The Best Places To See Fall Colors in Utah (A Local's Guide)
Fall is one of my favorite times of the year, with cozy blankets, cups of hot chocolate and tea, and Harry Potter movies (yup, I'm a fan, lol). Despite the weather getting colder, I still think it is incredibly important to drink in the last drops of color before the black and white winter hits. So I wrote about the best places to take a road trip for fall colors in the USA, and now I'm going to introduce you to a locals guide to the best places to see fall colors in Utah. We have so many mountains here, but with wildfires, and the pine beetle infections in our forests, not all forest roads are created equal here. Let's dive right into my favorite fall colors in Utah.
Quick Facts About Utah In The Fall
Transportation: It is best to have a 4x4 vehicle or high clearance vehicle if you plan to do off-roading. Most of the roads mentioned here though are all major roads that most vehicles can travel on.
When To Visit: The best time to visit for Fall colors is in early September, but the colors start to peak at the end of September to the first week of October.
Best Things To Do: Grab a picnic and take it up to the mountains to sit among the fall colors. I also suggest bringing an external battery and a low voltage water heater so you can have apple cider or hot cocoa in the mountains. There is also a train ride in Heber (the Heber Creeper) that is just past Park City that allows you to see Fall colors without having to worry about driving.
Dangers in Fall: Do not start fires in Fall in the mountains, everything is still really dry from summer. Utah typically doesn't get too much rain from the beginning of July to the end of September. The foliage, leaves, trees and everything dries out and becomes easily ignitable.
What To Bring
The weather in Utah in September and October can range from 93F (33.9C) to 59F (15C). So bringing a cozy fleece sweater, Keen shoes (my favorite) should likely be sufficient for the colder weather. Make sure to dress in layers, the days can be hot, but the nights can get really cold.
You are going to want to take photos! Make sure to bring your camera gear with you. If you are looking to upgrade your camera I have put together a video on how to choose your camera gear (based on the budget) and what features to look.
You can also check out my Autumn Essentials where I have put all my favorite Autumn vibe clothes, trinkets, and foods.
This route takes you along Logan Canyon National Scenic Byway (U.S. Route 89). I would personally start in Brigham City, then make your way up to Logan, and then to Bear Lake. You can also make a stop in Logan where you can join the Stokes Nature Center Naturalist to guide you on an easy to moderate hike through Logan Canyon. They will point out the different trees in this area, explain why the leaves change colors.
Route 89 takes you up along the Logan River, gaining an elevation of 7,800 feet and if you follow it 2.5 hours north you will end up at Bear Lake with its beautiful turquoise waters. Be sure to check out my article on Things To Do in Bear Lake, and Places To Eat In Bear Lake.
I suggest taking a leisurely hike on Temple Fork Sawmill Trail a 5.3 mile out and back trail. The trail brings you past beaver dams, streams with an elevation gain of 720 feet. The history of his trail revolves around a sawmill that was used to build the Logan Latter-Day Saint Temple. There are several beavers along the way, and it is a haven for squirrels you dash across the trail with their nuts and seeds.
Grab a motorcycle or convertible and a warm coat and head up Ogden Canyon or Highway 39. I suggest going on a weekday as the weekends can make it hard to enjoy the drive up the winding canyon roads because of the traffic. Make your way up the canyon and enjoy the maples, and contrasting Pine colors of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest.
Ogden River Scenic Byway is my favorite place to see the colors of fall in Ogden. There are 44 miles of road to drink in the reds, oranges, and greens starting at the Monte Cristo Campground. You can also take a small 9-mile side trip along Trappers Loop Road.
Trapper's Loop was named after Peter Skene Ogden and his Hudson's Bay Trappers. There are 9 miles of paved roads that takes about 30-45 minutes with a gas and convenience store in Mountain Green.
Retrace Trappers Loop back to the most quaint Huntsville and Eden and up to North Fork Park a certified International Dark sky park to end the perfect day with a perfect evening of stargazing. Spend the night in twelve of the national forest campgrounds in this area.
Ogden also has a long history connected to the pre-Mormon Pioneers and trappers who were in the area since the early 1800s. A trading post was established by Miles Goodyear in 1845, which was bought out by the Mormon leader Brigham Young for Mormon Pioneers to help expand the settlement. The area also has a significant railroad history with the old Union station opened in 1907, and the Browning Firearms Museum.
This is the highest concentration of Aspen Pines in Utah, the areas near Park City. You have the Wasatch Mountain State Park full of hiking trails, mountain bike trails, and ATV trails. The best places to do some leaf-peeping in Park City are through Guardsman Pass, but make sure you check for road closures during poor weather as the first snowfall closes the road due to the elevation.
