American Fork: A Limestone Home Away From Home

Salt Lake City is a hidden gem for the outdoor enthusiast and it blows my mind I didn’t find it sooner. Because of the stigma surrounding Utah, many people (previously myself included) grow weary the second the Beehive state is mentioned. While this is unfortunate for those tee-tottering over the idea of moving out West, the growing number of us who have found this mecca of outdoor sport are reveling in our adventure filled backyard.

Thirty minutes south of downtown, American Fork Canyon snakes it’s way up the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. It brings in tourists wanting to explore the Timpanogos cave, enjoy a picnic at one of the many picnic areas, or camp at the various campgrounds. For me and my friends, it’s a limestone playground.

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Limestone on limestone on limestone. Photo cred: my photo-taking-fiend of a husband

According to Mountain Project, American Fork boasts 475 routes, the majority being sport, which makes sense as American Fork was the birthplace of steep-overhanging sport routes back in the 1980’s.

While I’m not typically one for steep-overhanging sport routes, I’m slowly beginning the enjoy getting physical with routes like Helix (5.12b at Black Magic Cave), and Naked Nebula (5.12a at White Wave Wall).

The area is great to explore in the summer months since the elevation keeps temps at a comfortable level. However, be prepared to keep some hand warmers in your chalk bag if you decide to head to any crag on the south side of the canyon in mid-late October.

What’s even better? For those of us looking to not bust our lungs on a long approach, the majority of crags are only a few paces off the road. Though, don’t let that fool you, as nearly every trail in Utah heads straight up.

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Photo Cred: My handsome husband

The facts:

Guidebook: Climber’s Guide to American Fork Canyon—In Salt Lake, pick it up at IME or the Gear Room. From the South, check out Mountainworks in Provo for a wealth of information. If you’re looking to add to your Dividend, REI keeps the guidebook in stock. Also check it out on Mountain Project for more up-to-date information about the newer, shiny-bolted routes.

Camping: Six campgrounds, all running at a rate of $21/night for 8 people. I’d suggest bringing seven lucky friends to cut down the cost.

Getting there: From Salt Lake: 1-15 down to exit 284, then take a left on Highway 92 which takes you straight into the canyon. From Provo: 1-15 N to exit 276, left on State Street, then right on Highway 146 which takes you straight into the canyon after joining with 92.

**If driving into American Fork just to climb, you can circumnavigate the fee by parking in the gravel pullout areas. Otherwise it’s $3 a day to access the canyon.

Other things to keep in mind: Utah is very protective of their watershed and asks all visitors and mother-nature-enjoyers to keep their business at least 200ft away from any body of water. Unlike the Cottonwood’s, your pups are allowed to enjoy American Fork Canyon. And, as always, Leave No Trace, people. If you packed it in, please pack it out.

Have you visited American Fork? Let me know your favorite route so I can check it out!

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