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Hiking Y Mountain in Provo Utah

Y Mountain in Utah

Y Mountain

A trip to Utah Valley wouldn’t truly be complete without a hike to the “Y”. Since I’m trying to stay in shape myself (always another race to train for) and also encouraging my kids to stay fit, I decided to tackle the hike with the six kiddos on our last full day in Utah before we headed back to the OC.

For those of you who are not familiar with the area, on the mountain East of Brigham Young University there’s a large white block letter Y that has become the nationally recognized insignia for BYU and the reason why BYU is often called “the Y”. It’s made of concrete and is 380 feet high and 130 feet wide. The Y is even larger than the “Hollywood Sign” in Los Angeles!

The Y trail is one of the most hiked trails in Utah Valley and provides panoramic views of the valley cities and Utah Lake. The view from the top is definitely worth the hike.

View of Utah Valley from Y Mountain

View of Utah Valley from Y Mountain

The trail is divided into 11 “turns” each of which are marked with sign posts telling you how far until the next turn. From the trail head to the top of the Y you gain over 1,000 feet in elevation over about 1 mile hiking distance. So it’s a steep trail, but it is definitely  manageable by even young, old, and novice hikers as well as those who are in great physical shape. There are even benches along the way to take a rest break if needed.

Trail Map to Y Mountain in Utah

How to get to the Y

We made the trek with several family members encompassing 3 generations including my inlaws (who have 30 grandchildren), a few from my husband’s generation, and then grandkids including my son who just turned 6 a nephew who turned 5 in April.

Family getting ready to hike Y Mountain in Utah

The Sherwood Crew (minus Grandma, Grandpa & myself)- ready to hike to the top of the Y

The nice thing about hiking a trail like this with a large group is that everyone can go at their own pace – we were pretty much spread out along most of the trail. Those who had the motivation & energy led the way to the top. Most of us were in smaller groups making our way up the trail and then there where those who brought up the rear of the group making sure no one got left behind. As you can see from the picture below, it’s a busy trail. There were people coming down as we were going up and when we made our way down others were on their way up.

Father and Son hiking together to the top of Y Mountain in Utah

Father & son hiking together

When you reach turn 10 the trail splits and you can choose to go to the “bottom” of the Y or to the “top”. Either way you go you will make it to the whitewashed concrete emblem and be able to traverse the face of the Y to your heart’s content. In the pictures it kind of looks like the kids are sitting in snow – but it’s hard whitewashed concrete. It’s still fun to explore, but not cold and wet like snow is. The face of the Y is fairly steep so you do have to be careful as you make your way over the bumpy terrain.

Exploring Y Mountain in Utah

Exploring the Y

The history of the Y is interesting to note. The Y is over 100 years old. In early 1906 the junior class of Brigham Young University proposed painting ’07 on the mountain. Of course, the senior class was none to pleased, so the president of the university at the time, George H. Brimhall, proposed they paint the letters BYU on the mountain instead. In April 1906, after an initial survey was complete and the emblem was designed, a line of high school and university students, and some faculty, passed buckets of lime, sand, and rocks up the mountain in order to fill up the letters, beginning int he middle with the Y. After six hours of hard labor, only the Y had been completed, so the filling in of the remaining two letters was postponed and later abandoned.  Thus the reason for the Y on the mountain, as opposed to perhaps a B. In 1907 the BYU ‘Y Day’ tradition began. This consisted of thousands of students hauling, by bucket brigade, gallons of whitewash up the mountain to paint the giant Y. This tradition lasted until 1973. These days a helicopter is used to carry thousands of pounds of whitewash to repaint the Y about every 5 years. There is also a tradition of “lighting the Y” for special events like Homecoming and Graduation where strings of lights are placed around the Y so it is alight at night.

Great picture spots along the Y Trail

Great picture spots along the trail

Whether you are a BYU fan or not, if you happen to make a trip up to Utah make sure you take the family to hike to the Y. It’s a great hike, beautiful scenery, and an opportunity for creating great family memories!

Julie is an OC Supermom to six beautiful children in Orange County. She is an editor with Astraea Press, active in the community and enjoys running in her free time.




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