Pine Hollow Trail: An Early-Season Backpacking Trail You Will Love

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When the weather warms up and the snow starts melting, I always get the itch to go backpacking and Pine Hollow Trail is the perfect early-season backpacking trail. It’s typically a day hike, but it’s perfect for a quick overnighter to satisfy the need for backpacking!

I did this trail for my first backpacking trip with my one-year-old. It’s kid-friendly, dog-friendly, and absolutely beautiful! Before heading out, brush up on the 7 Leave No Trace Principles.

I’ve broken this blog post into sections, so if you need to jump ahead, use this menu:

  1. Quick Facts
  2. Highlights & Lowlights
  3. Getting There
  4. Best Time to Travel
  5. Trail Description
  6. Campsites
  7. Where to Get Water
  8. Regulations
  9. Bears & Food Storage

Quick Facts

  • Mileage: 4-5 miles roundtrip (depending on where you camp)
  • Peak Elevation: 8,055 ft
  • Elevation Gain: 1,429 ft
  • Days Needed: 1 overnighter
  • Difficulty: easy/moderate
  • Permits or Fees: permits are not required, but a $6-12 fee is required for recreating in the canyon. See the Regulations section below.
  • Dog-friendly: yes
  • Fires Allowed: yes

Highlights

  • Beautiful view of the mountains
  • Backpacking traffic is low so more campsites are available
  • Not too buggy (mosquitos only came out at dusk and dawn and there weren’t too many of them)
  • Has a well-maintained trail that is easy to follow
  • Beautiful sunrises and sunsets

Lowlights:

  • This trail is not primarily used for backpacking so there is a lot of foot and bike traffic on the trail near where you would camp
  • Water can only be found on streams along the trail and is not very close to camp
  • It can become too hot in the peak backpacking months

Getting There

Take Alpine Loop up American Fork Canyon. The trailhead is 10.8 miles from the fee station. The parking lot is large, with plenty of parking spaces. A bathroom and picnic table are available at the trailhead, along with a fee box.

The AllTrails link below will provide exact instructions to the trailhead.

Best Time to Travel

This is a great early-season backpacking trail. Going in late May or in June will give you the best weather. The beginning of the trail can get quite hot, so avoid backpacking it in the heat of the summer.

In terms of weather, you’re looking at highs of 70-80 degrees during the day and lows of 40-50 degrees at night. This can change depending on the month and how the previous winter has affected the higher elevations. AllTrails has a great feature that shows you the weather along the trail depending on the time of day.

Being at a higher elevation means the UV rays will be stronger, make sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and/or UPF-rated clothing for extra protection.

Trail Description

The first part of the trail is exposed, so be sure to wear sun protection. Eventually, you’ll be hiking through the trees and you’ll come across several small streams that you’ll need to cross. When you reach the loop, follow the trail to the left so you can find the Ridge Trail. The Ridge Trail is where you’ll be able to find campsites.

Campsites

If you go another 100 yards to the left on the Ridge trail you’ll reach a meadow where it opens up, offering plenty of space for camping. You can see the Heber Valley to the East, Lone Peak Wilderness to the North, and Mount Timpanogos to the West.

We decided to take the second connector to the Ridge Trail instead of the spot mentioned above. This connector is right before you head down towards Salamander Campground. Keep left following signs for Ridge Trail and continue for about 0.3 miles. You’ll see a small opening on the left of the trail with a fire pit and an enclosed area in the trees for some privacy from hikers and mountain bikers.

Water is much closer to the first Ridge Trail instead of where we camped. If you want your water source to be near your campsite, I recommend finding your campsite near the first sign of the Ridge Trail.

Where to Get Water

There are multiple stream crossings as you make your way to a campsite. The streams are mostly along the initial trail before you reach the point where the loop begins. I recommend stopping to grab some water to filter before you get to your campsite. 

We use the Sawyer Squeeze filter, which comes with bags that you can fill up with dirty water. We also carry a designated 48 oz Nalgene to hold dirty water so we can filter it all back at camp. 

Regulations

Permits are not required to backpack this area, however, there are fees required for American Fork Canyon. 

The following passes are available for purchase at the fee station:

  • 1-3 Day — $6.00
  • 7-Day — $12.00
  • Annual — $45.00

Self-service tubes are also available at the trailhead, but you’ll need to have cash on hand. When we went, the self-service tubes said the 1-3 day pass is $10, so the self-service may be a little extra than the fee station. 

If you have a National Park Pass, you don’t need to pay the fee. Be sure to have your pass (national park or from the fee station) on display in your car window while parked.

For more information on fees and regulations, visit the Forest Service website.

Bears & Food Storage

Although most of the bears in Utah live in the Uintas Mountains, black bears have also been spotted in American Fork Canyon. There was a bear attack up this canyon in the early 2000s, so you can never be too careful!

Always carry bear spray and make sure you are storing your food in a bear canister or tying it up in a tree with a bear bag. You may not see any bears on the trail, but you should always be prepared for an encounter. 

pine hollow - early season backpacking trail

Whether you just want a quick overnight trip, you’re just getting started, or you want to take your kids, Pine Hollow trail is the perfect early-season backpacking trail for everyone! 

Leave a comment below if you get to head out there! I’d love to hear what you thought of the area!

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