Maple Mountain is a 9088' peak just to the south of Y Mountain. It takes its name from the numerous maples that grown on its slopes below 8000 feet, and also from a wide bench protruding from its western slope. The bench is called Maple Flat. This meadow area has some of the most spectacular mature maple (acer grandidentatum
) stands in the Wasatch Range, and is amazing in the fall. There is a trail to Maple Flat, but none to the summit of Maple Mountain. This article describes the summer trail up to Maple Flat and the winter route to the summit of Maple Mountain.
(Don't confuse this mountain with Spanish Fork Peak, a dozen miles to the south. A very small cadre of Utah Valley residents, most of them from Mapleton, Utah, call that mountain "Maple Mountain," ignoring the official USGS name out of some long-dead rivalry with Spanish Fork City, or just glomming a new name on the peak based on the canyon (Maple Canyon) to the north. They even got the Nebo School District to name a new high school in the area after the misnamed mountain: "Maple Mountain High School." Thank goodness the locals didn't end up ignoring the official name in favor of some other local variant, say, "Molly's Nipple" (a real Utah mountain)).
The mountain is best accessed from the Y Trailhead Park, a Provo City-maintained car park with restrooms and paved parking. From 900 east, turn east on 820 North. This will veer north into Oakmont Lane. Near the crest of this road turn right onto Oak Cliff Lane. Follow the S curve up this insanely steep and aptly named road to Terrace Drive, and turn right. From here good signs will get you to the Y Trailhead.
The hike begins on a steep switchbacking jeep trail used to maintain the Y. You will gain 1000 feet in just over a mile, so make sure your fluids are topped off, your lungs are open, and your calves tuned up. After about 0.8 miles you will reach an interpretive display and a junction. The trail leading north is a spur trail going to the bottom of the Y. Don't take it. Go south on the next switchback, which will take you to the top of the Y. The metal hut buried into the mountain here holds the lighting and maintenance equipment used for the Y. It was hauled in by helicopter in the late 1990s.
At the top of the Y you will see a very well maintained single track shooting south (right). This is the USFS Slide Canyon Trail. Follow it past Mouse Rock (or Rat Rock, or Bunny Rock, or whatever you want to call it), where the trail shoots east and starts to switchback up to a beautiful camping meadow, Bear Flat. A large rock sits in this meadow, marking a spur trail (dead end) south to Maple Flat.
MAPLE FLAT TRAIL
This trail goes south into the conifers. Very soon it angles right (west), all the while climbing rapidly. In about 0.6 miles it emerges into Maple Flat, a broad "hanging bench" that is rife with camping or yoga spots.
There is no trail to Maple Mountain, but trails do lead to the route. This will be a nonsnow description, but bear in mind that the mountain is most easily climbed in winter, when the nasty undergrowth is covered.
Continue east into the aspens from Bear Flat. In late summer undergrowth can tower over you on this stretch--grass and mountain rhubarb. Continue up the trail in this narrow, flat drainage filled with aspens as it starts to hook north. The trail steepens as it heads north, and then emerges into an open meadow. This meadow has the unfortunate name "Apache Flat," even though certainly no Apaches ever came near here.
When you enter the meadow, you will see a road cut to your right. A road? Yep, a road. In the 1970 and 80s a ski resort was planned for this area, and a caterpillar was actually hauled in by helicopter to cut a road to assist in lumber removal and scope the viability of ski run placement. A trailer was placed on Apache Flat as an HQ, largely because it has the only reliable water source in the area. The water comes from a spring located in the southeast quadrant of the meadow. The spring is piped and has a three-walled wooden stockade around it--look in the willows.
Now, follow the "road to nowhere" in the only direction it goes--west. You will cut through the white firs and doug firs as you go. Soon the road meets a drainage and hooks south--and ends. At this point the "route" begins. Bear east and climb to the ridge that runs northeast from the summit. Follow this ridge to the summit. (There is also a ridge that runs northwest--take this only if you have very good avalanche skills, as there are a couple of places where your angle will get high on this route).
You can descend the same way you came up, but if you have good snow, good avalanche conditions, and skis, you can ski down the north-facing drainage for one of the best backcountry shots in the Wasatch. Once you get down to the road to nowhere, you have the option to follow the road back to Apache Flat, or, if you like, you can take what looks like a ski run (it originally was) right down the north face down to a point just east of Bear Flat. Follow your uproute down.
No permits, no fees. Provo City technically closes the park late at night (for obvious hormonal reasons; be careful where you step on a Saturday morning lest you contract a social disease from the night's previous activities). This is a good thing, as the juicers and lovers have for the most part found other haunts. The cops swing by a couple of times a night, but they don't bother parked empty cars, and the gate stays open.
Be careful if you come up here near a BYU-Utah football or basketball game. Because it is a vandal's hat trick to dump red paint on the Y as a Utah spirit token, you may be accosted if it looks like you're up to mischief. Fly casual. Also, the "Rules of the Trail" sign at the bottom of the trail says some pretty good stuff (i.e., stay on the trail), but you can ignore the "no mechanized vehicles" and "no firearms" stuff. BYU may own the land, but mountain bikers and hunters have been using the trail for public access for far longer than they would need to in order to establish a public easement for crossing. But if you are packing heat or a bike, be courteous about it.
Abundant dry camping at Maple Flat and Bear Flat. Apache Flat has water and makeshift firepit. Apache Flat is popular with hunters and backpackers, but because the trail is so steep the only campers are usually horsemen.
In the early 2000s the Utah DWR transplanted a herd of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep into Rock Canyon, just north of Y Mountain. The herd regularly climbs the slopes near the Y to forage. Be careful of the rams; they can be aggressive.
Two BYU math professors climb Y Mountain (just to the north of Maple Mountain) every month, and have done so for years and years. One spring they came in contact with a very aggressive black bear just above (you guessed it) Bear Flat. The bear growled at them and pinned its ears back, prompting the erstwhile summiteers to depart. This prompted the Utah DWR and USFS to post Beware of Bear signs between Provo Peak and the city.