Active Transportation

Beautiful sping magenta peonies flowers in a wicker bicycle basket.

(n): a form of transportation of people and sometimes goods that only uses the physical activity of the human being for the locomotion.

I laid the question down for my friend Eric. “What was it like riding your bike everywhere for a year and a half around Heber?”

“I got super fit!” he answered with a grin. “I would ride to work, then grab some groceries, and after dropping the groceries at the house, go mountain biking at Coyote Canyon.”

Eric more or less set the bar for getting around by bicycle. He was constantly riding his bike around the Heber Valley, in one direction or another — on warm, sunny days and in harsh winter conditions.

His bike was more for expeditious utility than pleasure. He easily put more miles on his mountain bike just getting around the streets of Heber and Midway than most of us ever do recreating.

More Than Going To Work

Eric told me that his health and fitness improved drastically once he started commuting by bike. And while bicycle commuting offers many personal health benefits, it is also a great way to reduce the number of cars on the road — which also helps improve air quality.

Since the Heber Valley is relatively small, bicycle commuting is very alluring and traveling within or between towns can be quick and easy.

At roughly 15 minutes apart via the Midway Lane bike path that runs along Highway 113, one can ride between Midway and Heber easily and safely. Frequented by pedestrians, runners and other cyclists, the path is free of motorized vehicles.

But bike “commuting” doesn’t have to just apply to traveling to and from work.

Are you headed to the grocery store, inspired by an impromptu dinner? Small trips like this can easily be done alone via bike, and larger shopping lists can be carried home by riding with a partner to help share the load.

Or what about a fun summer day around town? A visit to the city library is an easy ride. Maybe it would be nice to grab some fresh peaches from the farmer’s market at the Main Street Park. With a fresh book to read and some delightful fruit in your bike basket, you can leisurely roll back to the house for an afternoon snack in the sun.

The Commuting Bicycle

These days, there are many different bikes to choose from and there is no one right answer for everyone. From upright hybrid bicycles and e-bikes (electric assist bikes), to regular mountain bikes and cruisers, they can all do the job. E-bikes have become very popular and there are several commuting versions available. With e-bikes, as you pedal, the motor helps you turn the wheels. These bikes make for an extremely quick way of getting around — with a little less effort on your part.

When choosing a bicycle, it’s important to find a bicycle that is comfortable, can accommodate mounted racks or baskets for carrying your things, and will hold up to riding all over town on a regular basis.

For Your Safety

First of all, your bike is a vehicle and you need to be seen. White, red and orange reflectors make you visible in the low-to-no light hours of the day. A bright tail light will keep you visible to traffic approaching from behind, and your headlight needs to be bright enough to be seen by motorists, both oncoming and at intersections. If you want to see the road at night, consider at least a 450-lumen headlight.

No matter what time of day you ride, having a helmet fastened to your noggin is of utmost importance. In the event of an accident, wearing a helmet could save your life.

Plan A Route

Take advantage of “designated paths of travel” for cyclists. These include the bike paths along Midway Lane and Heber’s Center Street, and also along Mill Road or 1200 East in Heber.

Unfortunately, these routes only service certain parts of Heber and Midway. So, be creative and use side streets that don’t have as much vehicle traffic. For example, ride along 100 West or 100 East in Heber for north to south travel. Ultimately, experience and trial and error will determine the best route to your destination.

The Future Of Cycling In The HV

I caught up with local UDOT engineer Matt Parker to discuss cycling infrastructure in the valley. “As a growing community, having active transportation alternatives to move around the valley are going to become paramount to reducing traffic and congestion in Heber and Midway,” he explained. 

While talking to Matt, it became clear to me that our need for more distinct and connected bike paths, as well as bike lanes on roads, will require more community involvement. Matt pointed out that attending city council meetings and discussing the need for more bicycle routes will demonstrate our desire for more active transportation options in the Heber Valley.

As we paint our own picture of the valley’s future, a place comes to mind where the local lifestyle is simple and active, our collective health benefits from just getting the chores done and we all enjoy quieter streets — all thanks to the positive impact of leaving the car in park and hopping on our bikes instead.  

What stands 11,749’ high, has a heart, a saddle, an emerald, a shack, and some goats?

If you’ve been in Heber for even a short time, you’ll know the valley’s pride lies in the great mountain that sprawls to the west where the sun settles each night. Mount Timpanogos creates a portion of the eastern wall of the Wasatch Front. Often folks claim we, here in Heber, reside on the backside of the great Timpanogos. We’d like to beg their pardon. They happen to be discombobulated, not realizing that we have the front seat to Timp’s right side. Of all the peaks in the Wasatch Mountain Range, the majestic summit is second in height only to Mt. Nebo. Each breathtaking foot is covered in alpine flora, fauna, and crag, while crystal clean water from white peaks, burbles over as falls, and meanders to rivers and streams.

