Since moving to Utah, dozens of people have told me that Mount Timpanogos is their favorite peak to hike in the greater Salt Lake region. At 11,752 feet, it’s the second-highest peak in the Wasatch and is known for its vibrant wildflowers, resident mountain goats, and sweeping views. I figured all of these people must be on to something, so a couple of weeks ago, my friend Calah and I decided to hike it together.
We found Timpanogos to be a tough, but not technical mountain, and with the tips in this Timpanogos trail guide, you should be able to reach the top.
There are two main trails to reach the summit. Here is a breakdown of the major differences.
The hike is a total of 13-15 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of approximately 4,400-4,900 feet depending on which trailhead you take. While most people tackle this trail in one long day, we decided to break it up into two. Our plan was to hike up the Timpooneke Trail to the Timpanogos Basin and spend a night camping below the peak. Then we would rise early the next day and hike to the summit for sunrise.
Timpooneke Trail Stats
- Miles: 14
- Starting Elevation: 7,360 feet
- Summit Elevation: 11,750 feet
- Total Elevation Gain: 4,390 feet
- Rating: Difficult
- Time: 10 hours
- Best Hiking Season: July-September
- Dogs: Allowed
- Permits/Fees: $6 per car (If you have the America the Beautiful Pass, entrance is free)
- Campfires: Not allowed
The Hike to Mount Timpanogos
As soon as you set off from the Timpooneke Trailhead, you immediately begin climbing, and you continue on a steady incline the entire way to the summit. The first half of trail is heavily forested with the occasional open view of the canyon on your left. Then once you reach the lower basin, the views start to open up.
The trail flattens out a bit as you travel through the Lower Basin but not for long. After a short bit, the trail curves to the right making its way up a large rock field and continues climbing across the valley until you get your first glimpse of Timpanogos.
Once you reach the upper basin, you have a decision to make. You’ll come to a signed fork in the trail, where the blue and purple trails split on the map shown above (click on the map for a larger version). The blue Timpooneke Trail Summit route is the easiest and most direct way to reach the summit from that split in the Timpooneke Trail.
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The other purple trail that goes to the left leads to Emerald Lake, where it connects up with the Aspen Grove Trail (shown in red).
Our initial plan was to camp somewhere in the Upper Basin and continue up the Timpooneke Trail in the morning. However, we found that there was no water available anywhere along the Timpooneke trail, except for a few streams at the very beginning. So we decided our best option was to camp near Emerald Lake for easy water access. This added a good mile or two and a couple hundred feet of elevation. On the map, we followed the purple trail through the upper basin until we got to the red trail which then took us to Emerald Lake.
Once you reach Emerald Lake, take some time to relax and enjoy it while the sun is still out. There is a nice island in the middle of the lake to hang out on, and swimming in the lake is allowed. While it may be tempting, you should not set up your tent on the island in the lake. Camping here violates Leave No Trace principles which require tents be at least 200 feet from the water. It also makes it awkward for other people who want to come out on the island and enjoy the lake.
Mountain goats are also very common in the Timpanogos Basin. We really lucked out and got to hang out with the family in the photo below. Most of the goats we encountered didn’t seem bothered by us, although there were a few that seemed slightly territorial. If any of them appear aggressive, give them their space and make sure to control any dogs that you bring hiking with you. One person we met on the trail had a dog that chased after a goat and ended up getting gored.
Most people camp near the lake or near the shelter that is often staffed with a volunteer from the Timpanogos Emergency Response Team. Other than these areas, campsites were not obvious and the rocky terrain left few flat options for tents. Despite this, we were hoping for a bit more privacy. So after hanging out at Emerald Lake, we searched around for a bit and found a quiet spot off the trail to set up camp. In general, campsites were not obvious and the rocky terrain left few options.
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We spent our night whipping up some homemade veggie curry, listening to tunes, playing a fun dice game called Farkel, and drinking a little whiskey. Then it was off to bed early so we could wake up in time to hike to the summit for sunrise.
At 4:30 the alarm buzzed. We quickly got dressed, put on our headlamps, and set off. If you decide to hike up to the summit in the dark, make sure your headlamp has plenty of batteries and bring lots of layers. It was pretty chilly and VERY windy once we made it up to the saddle.
On the map we followed the red line back towards the Upper Basin and then cut up the Aspen Grove (purple) trail through boulder field towards the saddle. And don’t get overwhelmed with these directions. It’s very obvious once you are there.
The final push to the saddle was short but very steep. We got off track a few times, but it’s hard to get too lost as long as you keep going up towards the ridge. It’s also likely that there will be other people with the same idea, so just look for other lights ahead of you on the trail to make sure you are on track.
By the time we reached the saddle, it was about 6am, and once you move up the saddle, the ridgeline blocks your view of the sun. So we decided to stay there to watch the sunrise before continuing up. The bottom of the saddle also offers wide open views of the Wasatch Range, the Timpanogos Basin, and the Salt Lake Valley.
Once the sun came up, we continued on to the summit. It took us about 30 minutes to hike the final 0.6 miles and 600 feet of elevation. While at times you may feel slightly exposed, the trail is very easy to follow and there is virtually no scrambling required.
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Once you reach the Timpanogos summit, the views are spectacular! Make sure to enjoy some snacks, take a bunch of pics, and sign the trail register in the wind shelter before heading back down.
On the way back down, we decided to take the Timpooneke Trail back to Emerald Lake because it was much less steep than the way we came up. In the end we couldn’t decide if that was a good or a bad choice. It added at least 2 miles since since we had to backtrack through the upper basin to grab our gear which we left at our campsite. On the other hand, the wildflowers along the Timpooneke summit route were the most vibrant we saw on our entire hike…so maybe it was worth it.
I recently wrote a post on my new favorite lightweight backpacking gear. With the 4,500 foot elevation gain on the hike to Timpanogos, you are going to want to bring gear that’s as light as possible. Below is a picture of the basic backpacking gear I took on this trip, minus clothes and food.
For easy and lightweight backpacking meal ideas, see this post. For those of you who like to eat fresh, I’m also currently working on putting together a few posts on simple backpacking recipes like the veggie curry shown in the photos above.
Clothing: Make sure to bring lots of layers, as well as rain gear. The weather can change in an instant up there and you want to be prepared for the worst. I also have a post in the works on hiking apparel, so please stay tuned!
As a day hike, however, the summit route from the Timpooneke Trail is a bit easier. The trail never seemed too steep or intimidating, and my hunch is this trail is also less busy.
That said, you can’t really go wrong with either trail, and I look forward to going back again and starting from the Aspen Grove side.
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