Leaves are turning, and Utah’s mountain canyons will be aglow with yellows, oranges and rosy pinks for the next few weeks.
Botanists say conditions should be good, especially at higher elevations, but farther down the mountain, the season might be brief.
“It’s been drier in lower elevations. That might go green to brown pretty quick,” said Tucker Sierzega, timber program manager for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.
In Fishlake National Forest, leaves were starting to change last week, said forest spokesman John Zapell, and Tribune hiker Nate Carlisle caught some color at Spirit Lake near Flaming Gorge in Ashley National Forest.
While much is made of anticipating THE peak at any given spot, it is hard to be disappointed by any leaf excursion on a nice day in late September or early October.
But if you’re looking for some direction or just an excuse for a weekend trip, here are some of the top destinations for fall colors in Utah’s mountain ranges.
1. Sardine and Logan Canyons (U.S. Highway 89)
From Brigham City to Bear Lake, U.S. Highway 89 is among the most popular areas for leaf peeping in Utah. There also are dozens of hikes to choose from in that area; Logan Canyon’s River Trail is easy to get to and easy to hike.
2. Monte Cristo Highway (State Road 39) and Trappers Loop Road (State Road 167)
3. Mirror Lake Highway (State Road 150)
This is always a gorgeous drive, but the aspen stands really light up in fall. The Beaver Creek Trail and Provo River Falls are good stopping points.
4. Ashley National Forest
The Ashley National Forest offers some of Utah’s most remote wild lands and scenic fall hikes. Check out a hike at Spirit Lake for inspiration. Deer Lake, near Yellowstone Canyon, is another option.
5. Big Cottonwood Canyon (State Road 190) to Guardsman Pass and Midway
There is no bad Salt Lake County canyon to visit in fall, but this is the classic trip for familiar hikes and massive panoramas. On your way into Midway (Wasatch County), visit the Pine Creek Nature Trail for the hot pinks and reds on the east side of the Wasatch.
6. Alpine Scenic Loop plus Cascade Spring
The Alpine Loop (State Road 92) from American Fork Canyon to Provo Canyon is beloved by fall visitors not only for its leaf display but for the dramatic cliffs in the immediate background. The Aspen Grove trail has some of the most convenient photo spots. The Cascade Springs Nature Trail, a 7-mile drive from S.R. 92 on Forest Service Road 114, is at its best in fall.
7. Wasatch Plateau
The Manti-La Sal National Forest of central Utah is a fun destination in its own right; visitors from the Wasatch Front also can add a trip to the Nebo Loop Road on the way. Make time for a hike in the Left Fork of Huntington Canyon, or go for a motor sports adventure.
8. Fishlake National Forest
9. La Sal Mountains
The La Sals usually are seen from far away, in the distant background of a photo from Canyonlands or elsewhere around Moab. But the peaks and their skirts of forests are great for fall color viewing. Cyclists can take a spin on the Whole Enchilada trail — but go before the snow falls.
10. Greater Bryce Canyon
For most tourists, Bryce Canyon is an out-and-back affair. But consider that the national park is surrounded by forests. Grab a gazetteer and a camera, pick your way around the woods and give some time to the trees while they're as colorful as the hoodoos.