Scout Falls is an excellent short destination for those who want to taste the beauty of Mount Timpanogos wilderness without an extensive hike to the summit. Scout Falls, the first leg of the Timpanooke Trail, is a magnificent sight this year as snowpack above this stop is abundant and feeds the falls. Many families enjoy this section of the Great Western Trail and make it a tradition.
Sections of this nice trail are covered in aspen. It can be quite warm during late morning and afternoon hours. Early morning and early evening hikes are recommended to avoid heat exhaustion. This route is easily navigated by most age groups, climbing at a steady rate. Wildflowers are abundant and views of deer and moose are not uncommon. A rustic overlook is available near the falls as you enjoy the views of a lush green valley below.
To reach the trailhead, drive east from I-15 exit 287 and through the Highland crossroads (5300 West 11000 North with the four-way traffic light) to American Fork Canyon (Highway 92). After passing the toll booth, follow the winding canyon past Timpanogos Cave National Monument and take the South Fork as you approach that junction. This ride will continue past Mutual Dell and you should see the Timpanooke turnoff, approximately 7 miles from the canyon mouth. Follow this road to the parking area. Restroom facilities and drinking water are available at the large parking lot.
Trail Description — From the parking area, head through a meadow full of asters, stinging nettle, coneflower and sweet pea to the guard station, located southwest of the restrooms. Here you can familiarize yourself with local hazards, learn about wilderness etiquette, and sign the trail register. Horses share this trail and hikers should avoid spooking the horses. Stinging nettle is present and caution should be exercised to avoid a painful reminder of their presence.
Taking the right trail on the west side, follow the well-defined path south through a meadow.
As you climb this east-facing slope, you may see beaver ponds along the creek below and columbine along the path. Elk tracks may be seen and a refreshing sound of falling water will encourage you to resume your journey.
Continuing this climb, you can admire views of the magnificent rock walls, capped with pines. These same walls echo the thundering of the waterfalls. From here, this path becomes warmer as you pass scrub oak, showy daisies, and fragrant catnip. Groves of aspen appear.
Soon you cross an area where recent avalanche activity has cleared the trees. Approaching several small streams, the air becomes much cooler and lush vegetation lines the path on every side. Mountain ash, ferns, dogwood and other water loving plants abound in this area as you proceed with your climb. This trail can become somewhat slippery in areas. Young children may require help crossing these small streams.
Although these tiny waterfalls may quench the heat, your goal is just minutes away. As you head east and approach a switchback climbing to the west again, a less traveled path continues to the east leading to Scout Falls. Willows are abundant, along with bluebells, elderberry, and other wildflowers. A few resting areas are available to enjoy the views to the north before returning back to the trailhead or continuing to Emerald Lake (approximately 5 miles farther up the trail) or the summit (approximately eight miles farther up). Editor's note: Hiking to the summit this year is extremely dangerous as heavy snowfall and avalanche damage has made the climb especially hazardous.
Trail length: 1.24 miles
Elevation change: 675 feet
Approx. time: 45 minutes
Best seasons: Summer, Fall
Brian Brinkerhoff hosts "Backcountry Utah: Utah's Outdoor Radio Magazine," which airs 9-11 a.m. Saturday on AM 630 KTKK, 5-6 p.m. Tues. afternoons on AM 1340 KTMP and 10:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday on 1340 KTMP. For more information, visit his Web site at www.backcountry-magazine.com.