Although Y Mountain does not have the elevation of nearby neighbors like Mount Timpanogos, Cascade Mountain, and Provo Peak, it is one of the most recognizable mountains in the Provo/Orem area. The concrete block Y is the symbol of Brigham Young University ("BYU"), and was supposed to be the center of a giant BYU at one time. But only the Y made it to completion, and the mountain got named. Notwithstanding its somewhat artificial name, Y Mountain towers 4,000 feet over Utah Valley, and is a delightful destination in any season.
Most hikers just make the short hike along the well-maintained trail up to the Y instead of going all the way to the summit, but both locations offer great views of Utah Valley. The area behind Y Mountain also features some beautiful fall colors during the months of September and October.
If driving from the north, take exit 269 from I-15. If coming from the south, take exit 265-A. Once in Provo, follow 820 North towards the mountain (eastward) from the southeast corner of BYU campus. After crossing 900 East You will pass a park on the left called Kiwanis Park. A short distance after the park, 820 North curves north and becomes Oakmont Lane. Take the first right, and then another quick right to get onto Oak Cliff Drive. At the top of this road, turn right yet again onto Terrace Drive, and follow the signs to the Y Mountain parking lot.
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.
Continue east into the aspens. In late summer undergrowth can tower over you on this stretch--grass and mountain rhubarb. About 100 yards after you enter the aspens, start looking on the aspens for a "Y Trail" carving with an arrow. You may also find arrows or signs in magic marker. They will point left (north) into the bottom of the shallow drainage that cleaves the mountain into east/west hemispheres. Once you get into the drainage a distinct trail appears, then fades in the glades between the east and west summits. From here it's an easy pick-a-route to the summits (the east summit is the true summit, with great views of Rock Canyon and basin; the west summit gives an excellent vantage point of the city below).
No permits required, no fees. Since the summit is lower than other well-known peaks in the area, this mountain can usually be hiked from April through October without having to worry about snow. Sometimes (especially during BYU Homecoming Week) the trail becomes extremely crowded, so plan accordingly. There is limited parking, but it is possible to park along the streets in the neighborhood below. Residents in the houses often complained of unprepared hikers asking to use the bathrooms in their houses for emergencies, but now there are restrooms at the Y Mountain parking lot.
No one really camps to do this hike because it is quite short, but nearby Rock Canyon Campground (north, by Squaw Peak) may be an option for those who feel so inclined.