On a pleasant midsummer morning, Shayne and Sara Anderson of Provo headed up Provo Canyon to hoof it to one of Utah's most spectacular cascades, Stewart Falls.
"I have a friend at work who goes hiking all the time, and he said it was about a half-hour hike," Anderson said.In other words, said wife Sara, "a wimpy hike" - about what she was willing to try. "I'm tired of starting the hiking season doing all of these killer things and never wanting to go again," she said.
Stewart Falls was a perfect choice - a relatively gentle 1 1/2-mile hike (so probably more than a half-hour) from the Aspen Grove trailhead, around a mountain shoulder, through towering pines, flower-dotted meadows and thin aspens to a great spray of water plunging off the back of Mount Timpanogos.
"Oh, it's beautiful," said Shayne Anderson when asked for his impression.
The trail begins at Aspen Grove, where one route to the top of Timpanogos also starts. The path to Stewart Falls veers to the left near the south end of the parking lot and near the Theater in the Pines; a sign verifies that you're headed the right way.
"Stewart Falls Trail," it says. "No campfires, mountain bikes or motorized vehicles on this trail. Group size limit 15 people." Horses are allowed.
The limits have been imposed because the trail goes through part of the Mount Timpanogos Wilderness Area, said Tim Garcia, recreation manager for Uinta National Forest's Pleasant Grove District. Portions also cross Sundance property, he said. A cabin community is visible on slopes near the falls.
Other trails begin at Sundance. One heads up the creek from Sundance proper and is typically reserved for resort guests, Garcia said. Another 2 3/4-mile route is accessible from Ray's Summit via the Sundance chairlift, which operates through the summer season.
"The public trailhead is actually at the Aspen Grove area," Garcia said.
With snow still clinging to the limestone cliffs and glacial cirques above, the Stewart Cascade (an alternative name still applied to the falls) continues to tumble in mighty sheets from the cliffs.
And therein lies danger, Garcia warned.
"It is beautiful," he said, but: "We discourage climbing on rocks and around the falls, because it does get slick. People fall or get hit by rocks. When hikers get to the falls, they really need to use caution."
The U.S. Forest Service charges a $3-per-car fee (good for a week) at its entrance stations, one at Aspen Grove near the trailhead and another at the mouth of American Fork Canyon, for those approaching via the Alpine Loop road. Sundance's chairlift is $5 for hikers.