Located in the heart of the Uinta National Forest, Cascade Springs is a popular stop for families looking for a refreshing stop to enjoy some of the best Mother Nature has to offer. This destination is marked with an abundance of educational stops along the route, helping visitors gain a greater appreciation of the water cycle and the abundance of wildlife along Utah's waterways.
To reach the trailhead, drive east from I-15, Exit 287 and through the Highland crossroads (5300 W. 11000 North with the four-way traffic light) to American Fork Canyon (U-92). After passing the toll booth (it costs $3 to enter the canyon), follow the winding canyon past Timpanogos Cave National Monument and take the South Fork.
This ride will continue past Mutual Dell and you should see the Cascade Springs turnoff, about 10.9 miles from the canyon mouth. The turnoff can also be accessed about five miles past Sundance on the North Fork of Provo Canyon. Follow this road approximately 6.5 miles to the parking area.
This destination can be broken into three sections, including the Pools Loop, the Cascade Loop and the Springs Loop. The Pools Loop is perhaps the most popular section and is universally accessible to all visitors, allowing wheelchairs and strollers to travel gently along the pathway. A winding maze of boardwalks provides guests with views of moose, birds, deer, beaver and numerous plant species. Trout rest in the cold shallow travertine pools, waiting for unsuspecting insects on the surface. (No fishing.)
The Cascade Loop joins the lower Pools Loop and the upper Springs Loop and is a short climb as you listen to the soothing sounds of cascading water. Steps facilitate the climb in some sections of the path and benches are strategically placed for resting and relaxing.
Folks who venture to the Springs Loop will see recent changes that occurred after fires blazed across the hillsides. Returning plant life now fills the blackened terrain. Interpretive signs discuss how the water arrives at these springs. These headwaters are less visited than the lower sections. Folks looking for more quiet will find it here.
Spend some time reading the interpretive signs along the route. Those who ignore this will miss a significant part of the experience. Although this path can be covered in a matter of minutes, the true beauty of this area can be best acquired as you leisurely watch the fish, read the signs and enjoy the beauty.
Over 7.5 million gallons of water emerge from the ground each day. This water cascades over travertine ledges, splashes into dark pools and races into Provo's Deer Creek. Numerous benches have been provided for resting, and educational benefits are a bonus to your family fun.
Numerous route options are available in this area. Restroom facilities and drinking water are available, and overflow parking is available above the Springs Loop.
Length: 0.6 miles
Approximate time: 45 minutes
Elevation change: 75 feet
Best Seasons: Summer and fall
Cautions: Keep an eye on youngsters to prevent a fall into the cold water. Maintain a safe distance from wildlife. Stinging nettle is also found along the pathways.
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. Tuesday afternoons on AM 1340 KTMP and 10:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday on 1340 KTMP. He is the author of "Best Easy Day Hikes: Salt Lake City," published by Falcon Press. For more information, visit his Web site at www.backcountry-magazine.com.