Fall Leaves: Showing their true colors
Fall leaves are hitting their peak in much of Utah and throughout the United States. The U.S. Forest Service's autumn leaf hot line, 800-354-4595, and Web site, http://www.fs.fed.us/r4/ conditions/#fall, are good sources of up-to-date conditions. Here are 10 top fall experiences in Utah:
Tri Canyon Area
Close-to-Salt Lake rides up Mill Creek ($2.25 fee) and Big and Little Cottonwood canyons can be enjoyed in less than an hour. Hiking Grandeur Peak in Mill Creek Canyon, walking around Silver Lake in Big Cottonwood Canyon or trekking to White Pine Lake in Little Cottonwood Canyon are all good hikes to enjoy the fall. Mountain bikers enjoy the Pipeline Trail in Mill Creek Canyon. Consider camping at the Spruces in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Take the Alpine exit off Interstate 15 and go east into American Fork Canyon ($2 fee). You can stop at Tibble Fork Reservoir on the North Fork to do some fishing or take the narrow, winding road at the base of Mt. Timpanogos all the way to Provo Canyon. Take the Cascade Springs turnoff for an easy nature walk.
This scenic drive goes along the east side of the Mt. Nebo Wilderness past Payson Lakes and ends in Salt Creek Canyon just east of Nephi. There are numerous turnoffs along the way to enjoy the scenery. There is a paved trail around Payson Lake, making this an ideal place for youngsters or seniors who have difficulty walking long distances.
Monte Cristo Highway
East of Ogden, drive to Huntsville and take the drive on State Highway 39 toward Woodruff. If you don't have your kids along, stop at the Shooting Star saloon in Huntsville for a Star Burger. There is also a dirt road over Ant Flat that leads to Hardware Ranch and Blacksmith Fork Canyon.
Take U.S. 89-91 from Brigham City to Logan, stopping at the little country store in Mantua for some penny candy. Then drive through Logan and up U.S. 89 through Logan Canyon to Bear Lake. There are many good camping areas in Logan Canyon, though the weather can be on the cool side at night. Hiking to the Limber Pine or into the Mt. Naomi Wilderness Area can add to the enjoyment. To complete a fall loop, drive from there to Woodruff and take the Monte Cristo Highway back to Interstate 15.
Energy Loop (State Route 31)
Pick up this scenic road in Fairview on the Sanpete County side or Huntington on the Emery County side. There is good fly-fishing in the blue-ribbon-quality Huntington Creek and excellent camping in developed and undeveloped spots along the way. The aspens are particularly beautiful near the top of the mountain. Consider taking a side trip to the town of Scofield with its historic cemetery and then driving home through U.S. 6 in Spanish Fork Canyon, where the leaf displays can be spectacular.
Cedar Breaks-Navajo Lake
Take Highway 14 from Cedar City or Highway 143 from Parowan. Both lead to Cedar Breaks National Monument ($4 fee per person over 17) and to the Markagunt Plateau. The dirt road drive to Strawberry Point is worth the effort. Navajo Lake features good fishing and nice campgrounds, and Cedar Breaks provides some memorable fall redrock views mixed with fall colors. Fall leaves tend to turn later in the year in this part of Utah.
Sheep Creek-Spirit Lake Loop Scenic Byway
Near Flaming Gorge Reservoir in extreme northeastern Utah, this canyon is more remote than many in the state. Sheep Creek Canyon has fascinating geological formations, while Spirit Lake provides good fishing. Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area ($2 fee) offers all sorts of great fall scenery as well, including walking or floating down the Green River below the Flaming Gorge Dam.
Thousand Lake Mountain-Boulder Mountain-Capitol Reef
Start by driving east on Interstate 70 over Salina Canyon. Take Exit 85 and drive over Thousand Lake Mountain on Highway 72, stopping at the many viewpoints to enjoy panoramic views. That road ends in Loa. Drive east on Highway 24 through Capitol Reef National Park, where displays around the Fruita Campground are beautiful. Then drive Highway 12 over the Boulder Mountain.
La Sal Loop
Most travelers associate Moab with Canyonlands and Arches. But this loop, which begins in Castle Valley off Highway 128 and ends on U.S. 191 south of Moab, belies that fact. While it is possible to enjoy views of the redrock country from the road, this is largely alpine country. Warner Lake just off the loop is a beautiful campground and little fishing hole surrounded by brilliant yellow quaking aspens.