Many thousands of eager hikers climb the mile-long trail to the “Y” each year. Only a small fraction of them ever follow the trail that goes on beyond the huge concrete symbol, to enjoy the incredible experience of standing atop Y Mountain! While the hike to the “Y” is crowded, exposed, and not terribly scenic (except for the valley views), the hike to the top of the mountain provides seclusion, mountain beauty, and the reward of “summiting.” Be aware that it’s a pretty steady climb all the way, for moderate to advanced hikers.
The trail to the top of the “Y” is a little over a mile in length and gains 1,000 feet of elevation. Strong hikers who have a few more hours should keep exploring; “the best is yet to come.”
From the upper right corner of the “Y," a much narrower “single-track” trail continues diagonally up the mountainside to the south, climbing towards Slide Canyon that lies between Y Mountain and Maple Mountain, the next peak to the south.
After about a quarter mile across the face of the Y Mountain, you reach a corner with some distinctive rock formations (including one just up the hillside called “Mouse Rock” by hikers because of its distinctive shape - see photo in the online gallery for this article). Rest for a minute and enjoy the view before you follow the trail as it turns east.
The route up Slide Canyon continues fairly steep for about a mile, gaining another 1,000 feet in elevation. There are a few switchbacks, but the trail mostly climbs right up the canyon, passing through scrub oak, pine and aspen forests. At the top of the canyon, you reach Bear Flat – a grassy open meadow popular with scout groups on Friday evenings. This is another good place for a rest and a snack.
If you stay on this trail and continue east, you will eventually cross over the first range of mountains and intersect the Squaw Peak 4-wheel drive road. However, to reach the Y Mountain summit, watch for the turnoff to the left (north) a few hundred yards after you leave Bear Flat. A block Y and an arrow have been carved into an aspen tree at the junction, pointing the way to the summit.
You’ve now curved around behind the backside of Y Mountain. The trail climbs up a steep and narrow gully to the north for about 3/4 of a mile, gaining another 850 feet of elevation. Much of the climb is sheltered by trees, making it easier in the summer months. There are some open meadows as you approach the top of the gully. As you look ahead you will note that you are heading toward a saddle, with peaks a few hundred feet higher on both the left and right.
The true summit of Y Mountain is the peak to the right, from where you have great views of Rock Canyon and the area behind the mountains. But most hikers take the turn to the left, in order to have the vista of Utah Valley. It’s just a few hundred yards from the saddle to either summit, so it’s easy to do them both in the same hike.
Once you reach the summit overlooking Utah Valley, you have spectacular views some 4,000 feet down to the BYU campus and the rest of Provo. Utah Lake stretches out before you; to the north, you have wonderful views of Squaw Peak and Mt. Timpanogos. To the south, you can see Loafer and Nebo. Enjoy the view and take lots of photos!
You can’t see the block “Y” from the summit -- the irregular cliffs make it difficult to get close enough to the edge. Note that those cliffs between the “Y” and the summit of the mountain are dangerous and impassable for average hikers, heading either up or down. A number of unsuspecting adventurers have been badly injured in falls there, or have gotten stuck and required rescue. Stick to the trails. Return back the way you came.
Be sure to check out the maps and photos in the online version of this article!