Welcome back to Provo’s Great Outdoors, where we explore all the fantastic outdoor opportunities Provo has to offer. If you’ve been following along, you know we’ve been in the mountains so far this summer. We’re going to finish off the mountains today with a look at the fourth and most formidable Provo summit – Buckley Mountain.
Buckley Mountain looks simple enough from the picture, standing just slightly taller than its neighbors Maple Mountain and Y Mountain. But don’t be deceived – depending on the route you take, getting to the top will require all the strength and endurance you can muster. It will be an all day affair, with a longer hike and even more elevation gain than the mighty Timpanogos trail.
Hope you’re up for a challenge.
There are three main ways to get up Buckley Mountain. All three meet at this little mud parking lot on the back side of the hill, just a mile and a half from the summit.
Option 1: Take the Trail
The trail for Buckley Mountain starts in Slate Canyon, just like our hike up Maple Mountain. Just as with Maple Mountain, you’ll follow the trail up about three miles, turn left at the fork, and continue along the single track trail up to the top of the hill. When you see this sign at the top (no, there won’t be snow by the time you hike this), you’ll turn to the right and follow the narrow path to Forest Rd. 027.
Once you connect to the road, you’ll hike along the road for about 2.5 miles south to the muddy parking lot.
This route is a winner for its stunning views, like this one of Y Mountain, Squaw Peak, and the foothills of Timpanogos off in the distance.
Or this one, looking back past Maple Mountain and off down towards Utah Lake.
If you take this path, Buckley Mountain is going to look really far away the entire time. Just keep going and don’t get discouraged. About 7.5 miles in you’ll make it to the muddy parking lot.
Option 2: Take some Shortcuts
This option eschews some of the best views in exchange for a more direct path to the parking lot. You’ll hike up Slate Canyon, just like in Option 1, but this time when you get to the fork in the road, you’ll turn right towards Buckley Mountain.
The trail will take you into this beautiful meadow (perfect for camping!) with Buckley looming in the background.
From here, your next step is to roll up your pants, get in the water, and hike up the creek bed until it eventually connects up with Squaw Peak Road, and the muddy parking lot.
I tried this route in the spring when the creek was running high with melting snowpack. With all the bushwhacking and water and the views that you miss, I’m not quite sure the shortcut was worth it. Still, it does shave a whopping 6 miles off the hike, and that alone makes it worth your consideration.
Option 3: Drive There
Where there’s a parking lot, there’s a road. Kind of. If you happen to have an off-road high clearance vehicle that can stand the roughest of rough road conditions, then you can indeed drive directly to the muddy parking lot where the trails converge. Simply drive about 15 miles up Squaw Peak road from Provo Canyon.
If you ask me though, this is cheating.
From the Parking Lot to the Top
So now you’re at the parking lot, ready to tackle the final summit. Take a moment to peer south down to Spanish Fork miles below. The view is phenomenal. Along the way, you’ve probably also noticed these beautiful terraces carved into the mountains. These are actually remnants of a large public works project undertaken during the Great Depression to stop erosion on the steep slopes, and tame the spring mudslides that used to threaten our homes at the foot of the mountain miles below. For me, they look like a hauntingly primitive version of the famous rice paddies of Southeast Asia.
For the final stretch, there’s no specific trail. The final mile is steep, barren, and covered with thick brush. You just have to head up, one difficult step at a time.
You’ll see what looks like the peak up ahead. Don’t be deceived. You’re almost there, but this isn’t it. The real peak is just a little higher up.
Eventually you’ll find yourself at the summit. Pose with pride, add some rocks to the monument, and celebrate. You’ve just reached the peak of Provo’s fourth and most difficult summit.
Distance: 18 miles round trip (full trail), 12 miles (with Shortcut #1), 2.5 miles (with Shortcut #2)
Elevation Gain: 5,800 feet (full trail), 4,900 feet (with Shortcut#1), 1,000 feet (with Shortcut #2)
Time: 10-14 hours
Tips: This is a really long hike, but it also has the best and most varied views of all the Provo summits. The same offtrail guidelines from our Maple Mountain hike apply here –
- 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 to 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.1