Backside of Timpanogos with
moon in the sunrise
Things were just starting to get going in American Fork Canyon as we parked at the Pine Hollow trail head. We had thought that this hike - an 8.4 mile loop that we found on utahmountainbiking.com - was further up the canyon but we really only had to drive in to where the road closes in wintertime. We were armed with our GPS, a good map and a print-out of the loop, plus the backside of Timpanogos was looming overhead at all times, letting us know where we were. We didn't figure that this would require any navigating but we don't know this area as well as the canyons closer to home and thought it would be better to be prepared.
The trail out of Pine Hollow is fairly steep right away, nothing I would want to try riding. (Actually, except for a short stretch on the Great Western Trail up on the ridgeline, this loop would be very challenging on a MTB: not only with the Pine Hollow climb, but the final descent into Mutual Dell is very steep, loose underfoot and narrow, dropping 1,300 feet in two miles.) After the climb, we turned right on the GWT towards Salamander Flat. At this point, the mileage in our trail description seemed off, but the trails were well signed and since we knew we were doing the loop clockwise, we just kept turning right.
Timpooneke Road #056
We stayed on the GWT for a while until it brought us to the Timpooneke parking area, overflowing already at 8:25 a.m. with people hiking Timpanogos. We turned left out of the parking lot, following the Timpooneke road (identified as #056 on the signs and our map) past some campground loops, where it turned to gravel. Our trail description said that we would stay on the road for 1.25 miles and then turn right, downhill, onto some single track that was signed as the "East Bear Canyon Trail," which was listed as #174 on our map. Walking on this dirt and gravel road was quite pleasant, however, steadily climbing uphill and mostly shaded, so we decided to follow it out a ways, keeping an eye out for single track but mainly looking to put some extra easy miles on our legs.
Sure is purty out there
We turned around when #056 turned a corner and started heading into a totally different drainage. When we got back to where we had found single track heading down into Bear Canyon, however, it was not signed as either "East Bear Canyon Trail" or as #174: we found #178 and #179 instead, neither of which were on our map. We checked the GPS coordinates which were close but not exact to what was on our trail description and then decided to just take a chance on #179. It was heading the right way and we figured that even if it wasn't exactly what we wanted, it would eventually dump us out on the American Fork Canyon road and we could figure things out from there.
A rare flat spot in Bear Canyon
This trail turned out to be the west fork of the Bear Canyon trail and it joined up with the main Bear Canyon trail before too long. Whoever built this trail didn't mess around too much with switchbacks, instead opting for a steep, straight descent that was rocky and often loose. It was pretty, though, entirely shaded as we moved through pine forest and aspen glades. We came out at the LDS Church-run Mutual Dell campground, then crossed the main canyon road and climbed (steep, loose, more exposed to the sun) the short connector trail back to the truck.
Same photo as the first one: less the
moon, plus the beer
Post-hike beers and sandwiches were on the tailgate, with an excellent view of what we'd just hiked spread out in front of us. The extra distance we'd gone on the #056 road gave us enough mileage to be a little tired; the fact that it was a MTB-able trail meant that it wasn't too rugged for walking; and while the inconsistencies with the trail description, map and signage had been a little annoying, it certainly hadn't mattered in the long run. Again today, it's all good, out there on the trails.
Bear Canyon Loop (plus extra #056 lollipop)
Hike stats: 9.2 mile loop; 3 hrs. 27 min. walking plus 41 minutes of gawking/eating/etc.; 2.6 m.p.h. moving speed; 3 mule deer spotted; 1,900 feet elevation change.
Hike profile so you can see how steep the
descent to Mutual Dell was