I believe that we all are innately drawn to places where we can let our minds wander away from the daily routine of our lives, to get outside and connect with nature.
The Wasatch Range and other wilderness areas in the valley are truly incredible, but are not invincible. As I explore nature, my goal is to always leave it in a better state than when I found it. Whether it's picking up trash, adopting a trail (Ask your local Forest Service about this), or simply following the principles in Leave No Trace. In order for our wild places to thrive, more stewards are needed, and I believe anyone who appreciates the benefits of nature will be moved to take care of it.
Utah Valley is surrounded by picturesque mountain views and close access to nature which makes it easy to escape to these kinds of places. In an area as vast as Utah Valley it's easy to experience analysis paralysis, and may not know which place to go to get the best outdoor experience. Which is why I will show you a hike you've probably never heard of.
While exploring the trails in Utah County, I quickly realized how powerful the land is and how beautiful the scenery is. The more I wandered, the more I wanted to see and I quickly developed a passion for seeking out the lesser known trails. I have yet to find a place in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest that did not amaze and captivate me. Lake Hardy is one of the best places I've discovered recently.
Lake Hardy is an alpine lake, located at roughly 10,000 feet in the Lone Peak Wilderness. This lake is stunning because it is like an oasis in a sea of granite boulders. It's grand views of Utah Valley are complemented by the hike itself, which stretches through old pine groves, granite hills, and soft alpine meadows. Along the way, you can also find a variety of Utah wildflowers depending on what time of year you hike the trail.
The trail starts at SchoolHouse Spring Trail in Alpine, Utah. Follow it up to the Lone Peak Wilderness sign and a meadow that ties you in with North Mountain Trail and First Hamongog trail. You can take either trail up to the lake, I would suggest doing a loop, since you’ll see much more and both trails are roughly 6 miles in length one way. The North Mountain trail will tie in with the Lake Hardy trail, which then takes you straight to Lake Hardy. You will need to follow rock cairns once you reach the granite (please avoid building your own cairns, leave that for the Forest Service).
The First Hamongog trail will tie in with the Second Hamongog trail, which if you follow it east, will take you directly to the lake as well. From personal preference and experience, I would suggest taking the North Mountain route up. It's steeper, but you're rewarded with beautiful views of sheer granite cliffs as you hike into them. Taking the Second Hamongog trail down gives the best views of the valley and Wasatch Mountain Range, plus it is easier on the legs.
For this trail, I recommend the following:
- At least 100 ounces of water per person. This is a strenuous hike, with over 4,000 feet of elevation gain in under 6 miles. During the summer and fall, I would not count on filling your water in any streams since they tend to diminish during the summer.
- Hiking poles, this will save your legs and help immensely on the rockier sections.
- Plan for potential weather conditions and avoid hiking if there is a chance of thunderstorms. There is not a lot of cover once on the trail or at the lake. Personally, I like to use an app called "Open Summit,” it gives the weather forecast for individual mountain peaks, which typically vary at such high altitudes.
- Bug Spray
- Sturdy hiking shoes
- First Aid Kit
- Be aware and respectful of wildlife
- And of course a camera!
I would rate this trail as difficult similar to hiking Mount Timpanogos or Mount Nebo. Considering its steep grade and exposure to the elements. It will take anywhere from 6-12 hours to hike roundtrip.
Lake Hardy is a hidden gem of Utah Valley, but it isn’t the only one. Our valley is full of iconic spots that are known for their beauty and majesty, and for good reason. Yet, there is so much more to see when we take chances on the lesser known trails. So why not take adventure to the next level and see what you can discover.
For more ideas on where to hike in Utah Valley check out 6 Utah Valley Hikes You've Probably Never Heard Of, The Ultimate Guide to the 50 Best Hikes in Utah Valley & Man vs Mountain: How to Conquer Utah Valley's Highest Peaks.