Through The Year

Spring is when the falls of Timp and their gushing runoff are at their prime. Mount Timpanogos Trailhead in Aspen Grove, accessed on State Route 92, is the entry point to three sets of breathtaking waterfall hikes. Timpanogos Falls is made up of an upper and lower set of falls. Visiting both is approximately a 2.5-mile round trip hike. Stewart Falls and Scout Falls are also great options for late spring hikes.

Summer is the best time to beat the heat and get to the heart of the mountain. Timpanogos Cave National Monument leads tours deep into the geologic Timpanogos Cave System. In the depths of the cavern is a large stalactite known as the “Great Heart” of Timpanogos. Legends tell of two hearts joined at death to become one that now lies deep in the mountain.

Summer is also a great time for ambitious hikers and trail runners to reach the peak. But don’t forget your jacket — even in the summer months, the windy summit stays nice and cool. The trek begins at either Aspen Grove or Timpooneke trail. It careens through Mount Timpanogos Wilderness Area, where you may choose to take it slower and camp overnight, remembering there are no fires permitted. Another fun choice is to depart early and squeeze the full excursion into one day. These hikes are where you’ll discover the emerald of Timp — Emerald Lake. Just as a horse’s saddle is sweeping in shape, Mount Timp’s saddle is a sweeping field of boulders where the trail to the peak converges with the ridgeline. Keep your eyes open for the mountain goats, moose, and other wildlife among the profusion of wildflower colors. Marking the summit is an old surveyor shack.

Fall brings a chill to the air, and our trees take center stage. As the bright blooms fade, the deep hues of autumn steal the show. Be sure to take a drive. Throw in a picnic and your camera to make a day of the fully-paved, 20 mile Alpine Scenic Loop. Head out before October passes and our snow closes portions of the loop for the winter.

Winter may offer the best views of Mount Timpanogos from a distance. Adventure junkies sometimes choose to summit Timp in the winter with an ice ax and crampons. If you enjoy snowmobiling or snow biking, Wasatch State Park grooms 72 miles of trail throughout the winter months. They are also home to the 2002 Olympic Site contracted by the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation. This venue allows for Nordic skiing, a tubing hill, and snowshoeing at the base of Timp. Those of you who don’t feel like competing with yetis or Sherpas may choose other ways to enjoy winters with Timpanogos. Relax while you wind leisurely around the base aboard a railcar of the Heber Valley Railroad. Are you an artist? Find a perch in town to paint to your heart’s delight. Or, simply take it easy and get cozy with a warm drink while enjoying the view from your favorite place.

Whatever the season Mount Timpanogos with its high summit, heart, saddle, emerald, shack, and goats, is definitely worth visiting — even if it’s only from your front porch as you watch the sun settle behind Timps peaks.

Hikes:

Timpanogos Falls
1.9 miles |  moderate  |  dogs allowed  |  kid approved

Stewart Falls
3.4 miles |  moderate  |  dogs allowed  |  kid approved

Scout Falls
4.2 miles |  moderate  |  leashed dogs allowed

Aspen Grove Timp Summit
15.7 miles  |  difficult  |  dogs and horses allowed

Timpooneke Timp Summit
12.8 miles  |  difficult  |  dogs allowed  |  $6 fee, pay at yourpassnow.com

For kids:

The Junior Ranger Program
Available at Timpanogos Cave National Monument. Kids explore
the culture and natural history. There is an event every Saturday
at 10:00 am throughout the open season, May-early September.
Go to nps.gov/tica/learn/kidsyouth for more information.

Legend Of Timpanogos:

As with any good story, there are many variations to the Legend of Timpanogos. In fact, at least 12 recorded versions exist today. The legend is centered on the outline of a woman that can be seen in the peaks of the mountain, and the large stalactite called the “Great Heart” found inside the caves.

The legend is “Romeo and Juliet”-esque, featuring the Indian warrior Red Eagle and the beautiful Indian princess Utahna. While their exact roles and circumstances vary from version to version, the story goes that Utahna was chosen as a sacrifice to the gods to end the great drought. When she was about to jump off the cliffs, Red Eagle begged her not to end her life. Thinking Red Eagle was the great God of Timpanogos, Utahna went to the caves with him, and they fell in love.

One day, Red Eagle was injured by a wild animal — which proved he was human after all — so Utahna left to finish her sacrifice to the gods. After she jumped, Red Eagle found her and took her back to the caves, where it is believed their two hearts became one, forming the stalactite that is now called the Great Heart of Timpanogos. People say you can still see the outline of Utahna lying on top of the mountain.

(Courtesy of nationalparks.org)

For more information on Mount Timpanogos and Wasatch State Park visit https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/wasatch-mountain