I look forward to the changing of the seasons. And this time of year the leaves in the mountains of Utah glow in brilliant colors. I love fall. Not only is it beautiful, the weather is generally pleasant and perfect for exploring and other outdoor activities.
Here in Utah, we are lucky to have such distinct seasons and plenty of wonderful places to enjoy the foliage nearby.Each year, chlorophyll breaks down in the leaves of deciduous trees, causing them to loose their green and leave the yellow and red pigments behind. It’s one of nature’s most beautiful annual events.
The last few weeks I have been out and enjoying the leaves and taking photos. Unfortunately, a widespread tree disease has caused many of the tree’s color to be rather dull in many places. Nevertheless, it isn’t hard to find some vibrancy out there.
Cottonwood Canyons & Guardsman Pass
The Cottonwood Canyons, located near Salt Lake City, are home to four ski resorts and countless trails for recreation. It is a popular place to be any time of year. If you make your way into the higher elevations of the mountains of the Wasatch, you will find endless acres of aspen trees. While some trails require some extensive and difficult hiking, there are plenty of places near the highway and ski resorts to see the trees. For example, Silver Lake at Brighton Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon is an easy trail suitable for small kids. If you are looking for a little more challenge, try the Willow Heights trail (also in Big Cottonwood Canyon) leading to Willow Lake. If you are looking for something to really give you a workout, Lake Blanche (one of my favorite hikes in the area) has some beautiful aspens in the fall.
Even if you are looking to just drive around and see the leaves, there are some great options. Continuing up Big Cottonwood Canyon, you can take the road through Guardsman Pass. The aspen trees here are a beautiful golden color. You can continue over the pass and into Park City or the Heber Valley.
We had some large storms at the beginning of September which brought heavy rains and cold temperatures to much of the state. It was cold enough for it to snow in some of the highest elevations along the Wasatch range. Soon the snow will begin to pile. If you are planning on driving through Guardsman Pass, you should do it soon. The road is not plowed during snowfall and is closed annually each year (usually in late October or early November).
Another scenic byway popular for an autumn drive or hiking is the Alpine Loop area and American Fork Canyon in Utah County. This road will also close when the snow begins to fall, so plan accordingly. Aspens are abundant in this area as well and the beautiful landscapes make it even more worth it. Access from American Fork Canyon or from Provo Canyon and through Sundance Resort. Note that a fee is assessed per vehicle.
These are just a select few places to see the autumn color in the Wasatch. Utah is full of other wonderful scenic places to take it in as well. Utah.com offers some other ideas for some scenic drives in the state. Don’t procrastinate though, the higher altitudes will loose their color soon!