Buffalo Peak: A child-friendly summit

On your hike to the summit of Buffalo Peak, be sure to look to your left for a unique perspective of the mountains east of Provo. 

There are few places in Utah Valley where you can drive to a trailhead, summit a peak with spectacular views, and be back home in under three hours.

Few people have climbed Buffalo Peak (8,029 feet), which is located just east of Squaw Peak and is suitable for even young children who will get a thrill out of climbing a “real” mountain just half a mile from the trailhead! Although there are several routes to the peak, we will discuss the two most commonly traveled.

Short route

1 mile round trip – perfect for children

Half the enjoyment of this excursion is the drive up Squaw Peak Road, which takes longer than the actual hike, with views of Provo Canyon, Mt. Timpanogos, Utah Valley and the Cascade Range.

To access this trailhead, drive up Provo Canyon for 1.8 miles to the Squaw Peak Turnoff on your right. Continue up this winding paved road for 4.0 miles until you come to a “T.” Turn left toward Hope Campground as the paved road will now become a dirt road. Continue on for 2.9 miles after the “T” until you see a large fenced meadow, longer than a football field, off to your right. This is a popular spot for photographers and is most beautiful in the early morning or evening, when the lighting is perfect.

Off to your left you will see a dirt parking lot where you can park. (See detailed photos of these spots in the online photo gallery on UtahAdventurer.com.) Walk up the road a few hundred feet to where you will see a “Protect Your Wildland Playground” sign on the left side of the road. The trail will be immediately to your right which begins at the gap in the wooden fence.

As you begin your hike, Buffalo Peak will be half a mile directly in front of you with a beautiful meadow to your right with Mt. Timpanogos as a backdrop. The trail gradually leads uphill to a junction. Stay straight (on the left fork) and continue toward the peak.

Before you head up the summit, you see a lookout point on your left with amazing views of Rock Canyon, Squaw Peak, and the surrounding mountains -- a great place for pictures.

From here the trail is a bit rocky and steep, but even small children will enjoy the short scramble to the top. The summit has no exposure and is very safe for children. Go to the west side for a great view of Utah Valley.

Long route

4.2 miles round trip with great views of the valley and a good workout

To access this trailhead, drive up Provo Canyon for 1.8 miles to the Squaw Peak Turnoff on your right. Continue up this winding paved road for 4 miles until you come to a “T” where you will turn right and drive up to Squaw Peak Overlook parking lot.

A clearly defined trail starts on the south side of the parking lot, on the other side of the stone wall, and heads uphill and just below the ridgeline of these foothills.

As you reach the highest point along these foothills, the trail will curve to your left as it winds up to the top of Little Rock Canyon. During the summer, children will delight in seeing tiny horned toads along the trail that are docile and therefore, easy to catch.

As you wind your way upward, you will come to a small clearing with a fire ring, surrounded by trees and scrub oak. This area is known as the Sunset Overlook or Little Rock Canyon Overlook as it affords a beautiful view of the valley, and is only about 50 yards west of the Squaw Peak Road. You can also access the Buffalo Peak trail from the road at this point too, which is about 5.9 miles up the road from the Squaw Peak Turnoff from the Provo Canyon Road.

Continue south through the clearing where you will see the trail pick up again and head into the trees up through a ravine on the east flank of Buffalo Peak.

Don’t forget to look back from time to time for a breathtaking view of Mt. Timpanogos. If you are hiking in late spring or early summer you will be in for a treat as this area is covered in blooming Mule’s Ears, a golden wildflower that blankets the hillsides up here.

Soon the trail will come to a “T” and you will turn right (west) and continue up toward the peak. (If you turn left, you will reach the Squaw Peak Road just half a mile to the east). The best views will be at this location, before you ascend the summit, as you look down towards Rock Canyon, Squaw Peak, “Y” Mountain, the Provo Traverse, and Cascade Mountain. In the fall, the valley behind this range is ablaze in beautiful color.

A short, steep ascent brings you to the summit with a cairn at the top, and a little lookout point on the west side overlooking the valley.

Tina Crowder is an avid hiker and peak bagger and manages the Facebook pages, Hike the Wasatch, Wasatch Peak Baggers and Back to Eden Gardening Group. You can contact her at tinatcrowder@gmail.com.

Jennifer is the Audience Development Director for the Daily Herald.

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