Last weekend I decided to tackle a trail I have been meaning to run for a long time. I was in Utah County visiting family, and had nothing scheduled for Saturday morning. So naturally I filled that time with an epic trail run!
I started at the Battle Creek Canyon trail head, right at the foothills of Mount Timpanogos. As many times as I have climbed to the summit of that mountain, I had never explored its western foothills until that day. Below is a map of the route I took, and if you would like to explore it in more detail, click here. My dad (a geologist) explained to me that Big Baldy and Little Baldy were formed as an ancient landslide off of Mount Timpanogos, and you can see on the topo map below where the chunk fell off of the mountain.
Below is the elevation profile for the route. As you can see, the first five miles climb over 3,200 feet. MapMyRun classifies this as a “Hors Categorie” climb, and it certainly lives up to that distinction.
There is a nice trail head at Battle Creek Canyon, but the parking lot fills up quickly. I arrived at 7:30 or so, and was lucky to get a parking place. There is no fee to park. I started up the trail, and within about a mile I passed by Battle Creek Falls. This is a beautiful waterfall, probably about 100 feet tall. I would guess that this waterfall dries up in the late summer as the snow melts off of Timpanogos, but in mid-May it was pouring over several gallons per second.
The trail continues up the canyon, hardly ever letting up, and by the second mile I had to stop running and hike the steeper parts. When you reach the top of the canyon there is a nice grassy meadow, and you get a good view of Big Baldy to your right. It is still a good ways up to the summit, so don’t get too excited yet!
Right after mile 2 you will come to the Great Western Trail. If you go left (north) it will take you to Mahogany Mountain. I turned right (south) and headed to Big Baldy.
At this point I was hoping that the trail would let up just a bit, but it just keeps climbing. It was mostly runnable, but I did hike a few stretches. Thankfully there are some nice switchbacks in the third mile, or else it wouldn’t be runnable at all. Almost exactly at mile 4 you will reach the saddle of Big Baldy, and will see the trail going up the ridge to the summit on your right. This trail is about a mile long and climbs 600 feet.
Big Baldy presents a beautiful 360 degree panorama. To the west you can see the valley below. The the north you can see Mahogany Mountain. To the east you have a stunning view of Mount Timpanogos. To the south you can see Provo Canyon, Cascade Mountain, and Squaw Peak.
After taking in the view I headed back towards the saddle and the Great Western Trail, but decided to to turn right and head down Dry Canyon instead of retracing my previous route. Just down from the saddle I passed by some large trenches cut into the side of the mountain. This was a Depression-era public works program, attempting to capture more snow in the mountains. I could imagine hundreds of men climbing this mountain with shovels in the 1930’s to dig these trenches by hand. I honestly don’t know whether it makes much difference to the snow accumulation, but I sort of doubt it was worth all of the public money we spent on the project.
Near the bottom of Dry Canyon I decided to take the Battle Creek Overlook Trail along the western face of Big Baldy so that I would end up back at the Battle Creek trail head. This trail included a relatively gentle climb (category 4 according to MapMyRun), but this was too much for my tired legs and I hiked most of it. Once the trail passed in front of Big Baldy there were a few gorgeous views of Mount Timpanogos hiding behind the hills. I discovered that the Timp Trail Marathon was running that day, and the racers passed me on the trail moving in the opposite direction. I made a mental note to sign up for that race in some future year.
The Curly Springs Trail connects the Battle Creek Overlook Trial to the Battle Creek Canyon Trail, joining it about half a mile above the waterfall. This is a steep descent northeastward into the canyon, and my tired quads would not let me go very fast. But it was beautiful, green, and shady.
I made it back to my car right as I finished off my 2-liter water bladder. Thankfully I had more water in the car, and I was only a few minutes away from my relatives’ house, where my sister-in-law made me the most delicious lunch I have ever eaten. For about 3 days I had a pretty good case of delayed-onset muscle soreness, but not bad enough to where I couldn’t climb stairs. Hopefully I will have recovered enough for the Bryce Canyon Trail Half next week.
The trails around Big Baldy did not disappoint, and I will definitely revisit them someday. Next time I think I will climb up Grove Creek Canyon and try to get on top of Mahogany Mountain. If you have done those trails, please post a comment below and let me know how it went.