Ready to get back in the mountains? If you’ve been following along with the Provo’s Great Outdoors series this summer, you’ve now climbed two of Provo’s four summits – Squaw Peak and Y Mountain. Today we’re going to kick it up a notch and hike Provo’s third summit – Maple Mountain.
Maple Mountain ups the ante with a slightly longer hike, a slightly higher peak, and a trail-free final mile to the summit. But it also rewards you with a new canyon to explore and stunning new views.
There are a couple ways to get to the top of Maple Mountain, but we’re going to begin our adventure at the brand new Slate Canyon Trailhead, off of Slate Canyon Drive in South Provo.
Slate Canyon is a beauty, but it’s always played second fiddle to its northern sibling, Rock Canyon. Mark my words though – with this year’s renovations that include a new trailhead, a new access road, and new pavilions overlooking the valley, Slate Canyon will have its day in the sun.
Slate Canyon is deceptive. It starts out as a steep trek through desert scrub, but the longer you stick with it the more you are rewarded as it slowly transforms into a wooded mountain paradise.
Just under 3 miles in, you’ll encounter a fork in the road. The right leads to a beautiful little camping meadow, but our destination today is on the left.
The trail crosses a small clearing and then turns into a narrow single track up through the aspens towards the summit.
As you head up, take a moment to look back and take in the beauty. In only an hour or two, you’ve just walked from Provo to paradise.
Eventually you’re going to crest a tall hill. Take in the view, and then continue along the path down the other side until you get to the next clearing. When I hiked, there was still a little spring snow and fog. For you, this will all be lush and green.
Look to the left of the clearing, and you’ll see a mysterious path cut through the trees.
A road? In the mountains? How on earth did that get there? This, my friends, is all that remains of the ski resort that was never built. And not just any ski resort – the proposal floating around in the 80’s and early 90’s was to make our backyard Utah’s largest ski resort and also its most accessible, with direct funicular rail access from Provo City down below.
I’ll admit, I get a little slope envy hiking through here in the winter and thinking of all the great ski runs I’m missing. But I’m also grateful that in its place we have this little slice of solitude.
Follow the defunct access road around the corner until the trail comes to an end. From there, you’re on your own to make your way up the wooded hillside until you reach the summit, marked by a lonely steel pole and a pile of rocks. Add some rocks to the monument and celebrate your success – you made it to the top!
I’m excited for you to try this one out. May your hike be a little less foggy than mine.
Distance: ~6.5 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: ~4,100 feet
Time: 5-6 hours round trip, give or take, depending on how fast you go and how long you stay at the top.
Tips: The final stretch of this hike is off trail. The last thing you (or the forest service) wants is for you to get lost or stranded up here. This is a very real danger, especially if you find yourself there on a foggy day like I did, where visibility is low and everything at the top looks the same.
To stay safe, I strongly recommend doing the following –
- Let a friend know where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
- Bring extra food, water, and warm clothes.
- Bring a buddy.
- Bring your smartphone and make sure it has a full charge. Before going off trail, pull it out, turn on your favorite GPS app (I recommend MapMyRun), and begin tracking your location. Should you get lost, it’s a simple matter of looking at your screen and trekking back along the red line that marks the way you hiked in. Or just use a compass. If you know how to use a compass.
Ellis Atwood is a local blogger, world traveller, and proud Provo resident. This summer he is highlighting the best Provo outdoor activities in this Provo’s Great Outdoors series. For more photo essays from around the world and from right here at home, visit www.ellisatwood.org.