Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes
During late September and early October, Utah really starts to show off. The hills light up with a gorgeous display of red, orange, yellow, pink and purple hues that create beautiful backdrops for family pictures, scenic hikes, fall picnics and any other outdoor activity.
The only downside is that it doesn't last forever. The autumn leaves are at their most vibrant for only three to four weeks, so fill up your car and get out there! From north to south, here are some of the best places in the state to see the stunning fall foliage in person.
Take a drive up north through Logan Canyon during the fall and you'll think your eyes are deceiving you. Though you'll see every color of the fall palette on display, the bright reds from the maples are particularly eye-catching. Enjoy the scenery from your car, or take a hike up the Wind Cave Trail to see some of the best fall colors in the state.
If you're looking for an easy autumn jaunt close to downtown Salt Lake, Millcreek Canyon will not disappoint. Aside from the vibrant fall leaves, the creek itself provides some beautiful background music to accompany the Instagram-worthy views.
Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons
Since these canyons are back-to-back, they've been combined into one destination. Yet they each offer something distinct, so make sure you trek up both of them! Big Cottonwood is a prime recreational area where you can get out and enjoy the fall colors on your hike up to Donut Falls or any other trail in the area.
Then head up to Snowbird's Oktoberfest in Little Cottonwood Canyon and drink up all those bright yellow quaking aspens among the oak, fir and pine trees. For a full panoramic view, hike the mountain or ride the Snowbird tram to the top.
Mirror Lake Highway
Thanks to the higher elevation, Mirror Lake Highway is one of the first places you'll start to notice the leaves changing color. Winding through the Uinta Mountains, this road is about as serene as it gets if you want a stunning view of the fall foliage. Take a pause to enjoy the cascading waterfalls at the Provo River Falls as well and you won't be disappointed.
You can't call yourself a true Utahn until you've driven the Alpine Loop at least once. Though it's beautiful year-round, the fall is when it really shines. In addition to all the golden, crisp reds, yellow, and oranges of the leaves, you also get jaw-dropping views of Mount Timpanogos and the Lone Peak Wilderness area.
Utah.com says the whole loop is only 20 miles long, but you could easily spend a full day stopping to enjoy all the sites along the way. (It doesn't get much better than seeing the waterfalls at Cascade Springs against the backdrop of Provo Canyon.) Keep in mind that this road is narrow, and vehicles more than 30 feet long aren't recommended.
To catch the fall palette at its prime, you can either hike, bike, drive — or ride up a ski lift. Now through Oct. 10, you can ride Ray's lift at Sundance Resort for 360-degree panoramic views of the autumn colors in the canyon. It's a breathtaking experience that won't leave you winded.
Mount Nebo Scenic Loop
Another popular drive is the Mount Nebo Scenic Loop, which runs from Payson to Nephi. This 38-mile scenic byway shows off great views of the nearly 12,000-ft. Mount Nebo, with several pullouts and overlooks along the way, Utah.com says. Along with the bright fall colors, be sure to stop at the Devil's Kitchen to enjoy the red rock cliffs and spires. The best viewing times are typically mid to late September — and you might still catch a peek at the wildflowers if you're lucky!
Hobble Creek Canyon
If you want a similar vibe to Mount Nebo or Alpine Loop without the heavy traffic, Hobble Creek Canyon is a great alternative. The road travels through the canyon following Hobble Creek's West Fork and heads past Strawberry Reservoir before looping back to US Highway 89, Explore Utah Valley states.
It might just become your new fall favorite.
Fishlake National Forest
Fishlake National Forest should be on your fall bucket list if only to see Pando, the world's heaviest living organism. Pando is a colony of quaking aspen trees that grew from a single seed. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, it spreads over 106 acres and consists of over 40,000 individual trees. The United States Postal Service dubbed it one of the "40 Wonders of America" in 2006, which earned Pando its own stamp. People come from all over the world to see its gorgeous yellow and orange hues in the fall. Don't miss it!
Cedar City's Fall Color Loop
The annual Utah Shakespearean Festival isn't the only show Cedar City puts on in the fall. According to visitcedarcity.com, both NBC's Today Show and USA Today rate it as one of the "Top Eight Unique Destinations to View Fall Colors." This two-hour drive takes you through the red rock vistas of Southern Utah all the way to Cedar Breaks National Monument. For the best leaf-peeping opportunities around Brian Head and Cedar Breaks, plan your visit around late September to early October.
Zion National Park
Red rocks are probably the first things that come to mind when you picture a trip to Zion. But this national park offers up plenty of festive fall colors to feast your eyes on as well. Red, yellow, and orange hues set against a backdrop of sandy cliffs is a photo op you won't want to miss. To find the best hikes — ranging from family-friendly to epically challenging — visit ZionNationalPark.com.
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