I recommend hiking Silver Lake to Bald Mountain, it is a moderate 4.7-mile hike that gains 1,433 feet in elevation. It is an out and back trail near Deer Valley surrounded by Aspens and there have even been some Moose ruttings sighted here as well.
Take a walk down Park City Main Street, take a ride in Antique Trolley, and stop off at Summit Pizza for a filling stone-fired pizza, and a cheap locally brewed Beer. Stop by the local High Distillery and wander the boutique shops and streets. Take a short drive to Olympic Park and try your hand at the High Ski Jump and Bobsled simulations.
Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood Canyon Scenic Byway
There are two major canyons in Utah that are frequented by every visitor to Utah if it is Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter. This glacially-carved canyon is home to some of the top ski resorts and snowboard resorts in the Nation - Brighton Ski Resort, and Solitude Resort.
These canyons are located on the way up to Park City. Little Cottonwood Canyon is located along S.R. 210; Big Cottonwood Canyon is located along S.R. 190. The difference between the names is because of the topographic nature of the canyons, one being more narrow than the other. Big Cottonwood Canyon was carved by a glacier, whereas the narrower Little Cottonwood Canyon was carved by a river.
I recommend going to Snowbird Resort and take the Aerial Tram to the top of Hidden Peak. It is a small fee to glide over the trees like a bird and take in the colors, the pine smells of the mountain.
Have a mountain retreat and visit a Swiss mountain town recreation in Heber City and Midway Utah. Start your morning off at the Homestead Crater where you can go Scuba Diving, and soak in a mineral hot spring. Stop by the Rocky Mountain Outfitters and go fly fishing, horseback riding. Homestead Resort also has Chuckwagon dinners perfect for a warm place to soak in the hot springs and get a hot meal.
Take a hike through the Dutch Hollow trail system on the Heber Valley Outlook trail which is a 2.3-mile loop trail, with a 269-foot elevation gain. This is a beautiful dog-friendly trail that overlooks the Provo River, Heber and Midway Valley with a distant view of Timpanogos Mountain Peak.
I also highly recommend taking a ride with the Heber Creeper, an antique steam trains that will take you from Heber to the Provo Canyon. The train line was part of the former Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad branch that connected Heber City to Provo Utah. The train line was completed in 1899 and was abandoned in 1967 before being reopened for tourists in 1970. In 2002 it was part of the Olympic Steam Team carrying spectators to the Soldier Hollow Olympic Venue.
The Utah State Capitol
Designed by local architect Richard Kletting, the Utah State Capitol has been the home to the state government since 1916. He envisioned the Capitol as a place where families could come for picnics and social gatherings. There are 433 Yoshio Cherry trees as a Japanese symbol of friendship after World War II. The walkways in the spring are full of beautiful cherry blossoms that are supposed to symbolism birth, in the fall they explode into a fiery hues of red, yellow, and orange.
Spending time at the Capitol of the State of Utah is peaceful, feeds the soul, and I cannot recommend being here enough to drink in the sights and sounds of Fall.
Memory Grove Park
Memory Grove Park is 8.7 acres of beautifully landscaped space on the Eastside of State Capitol Boulevard. The first memorial built in the park was the classic marble pagoda, whose marble came from the same quarry in Vermont that provided marble to the Lincoln Monument. The Harbor of beauty is the second memorial that was dedicated to the Fallen Memorial soldiers.
No matter where you go in the park, there are small memorials to soldiers who have fallen in battle. My favorite is the meditation chapel, built by Mr. and Mrs. Ross Beason who lost their son in World War II.
There is an area to let your dogs off-leash, a small stream that runs through the park, hiking trails, and a footbridge. The colors here remain late into the fall season (the end of October) as long as there aren't any powerful windstorms that knock all the leaves down that is. Utah is known for getting spots of snow throughout October.
This area is a favorite spot for locals on Sundays and too many photographers taking fall family, and couple photos.
The Alpine Loop (S.R. 92) is a road I traveled many times as a child from April to October. It is a 20-mile paved road that starts in American Fork Canyon and brings you through switchbacks past Timpanogos Cave, Sundance, and the Uinta National Forest.
A pass ($6) is required to use the loop and cash or card is accepted. The road starts at 5,000-foot elevation and the road peaks at 8,000 feet.
Be sure to stop by the Timpanogos cave and here the story of the heart of Timpanogos. The cave is free and tours are provided throughout the summer to see the 'beating heart' of Timpanogos. The cave tour is 55 minutes long and limited to 16 people per tour, you can purchase your tickets here.
