2015 Wasatch Family Hikes
Near the start of our Bells Canyon hike it ended up being hotter than we’d anticipated it being in the middle of March, so we only went to the lower reservoir. Matthew and Ivy had fun watching the ducks swimming along the shore.
Since there was still snow up on the higher trails around Big Cottonwood Canyon in the spring, one day we decided to have a picnic at the little falls just past the paved part of the trail leading to Lake Blanche.
During a visit to Bridal Veil Falls, Matthew wanted to climb up to the waterfall where many of the other people were going, but since it was pretty steep, Liz, Ivy, and Elissa stayed and watched us from down below. I had to lift Matthew over a few of the looser sections of scree/talus, but he did surprisingly well on the steep terrain.
We’d walked around the Silver Lake Boardwalk several times and been up to Twin Lakes Reservoir once, but had never taken the other trail leading to Lake Solitude. It was already early evening when we decided to do this hike at the last minute, so on the way to the trailhead we stopped off at Jimmy John’s to pick up some sandwiches, which gave us a rewarding dinner to eat as the sun was setting at the lake. One of the other hikers told us there was a cave/mine entrance farther ahead, but with little remaining daylight we decided to wait to check it out some other time. Since it was dusk, we saw a few deer and moose.
Since the Willow Heights Trail was one of the more obscure little hikes in Veranth’s Wasatch Hiking book, I wasn’t expecting much, but it ended up being quite scenic. We started out on a steep trail, where Ivy took her time admiring the aspen trees and picking flowers, and then made our way through some nice meadows to arrive at a scenic lake. Matthew and Ivy tried catching a little ground squirrel/pika who kept coming up to us as we were eating snacks, but upon smelling a skunk we decided it would be best to leave before he could come out and spray us.
The previous fall, we’d tried hiking from the top of the Alpine Loop to Primrose Point along the Horse Flat Trail, but took a wrong turn near the end of the hike. This time we came back and did the hike with my parents, taking the right turn at the end. The last section of trail was a bit steep and overgrown, so Ivy decided to ride on Papa’s shoulders for that part.
The views from Primrose Point were quite impressive, and allowed me to check out the Razorback Ridge route I was considering taking to reach the summit of seldom-climbed South Timpanogos later in the summer/fall. Storm clouds quickly blew in from the west over the mountain, which prompted us to eat our lunch quicker, but it was nice hiking back to the car in the cool, drizzly weather.
For our annual Albion Basin hike we lucked out and were able to find a parking space despite the larger-than-usual weekday crowds. Ivy did quite well keeping up with Matthew, and they both had fun climbing on the many rocky hills around Cecret Lake. Someone was flying a noisy drone over the water, which the kids enjoyed watching from the hillside up above to the west. On the way down we made an obligatory moose sighting.
The North Mountain
We left the house after breakfast and got to the main Monument Trailhead just after 10 in the morning. The forecast was sunny and hot (90 degrees in SLC), but the hike was at a high enough elevation that I was hoping it wouldn’t be too bad. The dirt parking lot was already completely full, so I created my own parking space just off of the road, leaving the other cars enough space to get around me should they need to leave before we got back.
Elissa (almost 1) squeaked with delight upon being put into the backpack, and Ivy (3) and Matthew (almost 8) started up the obvious trail leading west along the cattle fence. Ivy remarked that the North Mountain didn’t look like the one in Frozen, and I told her that’s because Elsa hiked it in the winter and that it would be easier for us to do it in the summer/fall instead.
Matthew is a strong enough hiker now that he didn’t have any issues on the hike, but by the time we got to the section of the trail that breaks away from the fence, Ivy was already getting tired. I’ve noticed that when our kids are younger (toddler age), it’s hit or miss in terms of how much energy they’ll have and/or how motivated they’ll be on a hike. Unfortunately, this would end up being an off-day for her.
Fortunately, we quickly entered a shaded area about halfway to the overlook on the ridge where we ate second breakfast. As they ate their snacks on a conveniently fallen tree, we told the kids to keep their eyes open for animals. Matthew had just started cub scouts, and one of his first requirements was to hike at least a mile and spot two different kinds of animals. He’d end up easily exceeding both of those by the end of the day.
Despite the snack fuel and our offering words of encouragement about how happy the “Frozen” characters were after they’d hiked up the North Mountain, Ivy’s pace was slower than usual. The higher elevation (we were above 10,000 feet most of the time) may have had something to do with it. As a result, I would end up carrying both Elissa and Ivy (Elissa in the backback and Ivy hanging on in front like a little monkey) for almost the entire hike up and down. It wasn’t ideal, but I figure if anything it would be good exercise to prepare for my North Timpanogos and Lone Peak hikes the next two Saturdays.
On the way through the forested section below the ridge, we saw several pikas, a big squirrel, a group of six cows, and a falcon. The cows seemed a little leery of us as we approached, but were fine as we passed them a couple dozen feet away on the trail. From here we crossed to the other side of the northeastern facing chute, at which point the trail became steeper. The loose dirt wouldn’t have been a problem, but both Matthew and Ivy’s hiking shoes were a little worn (part of the challenge when hiking with kids is finding quality affordable shoes that they won’t grow out of so quickly), as I was holding out to buy them new pairs next spring.
We arrived at the overlook, where we were treated to some nice views of Mount Nebo to the south and the town of Nephi far below. Liz and the kids were hungry so they agreed to stop and eat lunch there while I quickly went to the top of North Peak by myself. I jogged and/or fast-walked all the way to the top without any breaks, following a faint trail most of the way, hitting both the main summit and a little false summit farther to the south. There were some interesting cliffy sections along the northwest ridge with some good views of Mount Nebo as well, which I had already summited twice in previous hikes.
I was back down to the overlook twenty minutes after leaving the fam, where I joined them in finishing up our lunch of sandwiches, grapes, carrots, apples, wheat thins, granola bars, fruit snacks, water, and Gatorade. I told Matthew that next time I came here with him he could do Mount Nebo with me, but he said he didn’t think he’d be able to keep up since I was too fast of an expert hiker. I wouldn’t consider myself a hiking expert, but I guess it’s okay for him to think that I am. I’ll just need to find a way to disguise my panting as I try keeping up with him as he gets bigger and faster.
The initial steep section below the ridge was a bit tricky with the kids on the way down, but it was easygoing once we reached the cows again on the other side of the northeastern facing chute. My legs getting tired near the end along with it being difficult to see what I was walking down while holding Ivy in front of me caused me to sprain my ankle just before the end of the hike, but that was the only mishap of the day.
Just a few minutes after loading back into the car and driving away, Matthew and Ivy were out (Elissa, who’d been asleep for most of the hike, was in full jibber-jabber mode though), so even though we’d chosen to go down the south section of the Nebo Loop in hopes of checking out the hoodoos at Devil’s Kitchen for the first time, we decided we’d have to put this off again for some other time. Despite the fact that it was one of the more difficult hikes we’d taken the kids on, it was also one of the most fun ones. Matthew and Ivy said some really funny matter-of-fact things on the hike, and even though it’s a bit more difficult to do some of the longer hikes with the entire family (mainly due to the kids’ age spread and the extra time it takes), it’s totally worth the extra effort.
North Peak Stats
DISTANCE: 5.5 miles roundtrip
MONUMENT TRAILHEAD: 9,250 feet
SUMMIT ELEVATION: 11,174 feet
ELEVATION GAIN: 2,000 feet
DIFFICULTY: Class 1+
TIME: 6 hours