Winter Backpacking to 5th Water Springs


Ready For More
Jul 23, 2013
This past Friday, a group of fellow BCP'ers @steve, @Tess, @Mike K, @LarryBoy, @Sam De Vries, and friends, set out on a winter backpacking trip up to 5th Water Springs. For some of us, it was our first ever backpacking experience in the winter. For others, it was the first time camping at all in the winter. Somewhat surprisingly, given the weather forecast, the group had grown to 10 by Friday. All proved to be pleasant company.

Weather forecast for the valley was showers. We wondered what that would mean for the trail and how the increased elevation would effect the weather. The theory was that with all the cloud cover, temperatures would stay milder. The hope was that rain would not become a mainstay for the night. The theory proved correct and our hope would be fulfilled. Despite the increase in elevation, the temperature would bottom out at about 34° and the only precipitation I recall was a brief little flurry along the trail up.

We got started on the hike just after 7 pm. The hike is much farther in the winter season than the rest of the year. A gate closure on the road up Diamond Fork forced us to hike an extra 4 miles up road before hitting trailhead proper at which point it was appropriate to thrown on our traction spikes for the ice stretches that awaited us on the trail. It was a little over 2 more miles from the trailhead to our campsite for the night. By about 10 pm, we were setting up camp. Soon after, we were on our way up the quarter mile or so to scout out the many hot spring pools. Only a few others were present in the lower pools and were welcoming, but we pressed on to the upper pools. There was another group of 5 there as well who had been there for a while, and they too were very hospitable.

We settled in there, despite the sardine effect created with the addition of our group. With some good conversation, Steve made a valiant attempt to recruit them to BCP.

Not long after, the prior group departed and left our group to solely occupy the pool.

After soaking in the sulphur for a good couple of hours, it was time to head back to camp and retire for the night.

Upon waking, I ventured back up the trail to get some photos of the area while the light was still decent. Fortunately, there were no early birds occupying any of the pools either, so it made for a very peaceful walk about and some people-free photos.
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The lower pools.
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The lower falls.
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The upper pools. The one on the left was the larger and warmer of the two, and thus the one we had huddled into.
The upper falls.
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Back down at the lower falls.

And the lower pools again.

Working my way back down the creek to our camp.
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Back at camp.
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After some breakfast, it was time to pack up and head back down trail.

The group.

Who knew there was a red sandstone arch up Diamond Fork and that close to Provo? Not I!

And this is what happens when you stop to get a good angle shot on the arch above. The group moves on...41-P1010929.JPG

Most of us capped off the trip with a lunch stop at the Cracker Barrel in Springville. I think everyone had a terrific time. Given the milder temperatures, I questioned whether this could still count as a winter camp. Well, the calendar says it counts. The only thing I wish I would have done differently, would have been to pack one of my lighter weight and more compressible 15° or 20° bags rather than my 15 year old 0° Coleman that took about about 90% of my pack space.

Thanks again to Steve and Tess for organizing this and the invite! Looking forward to being a part of this winter tradition for many years to come.

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Great TR & photos! For all the time I've spent in Diamond Fork, I've never been to the hot springs. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for writing that up! This definitely counts as winter camping since we were sleeping on snow. Really, the only difference between this and a 5* night is the amount of insulation you need.
Thanks for writing that up! This definitely counts as winter camping since we were sleeping on snow. Really, the only difference between this and a 5* night is the amount of insulation you need.

No prob! You may have been sleeping on snow. I made the mistake of sleeping on mud. :(
Thanks for the write-up @WasatchWill! Great pics and trip report. Here's some more pics. All can be found in this flickr album if you want to see 'em all.

Lots of loft!
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Dave ready to emerge from his 4-season tent:
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@LarryBoy packing up:
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@Sam De Vries stuffing something:
2015-01-31 09.22.05.jpg

@Sam De Vries again:
2015-01-31 09.22.39.jpg

Breaking camp:
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A content Billy:
2015-01-31 09.23.09.jpg

@steve and @Tess and teamwork!
2015-01-31 09.23.23.jpg

Cody still smiling even though he froze (pad wasn't the greatest):
2015-01-31 09.23.33.jpg

Fender ready to get off the cold snow :
2015-01-31 09.23.47.jpg

Ready to roll and head to Cracker Barrel:
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Watch your step!
2015-01-31 10.22.10.jpg

Looking up 6th Water Creek from the bridge:
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Taking off the "spikes" at Three Forks Trail Head:
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Ugh. makes me sick to see the lack of snow up there... They should open up the gate and let us all drive to the TH! haha

Believe me, it was overcrowded as it was. Opening the gate would just make it a zoo up there. We probably passed at least 50 people heading up to the hot springs as we were coming out.
No kidding...even with the 7ish miles required to get to the springs, I was floored at how many people we saw up there. We even saw groups hiking in around midnight when we were heading to bed. So popular!
i think the main pools were only vacant from 4 AM till 7 AM
Looks like it was a great time. Glad the trip turned out to be a success. Great pics too Will.
As a Utahn I am ashamed that I have not been to these springs yet. Great pics.

What type of gear do you need for a 34 degree night? (Tent, Bag, Pad?)
you definitely need a pad and a bag. :)

It all depends on how hot you sleep and what you like.

I sleep cold. I used a 15* bag with a neo air xtherm pad inside a bivvy and I was toasty all night (even a little too hot at times). A 20* bag would have been fine for me.

Last year when I did this trip, the temps were around 5-7* at night, and I definitely would have been cold in my 15* bag.
Looks like a fun trip. It's crazy how little snow there is in the lower elevations. I have started hiking the trails this past week, went up Battle Creek and was able to go several miles before I ran into any snow.
I was up there this past Sunday morning. The gate is open, you can drive all the way to the trail head. We met some regulars (one guy said he's up there most weekends) at the pools who said the gate is unpredictable; said it was open for awhile in January, then closed again without any snowfall to justify it, then open again while we were there.
We arrived at about 9:am and there were 3 other cars in the parking lot. Much of the trail is covered in ice, we had ice cleats but everyone we saw on the trail without them was struggling; moving very slowly and chewing up the area immediately surrounding the trail by creating and using social trails through the treeline wherever the terrain made it possible. The pools were great, and not too crowded with a dozen or so people around. We left at about 1:00pm when more people showed up. We must have seen 40 or 50 people hiking up while we were hiking down. There were 26 cars in the lot when we left.
Great TR! Where is the trailhead and how do you get there? I would love to do this trip before the summer comes.
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