Our next stop on the KBS Adventure Tour is The Alpine Loop.
This 20 mile stretch of road that goes from American Fork Canyon, up over to Sundance and out to Provo Canyon (or vice versa) is one of the most beautiful drives you’ll ever take! It goes along the backside of Mt. Timpanogos (what you take in yesterday’s post) and into the Sundance Ski Resort. There’s so much you can do in this area, including camping, hiking, horseback trails, four-wheeling trails, waterfalls, fishing and such, but I thought I’d focus on the loop itself with a couple other little nuggets you can do.
If you are just driving the loop, it doesn’t cost anything. Just tell the ranger at the booth (if it’s ‘in season’) that you’re just driving the loop. If your intent is to fish, hike, picnic…any where you get out and enjoy the area for a while, it’s $6 per vehicle for a 3-day pass. If you have a National Parks pass, you’re covered.
Little Mill campsites are $21 a night and $8 per extra vehicle for one day–even if you’re not staying the night. Even if you’re just there a couple hours with your fellow campers. This is actually a bit ridiculous, if you ask me. You don’t have to pay the $6 entrance fee, but I’d much rather pay for three days that than what they charge to park your vehicle every day. There is a place at the mouth of AF Canyon that you can park before the entrance booth and you can carpool up to save on the $8. And believe you me, the camp host we’ve had WILL come collect that money. Even if someone comes up for an hour, she will make sure to collect that $8. It’s pretty ridiculous. The site is paid for. They are not staying over. You shouldn’t have to pay per vehicle for a couple hour visit on top of it all. I’ve got a beef with this, if you can’t tell. :) I could tell you some stories, but I digress. Well, I’ll just say this–one night she INSISTED that we’d had other people with us that left prior to us as my daughter and I were leaving (we’d already paid). She wanted to collect more money from us thinking our group was stiffing her. I adamantly told her it was just me and my daughter. I don’t know who she saw, but they weren’t with our group. I’ve met some lovely camp hosts and this one…well, we’ll just leave it at that. Her husband is nice. She’s definitely the enforcer in the house (haha). And she’s been there the past couple years we’ve gone there. We’ll see what happens this year. ;)
Okay, enough of that. I just thought you should be aware of the fees involved.
UPDATE: This year (2017) there was a new camp host. Yay! They were much more easy going and didn’t get all worked up about seeing another car. One of our sites was a double site and so that allowed us to fit three cars into it, but only two stayed over night. They were much more pleasant to work with making our camping experience so much better!
I’d have to say the most scenic–and popular–time to drive the loop is fall. The scenery is amazing!
It had been a few years since our last fall there, so we drove up when my sister-in-law and stepmom (middle and right) came out for Shyanne’s bridal shower in October. These two California girls have been up the canyon with us in summer before and love it then as well. Funny thing is, we went on a Saturday afternoon in mid-October, the leaves had already begun to fall, so it wasn’t necessarily ‘high peak’ for viewing the leaves–but oh my gosh…it felt like a Disneyland ride driving up and down the curvy switchback roads of the mountains. All these cars on a narrow windy road…it was rather comical.
One other thing to note, the higher the elevation, the more advanced the ‘fall’, so you’ll see a difference as you go up and down the mountain–more leaves or color at the bottom, less leaves on top–if you go a little later like we did.
And let’s not forget all the bridals and family photos that get taken there during the fall. Wow!
A FEW THINGS TO DO
Okay, there is literally so much you can do along this loop. I haven’t been here in a long time, but I wanted to mention this is where Timpanogos Cave can be found.
I haven’t done this since my kids were young. It is a hefty hike up a paved path. It’s ‘only’ 1.5 miles long, but has an elevation gain of 1000 feet. If you’re not used to the altitude (going up to 6700 feet above sea level), you can find yourself winded. If you’re not in the best shape, you can find yourself winded too (haha). This is one reason why I haven’t done it in a long time. Luckily there are benches to stop and rest on. My friend, however, uses it as an exercise routine. It doesn’t cost to hike up the path, only to go into the cave. And that, my friends, is very fascinating! Definitely worth the hike. Check out the link above for more information on this incredible place.
We’ve done this a few times along the drive, with friends, with kids–even four-wheeling into it from the Solider Hollow side. It’s a beautiful place to stop and look at the natural cascading waterfalls! You can read more here about Cascade Springs when we went there a week after this post.
Lately we’ve loved camping at the Little Mill Campground for our girls camp–me, Lisa Bearnson and Kristy Banks and our daughters. This is on the American Fork Canyon side. It’s gorgeous, by the river, and convenient to run home if needed (I even run home to shower–haha). No cell service though. We are very lucky to live just minutes away from such an amazing place. We’ve also camped at Salamander Flats (no amenities–just open land) and Granite Flats (campsites and outhouses), which are higher up that way and incredibly gorgeous as well. I should also mention our girls camp leans toward the glamping side of things. :)
Little Mill Campground or Sawmill picnic area (by each other) is a great place to pull over and stop to take in the fall foliage–which is where these photos were taken. If it’s nice weather, plan yourself a picnic and stop somewhere along the way. You could make a whole day out of exploring various areas along the loop…and that’s not even counting the hiking spots.
This river runs along the campground and it’s ever-so dreamy and relaxing to listen to while camping. This is what it looks like next to a camping spot during the summer.
Each campsite has a firepit and a picnic table. You can camp with trailers or tents. There are sites on both sides, so only one side has the river. There’s also an outhouse there as well. The sites are nice because there is more space between sites and more privacy. I may update the camping section here with some photos after this year’s girls camp next week. So check back.
You could really make a long weekend out of being in this canyon alone with the hikes, cave, Cascade Springs and such. I didn’t even talk about the fishing or the hikes around Sundance. I mean seriously. You actually could spend a week here staying at any of the campsites and have an amaaaazing time! There is so. much. to. do. We’ll be going to Cascade Springs at our girls camp and later during the summer I hope to do the Stewart Falls hike, which is over by Sundance. Last time we did that the kids were young. Another gorgeous hike+waterfall!
It is such a beautiful place!