The Mountain of Big Shoulders

Posted On
Sep 05, 2014
Northern Utah

TIMP-1-41Carl Sandburg's "Chicago" is one of the best known works of 20th century American literature. Included in countless anthologies, this poem made famous the description of Chicago as "City of the Big Shoulders," celebrating its role at the time as the industrial capital of the United States.

If the great poet were alive today and travelled to Provo Canyon, he would most likely proclaim Mt. Timpanogos to be "The Mountain of Big Shoulders."

Indeed it is.  The summit of Timp (as it is known to locals) is at a lofty 11,752 feet and nearly a mile above the valley floor below. The mountain towers over Heber Valley and the communities of Midway and Heber City to the east and Utah Valley and the Cities of Provo and Orem to the west. Timp also overlooks one of the west's finest blue ribbon fly fisheries, the Provo River.  At the base of the mountain nestled against its rising slopes sits the home of Robert Redford's Sundance Resort.

With Mt. Timpanogos the backdrop, the Provo Canyon corridor from Heber City to Provo on US Highway 189 that parallels the river is but a short 28 miles. Short on miles, but long on both scenic beauty and of some of Utah's finest outdoor recreation.

Heber Valley is one of Utah's most lovely settings in a state that has more than its share.  However, in this case, the beauty is unquestionably not just skin deep.  Beyond the stunning views that surround the valley, there is abundant and quality recreation.  Here is but a taste of a much larger feast:

Hiking:  Take the entire family on the short walk through beautiful Cascade Springs,  a refreshing oasis of lush vegetation, inviting pools, and cascading waterfalls  As one would expect, a variety of mammals and birds make their way here, including otters, beavers, deer, moose, elk, wild turkeys, hawks, hummingbirds, and numerous songbirds.

Flyfishing:  The Provo River is known by anglers nationwide as one of, if not the, premier flyfishing waters in the west.  As great as it is, there are others and they benefit from the popularity of the Provo.  How?  Solitude, seclusion, privacy.  One is Daniels Creek located just east of Heber Valley in Daniels Canyon.  Utah Hwy 40 follows the creek nearly the length of the canyon with several pullouts providing easy access virtually anywhere along the creek.  Hence, the seclusion.  Whiskey Springs Picnic Area is the perfect place to take the family for a day, with access to the stream, parking, restrooms, picnic tables, a playground and a short nature trail.

Mountain Biking: The new Riverview Trail  is a pure mountain biker's dream with spectacular,  breath taking views of  Heber Valley.  Located on the mountainside northeast of Heber at an average altitude of 6200 feet the trail is five+ miles in length and is best done as an out-and-back. The ride has a total of 600 feet of gradual up-and-down climbing. Most of the surface is smooth dirt ribbon. Turns, including an occasional switchback, are highly bermed and pretty easy to cruise downhill.

Deer Creek State Park is a six mile long water sport playground. The reservoir and park are extremely popular for recreation and camping. Major park activities are boating, water skiing, sailing, windsurfing, SUP, swimming, and fishing.

Down canyon a few miles, a right turn on Utah Hwy 92 begins the spectacular Alpine Loop. First stop is Sundance.  When skiing season ends, summer at Sundance shifts into high gear! The resort has over 10 miles of alpine hiking trails HYPERLINK "" , from meandering forest to steep mountain terrain, with an additional 25+ miles of singletrack for mountain bike enthusiasts.

Trails are accessed from chair lifts, and full suspension mountain bikes are available for rental.  A full moon hike is a hike to remember. Equally rewarding is the trek to beautiful Stewart Falls, cascading in two tiers over 200 feet on the east side of Mt Timpanogos.

Ready to cowboy up? Sundance offers some of the best horseback trail rides in the west provided by outfitter Boulder Mountain Ranch.  All rides are private with no more than 6 people per ride. No long lines and boring nose to tail rides here.  But be ready for jaw dropping mountain scenery.

Sundance boasts some of the finest restaurants in Utah.  The Foundry Grill serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with a wide variety of entrees.  For fine dining, The Tree Room is a multi-award winning restaurant with, among other accolades a Four Star Award from Forbes Travel Guide.  The adjacent   Owl Bar features local and national musical talent every Friday and Saturday beginning at 9:30pm.

One word describes lodging at Sundance – quality. The resort offers suites, studios, lofts and mountain homes all exquisitely furnished and decorated.

Continuing on the Alpine Loop up and over Mt. Timpanogos we arrive at one of the west's classic alpine hikes. Although 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. There are two main trails to the top: the first starts at Aspen Grove with a trailhead elevation of 6,910 feet, and the second starts at the Timpooneke campground in American Fork Canyon at 7,370 feet. The two trails are nearly the same length. Hikers on the trails climb through three life zones, montane forest, subalpine and alpine. Highlights of the hike are waterfalls, conifers, rocky slopes and ridges, and a healthy herd of mountain goats.  The reward to the summit is crystal clear, glacier fed Emerald Lake.  A short diversion will lead hikers past a World War II bomber crash site.

Continuing on the circular route of the Alpine Loop we arrive at Timpanogos Cave National Monument, known for its colorful formations, unique helictites, fault-controlled passages, alpine surroundings, and rich history.

The 1-1/2 mile-long paved trail to the cave is a popular, although a bit strenuous, hike with over 1100 feet of elevation gain. The trail provides spectacular views of the geology and beautiful scenery of the American Fork Canyon.  The narrow cave trail is paved but rough with water bars and rain gutters. Pets and wheeled vehicles (including wheelchairs and baby strollers) are not allowed on the trail. The visitor center, snack bar, and picnic areas are wheelchair accessible.

The Timpanogos Cave system is a man-made cave joining three natural caves that contain at least 42 types of formations-an unusually large variety. The uniquely colored cave features include unusual combinations of delicate helictites and anthodites in quantities not found in other caves worldwide.   The cave is open from mid-May to mid-October.

The City of Provo is a gateway to all kinds of outdoor recreation – hiking, road cycling, climbing and mountain biking.  In order: South Fork Park is the trailhead for several hikes in the area with access to the Great Western Trail, Big Springs Hollow, Big Springs, Cascade Saddle, and the Shingle Mill Saddle.  Buffalo Peak is the easiest, most accessible summit on the Wasatch Front. Within minutes of the trailhead you're overlooking Utah Valley from an elevation of more than 8,000 feet.  There are several routes to Squaw Peak and at the summit the views of Provo below are impressive.

Provo is cycling crazy town. There are many routes within the city and outlying areas and one of the most popular is the 19 mile ride on the Provo River Parkway from town to Vivian Park.  The reward at the end is beautiful Bridal Veil Falls, a double cataract waterfall dropping 607 feet to the Provo River. For fat tire guys and gals, the area has a plethora of quality routes – Aspen Grove, the tough big Baldy Loop, the downhill Grove Creek run, the classic singletrack Big Springs Hollow, and several on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. Opened in 2013, the 17-mile paved Murdock Canal Trail runs at the base of Mt. Timpanogos on its western edge overlooking Utah Valley.  The route features bird's eye-view of the communities below.  From near the mouth of Provo Canyon in Orem to the Point of the Mountain cyclists, joggers, even equestrians utilize the trail system for recreation and commuting to work.

Rock Canyon just east of downtown Provo is a climber's nirvana.  Dozens of routes from 5.6's to 5.10's and 11's are interspersed throughout this gorgeous setting.  Many climbers stay in Provo and return day after day to challenge new routes.

Whew!  Whatever your outdoor activity, try spending some time in the shadow of "The Mountain of Big Shoulders!"


Hiking, Mountain Biking, Provo, Heber City, Sundance