One of the first hikes I take newcomers on is the Pine Hollow Trail (Trail 047) up American Fork Canyon -- it’s relatively short (4 miles round trip), with a little bit of elevation gain (about 1,200 feet), easy to access year-round, and a feast for the eyes!

I have seen people bring their small children up this trail, but due to the gradual uphill terrain, it is best for ages 8 and over.

Every car that enters American Fork Canyon is charged a $6 fee at the fee station at the mouth of the canyon for a three-day canyon pass. The pass allows you to access all the trails along this road including the Timpooneke or Aspen Grove Trailheads for a climb up to Mt. Timpanogos.

If you plan to return frequently, save money and buy an annual pass for $45, or a National Parks pass ($80) from the Forest Service for even greater accessibility.

Once at the trailhead, you will find a large parking lot with fantastic views, along with a restroom. From November through May, the Alpine Loop Road is closed just above this point all the way to Aspen Grove. Even though the road is closed to vehicular traffic in winter, it is still open to snowmobilers, cross-country skiers and snowshoers.

To get on the trail, just walk across the road and you will see a wooden sign designating the Pine Hollow Trail. Hike up a few short switchbacks where you will see another sign pointing the way to the Mutual Dell Connector Trail. Stay right on the Pine Hollow Trail and head south on a gradual incline. Don’t forget to look to your right at magnificent Mt. Timpanogos and the entire American Fork Canyon area.

After a couple of hundred yards, the trail will head east into Pine Hollow Canyon for a steady climb which is especially beautiful in the winter with the pines and spruces covered in snow, and in the fall when the leaves are changing.

You will cross several small streams as you wind your way up through the forest. (Don’t drink the water unless you filter or treat it.)

After 1.3 miles, you will come to a small clearing with a “T” junction in the trail -- turn left to head up a half mile further to the Ridge Trail (157) junction.

If you decide to turn right (onto trail 150), you will be heading towards the Salamander Flat Campground one mile away and one worth doing if you have the time. If you don’t mind hiking along the paved road, you can access the Alpine Loop Road from the parking lot of the campground and hike back down the road to the Pine Hollow Trailhead for a nice loop hike.

After turning left, you will continue to wind up through the forest until you see a large beautiful meadow surrounded by aspens that is a popular spot for camping. Stay to the left and continue up to the Ridge Trail. (Do not take the trail veering off diagonally to the right across the meadow.) You will soon come to another “T” in the trail marked by a sign letting you know that you are now at the end of the Pine Hollow Trail and have arrived at the Ridge Trail (or Great Western Trail), but don’t stop here -- the best is yet to come.

Turn left at this sign to head north up the Ridge Trail. If you turn right onto the Ridge Trail it will lead you south for a few miles to the Summit Trailhead at the top of the Alpine Loop Road.

Go another hundred yards to the top of this small ridge and stop at the small meadow on your right. The views from this point are beautiful in all directions with Mt. Timpanogos to your west, Heber Valley to your east, and the Lone Peak Wilderness to the north.

At this point you have hiked two miles and can turn around. If you continue another mile north you will come to the Mud Springs junction, which will then take you on to Pine Hollow Peak.

There is a lot of beautiful country to explore along these backcountry trails Be sure to see the many photos we have taken of this trail in all seasons along with the maps in the online gallery.

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.