trail, which required our only snow crossing of the day, as the field of snow on the north side of the mountain, directly below the summit had not melted. The snow was hard-packed and we managed fine without any traction devices.

While we were in the vicinity, we continued "around the corner" to take a peek at Emerald Lake and the glacier from below. (This corner was the sketchiest part of my hike two years ago, covered with snow and with a lot of exposure). While observing the view of Emerald Lake and the glacier, we watched a snowboarder descending the glacier, and clearly having a great time. I thought I caught it on video, only to realize at the end when I was pushing "stop" on the recorder that I was actually pushing "start"--so I missed capturing it. Oh well.

We then backtracked to a ramp down to, and across, the Timpanogos Basin. The trail was semi-soggy in a few spots, but no big deal.

Once reconnected to the Timpooneke trail proper, we cruised on the descent. The last few miles of a long hike can often drag on, but we were in for a surprising treat. All of the area we hiked through in the darkness on the way up was a cornucopia of eye-popping fall colors on the way down. And Scout Falls was an impressive sight to take in as well. Up to that point, I was inclined to give the Aspen Grove trail the nod as to which is better, but this section made it a closer call. Really, there is no bad choice--with a shuttle option being the best of both worlds.

There is a reason this is one of the most popular, hard hikes in the area. Definitely a crowd pleaser and worth putting on a regular rotation.
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