To the Mountains and Back: 8 Easy Day Trips from Utah Valley

A hike to the top of Santaquin Peak is a rugged but popular outing in the Utah Valley.
A hike to the top of Santaquin Peak is a rugged but popular outing in the Utah Valley. Andrey Zharkikh
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One of the best parts of spending time in Utah Valley is its proximity to the rugged Wasatch Range. Many of the Wasatch’s most prominent peaks, visible from the hustle and bustle below, are hikeable in a day, and drive times are fairly short from central Provo. During the summer, watch the forecast and plan an early start for each peak in order to be back below treeline before thunderstorms roll through. Many Wasatch hikes are super-steep, so bring trekking poles where appropriate to give your knees a break. If you’re looking for solitude, head to one of the less popular peaks, or plan your hike for a weekday or a Sunday, when crowds are thinner.

1. Mount Nebo

Mount Nebo, the tallest peak in the Wasatch Range, can be scaled with an 8.7-mile, round-trip hike.
Mount Nebo, the tallest peak in the Wasatch Range, can be scaled with an 8.7-mile, round-trip hike. Liji Jinaraj

At 11,933 feet, Mount Nebo is the tallest peak in the Wasatch (in fact, it’s almost 200 feet taller than its more famous neighbor, Mount Timpanogos). Although it doesn’t dominate the Utah Valley skyline in the same way as Timp, it’s still a totally doable day trip between June and October. The 8.7-mile, round-trip hike, though strenuous, is far enough off the beaten path that you’re more likely to have the trail to yourself than on many of the other peaks in the Wasatch Front.

2. Mount Timpanogos

The scenic trail to Mount Timpanogos is popular, but get an early start to complete the 15-mile round trip in a day.
The scenic trail to Mount Timpanogos is popular, but get an early start to complete the 15-mile round trip in a day. summitcheese

Visible from much of Utah Valley, Mount Timpanogos (or "Timp," as it’s affectionately dubbed by the locals) is the second-highest peak in the Wasatch Range, standing 11,753 feet above sea level and towering over the landscape below. The Timpooneke Trailhead is just about 45 minutes northeast of the Provo area, which is ideal, since you’ll need to get an early start to do the 15 round trip miles in a day. The trail is hikeable for the snow-free months, but the best time to go is in early August, when the wildflowers are in full bloom.

3. Lone Peak

Lone Peak is popular among rock climbers, and it’s considered one of the area’s more challenging peaks for hikers.
Lone Peak is popular among rock climbers, and it’s considered one of the area’s more challenging peaks for hikers. Andrey Zharkikh

Just outside Draper (about 30 minutes north of central Provo), 11,253-foot Lone Peak is a beloved Utah Valley hike and is popular with rock climbers, too. It’s considered one of the more challenging peaks in the Wasatch, thanks to longer approaches, greater elevation gain (most routes gain between 5,000 and 6,000 feet of elevation), and availability of more technical routes. The non-technical Jacob’s Ladder Trail is a Class 3 scramble to the summit, and affords hikers incredible views of the granite cirque and Utah Valley over about 11 round-trip miles. The road to the trailhead is typically passable in a 2WD vehicle.

4. Provo Peak

With a summit elevation of 11,068 feet, Provo Peak is among the Wasatch Range’s highest summits. It’s visible from Provo, and makes an excellent half-day hike or trail run. Accessible via the Squaw Peak Road (high clearance vehicle required) up Provo Canyon, Provo Peak’s popular West Ridge route is short and steep: it gains something like 2,700 feet in elevation over a mile and a half. On a clear day, the summit affords phenomenal views of Timpanogos, Cascade Mountain, and Lone Peak. Trekking poles are recommended to save your knees on the descent.

5. Cascade Mountain

The famous 607-foot Bridal Veil Falls can be seen on the north side Cascade mountain.
The famous 607-foot Bridal Veil Falls can be seen on the north side Cascade mountain. Daniel Burton

Cascade just barely misses out on membership in the Wasatch’s 11,000-foot club, but it’s still a worthy peakbagging objective. It’s a prominent feature, visible from the metropolitan Utah Valley, but it’s not among the more popular day hikes. In fact, more famous than Cascade’s summit is the waterfall that lend it their name: 607-foot Bridal Veil Falls, on the north side of the mountain, draws countless visitors every summer. This is good news, since it means you’ll likely encounter few other hikers on the third-class, 12-mile round trip hike up the South Ridge, which gains about 4,000 feet in elevation.

6. Santaquin Peak and Loafer Mountain

The drive to the Loafer Mountain Trailhead is just about 45 minutes south of Provo, and the relatively short drive time means hikers have a little extra time to hit both peaks. Technically, the massif that encompasses both peaks is called Loafer Mountain, but the Loafer summit isn’t as prominent or aesthetic as Santaquin when viewed from Utah Valley, so Santaquin is a more popular hike. The round trip hike to bag both peaks is about 11 miles, and the saddle between them affords excellent views of Mounts Nebo and Timpanogos in the distance.

7. Spanish Fork Peak

Situated between the giants of Cascade Mountain and the Loafer Massif, Spanish Fork Peak is considerably lower than the tallest Wasatch Peaks. Still, Spanish Fork, also occasionally called Maple Mountain, soars more than 5,500 above its immediate surroundings and is a challenging hike. The 10-mile round trip hike up Spanish Fork Peak gains about 4,600 feet in elevation on the way up, but still, it’s doable in a day, especially since the trailhead is less than an hour from the Wasatch Front. Go in early summer for a chance to spot wildflowers and Maple Canyon Lake at high water level.

8. Box Elder Peak

The trail to Box Elder offers excellent views of Utah Valley.
The trail to Box Elder offers excellent views of Utah Valley. Adam Zamora

One of the best ways to see all the other Wasatch Peaks is to hike Box Elder Peak, whose trailhead is about 30 minutes north of Provo. Despite being an 11er, it’s often overlooked, thanks to its proximity to its more famous neighbors, but Box Elder provides incredible views of Great Salt Lake, Utah Valley, and the Northern Wasatch. The hike itself is just under nine miles and, as Wasatch hikers have probably begun to suspect, fairly steep. Go between March and October for a snow-free climb.

Originally written for Utah Office of Tourism.

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