Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Alpine Loop

Traveling the mountains along the Wasatch Front can afford opportunities to find some fantastically gorgeous views.

Driving Provo Canyon is an activity I engage in very frequently, like daily. I have several spots in that canyon that I like to hike and try to hike several times a week.

American Fork Canyon is the next canyon to the north and is where Timpanogos Cave is located and that is a very popular attraction. This canyon also has some fantastic scenery and the hike up to Timpanogos cave provides both fantastic views along with a good workout.

American Fork Canyon was cut through the mountains by the creek and at least in the first few miles of that canyon the road is bordered by almost straight rock cliffs rising up on both sides of the road.

It always amazes me to stop and just take in the awesome power of these cliffs and rock faces that make up these mountains.

There is a road that connects these two canyons, American Fork and Provo,and it is not the main highways.

If you drive to the top of American Fork Canyon the road will go over the top and start down the side that comes out in Provo Canyon. It is called the Alpine Scenic Loop.

It is not a long drive across the Loop but one well worth the time it takes to drive it. It can be done quickly or it can take some time but it is time will spent and it all depends on how long you want to stay up there.

There are picnic spots and campgrounds along the way and fishing opportunities depending on your passions but also hiking and mountain biking.

Starting from the American Fork side it is easy to find because of Timpanogos Cave and the directional signs that are along the way even on the exit signs for I-15. Timpanogos Cave is just a couple of miles up American Fork Canyon so it is well marked.

Passing the cave another 2-3 miles will bring you to a fork in the road. The left fork takes a road where there are many more picnic spots and some camp sites and will end up at Tibble Fork Reservior, which is a nice drive but the right fork will continue along the Scenic Loop.

The next few miles have some spectacular views of both mountains and canyons. Further on there is another fork in the road and the right fork turns and enters the Timpanooke Campground. This a great camping area and also has access to the trail heads that go up to Mount Timpanogos. There is also access to the Great Western Trail from this campground.

The left fork however continues on up the Loop and there are a number of places to stop and just look at the sights and there are a good number of great hiking opportunities. However there are not a lot of good parking opportunities along this stretch.

The road over the loop is not a very wide one. It is just 2 lanes but they are narrow and there a number of switchbacks on it. If you happen to be pulling your camp with you as some do you will not want to be too long as you may have problems. It is not a road to drive through fast, but with the scenery why would you want to.

Next stop is the summit or top of the loop and there is a small parking lot and restrooms. This a place where you can connect with the ridge trail which has more good hiking possibilities. Then it is down to Provo Canyon.

Just a short quarter mile or so on the down side is a turn off for a road that goes to Cascade Springs. That is another adventure to take and a worthy one. Maybe the time will be right for this opportunity or it could be a future adventure.

Our Loop journey now is downhill on this side and we will find ourselves mainly going through a thick Quaking Aspen forest. The road winds through the trees until we reach Aspen Grove.

There are cabins here and some facilities along with parking. This is also a good area to find a number of trails that go up the backside of Mount Timpanogos.

Then just a hop and a skip and we are at Sundance the ski resort and from there it is just a few miles and we come out on the main highway in Provo Canyon.

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