Provo Canyon Scenic Byway (U.S. Route 189) is an impressive route that winds past Sundance Mountain Resort and parallel to the Provo River. The best places to see fall colors in Provo Canyon are at Deer Creek Reservoir State Park, Soldier Hollow, and Bridal Veil Falls.
Deer Creek Reservoir is surrounded by giant cottonwood trees that turn a brilliant shade of yellow in the fall with the big broad leaves. Pair this with the 5.7 miles long Deer Creek Reservoir water reflections and I guarantee you will have a little tear of gratefulness in your eyes.
Bridal Veil Falls is is a 1.4 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail that only gains 114 feet and is very dog and family-friendly. I suggest visiting on the weekdays or before 10 am on the weekend because of the nearby colleges (Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University) it is a highly popular date night spot. The waterfall is surrounded by pines and aspens which perfectly compliment this 365-foot waterfall.
Energy Loop and Eccles & Huntington Canyon
The Energy Loop is located in Price Utah and is an 83-mile scenic byway in the Manti-La Sal National Forest southeast of Huntington and Eccles Canyon. It starts out in Fairview and follows SR-31 east to SR-231, follows cottonwood creek towards Fairview canyon. Follow the road 6-7 miles and it will split at the top of the canyon.
The combination of beautiful aspen trees and cottonwood trees will surround you with brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows of fall.
The South fork climbs over 9,600 feet before dropping down into Huntington Reservoir, Cleveland reservoir, and Electric Lake. It leads to Huntington canyon and Huntington Creek eventually exiting the national forest and ending at the city of Huntington.
The North fork turns onto SR-264 and heads to the North end of Electric Lake, then turns North to Upper Huntington Canyon. After 3 miles it crosses over into Eccles Canyon. After 6 miles it turns back north and spits you out in Scofield and Scofield Reservoir. You can end there or continue on for a few more miles before ending northwest of Price Canyon near Colton.
This route is full of mining and energy production history for Utah. There are several interpretive sites along the way include the site that paleontologists recovered a 9,500-year-old mammoth skeleton.
Fishlake Scenic Byway and Pando
There are over 13,700 acres here with 3,000 of those being made of lakes and reservoirs. There are 4 campgrounds, 7 picnic areas, 1 boating site, 3 rustic resorts, and 125 summer homes here. The rustic resorts are open year-round for those who would like to camp, ride and ice fish in the winter here.
Beyond the mountains, lakes, and streams that will delight and enthrall you with color, adventure, and wonder her - Fishlake National Forest is home to one of the most unique organisms in the world. In fact, it is the largest single organism in the world, Pando.
Pando is a network of birch trees that scientists have confirmed genetically is all the same organism. The organism makes up 106 acres, weighs 13 million pounds, and is made up of 40,000 individual trees. This is not just a beautiful location for fall colors in Utah, but you will be witness to the most unique plant on the planet.
Cedar Breaks Scenic Byway (S.R. 148)
This is a scenic byway in the heart of Dixie National Forest and 15 miles east of Cedar City. It is a 1/2 mile deep, and three miles wide of carved spirals, ridges that glow with reds, oranges, and yellows with the golden hour from the setting sun. The fee is $5 to get in as it is located within the Cedar Breaks National Monument.
The brilliant yellow aspens and red rocks surrounded by green pine trees are a cacophony of color that the eyes can feast on for your fall leaf-peeping.
Final Tips for Leaf Peeping In Utah
I feel like fall is the perfect time of year to say goodbye to a wonderful summer season full of adventures. It is a time to stock up on your fall essentials, the favorite sweater, and a cozy cup of hot cocoa with a good book. Soak in the fall colors and leaf-peeping with these gorgeous hikes, drives, and train rides throughout Utah.
Fall colors can vary depending on the season, and if there are storms that come through. Make sure to check Alltrails or local hiking Facebook groups where you can see just how brilliantly beautiful the fall colors can be in Utah.
Where To Stay
Google Map Of Locations
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Travel Insurance I recommend
World Nomads is the travel insurance I highly recommend because of their customizability for not just flights, luggage, emergencies, but also for high risk activities. High risk activities like Scuba Diving, Rock climbing, mountain biking etc... No matter what insurance you decide to purchase, always always always make sure to read it carefully and thoroughly to ensure you can get back to your HOME, not just the nearest airport. This is imperative for situations where medical transport may be required, which can be close to $10,000+ just to get from one end of the country to another.
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My name is Janiel, a medical professional, and solo adventurer. I have over 23 years of international travel experience and have a sincere passion for celebrating humanity, connecting with cultures, finding unique art and adventure. I’m an advocate for animals and sustainable travel and want to invite you to join the Culture Trekking community.