There might still be some snow in the mountains, but in the valleys, the warmer weather is sending many residents to the hills with summer fever. Luckily, Utah County offers a host of enjoyable trails for hikers at all levels. "We have some of the most spectacular hiking in Utah," said Joel Racker, president and CEO of the Utah Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau. He mentioned hikes such as Stewart Falls, the Provo River trail and the 18-mile (round trip) hike up Mount Timpanogos. Racker, an avid hiker, became more of an outdoor enthusiast after his experience hiking Mount Timpanogos with his daughter. "It's nine miles up and nine miles back," Racker said. "It was almost a spiritual experience it was so cool. You get up in the glacier area, and even in August you get all these wildflowers ... these flowers and mountain goats and moose. Some people below us even saw a bear."
With the opportunities for wildlife sightings, the incredible mountain views and the varied terrain in Utah County, hiking in Utah can be a great family activity, said Racker. His family enjoys an annual hike up Y Mountain, located in Provo.
Brian Hill, a professor of recreation management at Brigham Young University, recommends the Battle Creek Falls trail in Pleasant Grove if you're hiking with children.
"It's a great, easy hike for families or people who aren't very fit but want something easy," Hill said. "It has a beautiful waterfall."
If you're not sure what hiking level you can handle, Hill recommends simply trying out a trail -- and not worrying about making it to the top of the mountain.
"Maple Canyon has one of those hikes where you can go as far as you want and just come back down," Hill said. "Most of the hikes are like that in Utah County."
That said, it's important to research a trail to make sure you can turn back at any point and that it won't get too steep, too fast. And no matter your level of hiking expertise, Hill recommends taking basic safety and emergency-preparedness steps before starting for the summit.
Hill says he has what he calls Brian's Big Six: "Remember water, sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, lip balm and the right kind of clothes."
Buck Tilton, an outdoor educator and author of "Utah Hiking: The Complete Guide to More than 300 of the Best Hikes in the Beehive State," said there are 10 essentials to bring on any hike.
The list includes extra food, extra clothing, emergency shelter, a first-aid kit, sun protection (sunglasses, sunscreen), navigational aids (map and compass), a means to disinfect water, a flashlight, knife and fire-starting materials (matches and fire starter).
"They prepare you to handle what arises," the Wyoming author said. "They eliminate surprises of the unkind kind."
Certain safety precautions should also be followed when venturing into the wilderness. Tilton cautions his students to never hike alone and always tell someone (who is not going with you) where you plan to go and when you plan to return.
"If you're new to an area, learn before leaving home about terrain, weather and objective hazards, such as water to cross, snowfields to cross, boulder fields to negotiate," Tilton said.
As an extra safety step, Tilton also recommends taking a wilderness-medicine class to learn how to manage emergencies in the outdoors.
For a new outdoor experience, try one of these local hiking trails. Before you head out, make sure to check the weather forecast or call your local ranger station for hiking conditions because some of the trails may still have snow at high elevations.
AMERICAN FORK AREA
Tibble Fork Trail -- This steep climb begins near the dam at Tibble Fork Reservoir. The 6-mile hike will take you past mountain meadows and long stretches of Aspen trees.
Timpooneke Trail on Mount Timpanogos -- Located in the Timpooneke campground in American Fork Canyon, the trail is 7.5 miles to the breathtaking views of Emerald Lake. Travel 3 miles longer to the summit of Timpanogos.
Silver Lake -- Follow this trail to the end for a rewarding view of Silver Lake and Mount Timpanogos. For this hike, you'll drive to Tibble Fork Reservoir in American Fork Canyon, following the road toward the Granite Flats Campground. Shortly after a horse-transfer area, you will see a dirt road to the right. The dirt road has signs to direct you to Silver Lake Flat Reservoir, where there is a parking lot and trailhead for the hike.
PLEASANT GROVE AREA
Battle Creek -- At the end of Battle Creek Drive (200 South) in Pleasant Grove, you'll find the trailhead for the Battle Creek Canyon hike. This picturesque hike will take you past a waterfall and can be a good choice for families hiking with children.
Big Springs Trail -- Head up the South Fork turnoff to Provo Canyon. From the turnoff at Vivian Park, you'll travel 2 miles to a dirt road. From there you'll see the trailhead for the 4-mile hike that takes you to the top of Rock Canyon, joining the Rock Canyon Trail.
Rock Canyon Trail -- This is a great trail for beginning hikers because of its well-marked trail and simple upward slope. Beginning at the end of North Temple Drive in Provo, the 6-mile trail ends at Rock Canyon Campground on Squaw Peak Road.
Stewart Cascades Trail -- This family-friendly hike is a 2-mile trail to Stewart Falls. Start on the hike near the BYU Aspen Grove Camp located on the Provo Canyon North Fork Road.
"Y" Mountain -- While many people make the pilgrimage to the rock Y formation on the Provo mountain, many people don't realize that the trail actually will take you up past the Y to a summit on the top. The mountain trail provides a great view of the valley. Head east on 850 North to the foothills, then travel north to the parking lot. Follow the dirt road to the trailhead.
Make sure to remember these 10 hiking essentials suggested by Buck Tilton, outdoor educator and author of "Utah Hiking: The Complete Guide to More than 300 of the Best Hikes in the Beehive State."
1. Extra food
2. Extra clothing
3. Emergency shelter
4. First-aid kit
5. Sun protection
6. Navigational aids (map and compass)
7. Means to disinfect water
10. Fire-starting materials