Leaf peeping in the Wasatch

I didn’t start my drive to Provo Canyon thinking Utah’s fall foliage would put on such a show. I have high standards coming from Ohio, and the bit of fall I saw in Utah in 2011 was not memorable. I saw the aspens turning yellow, but where were the fiery reds and oranges I was accustomed to?

Maybe it is the drastically different winters the past two years. Last fall was coming off an extended winter and brilliant summer wildflower display. This most recent winter was less than thrilling leading to a summer with a lovely but not excessive wildflower display. Fall is definitely making up for it.

From my balcony I can see the brown-green east bench of the Wasatch Front dotted with reds, but trees on the valley floor have not yet given in to the end of summer. Up is where you have to go.

Bare aspens contrast with the dark red, orange and green around them on Pine Canyon Road in Wasatch Mountain State Park.

A customer at work told me about her recent drive through Provo Canyon to see the leaves, so when I had a chance, I decided to take my own trip south to Utah County and back up through Wasatch County, with stops to see Bridal Veil Falls along US-189, Sundance Resort, Midway and Heber Valley Artisan Cheese, where ice cream is available, with a return drive on UT-224 and UT-152 to Big Cottonwood Canyon’s east entrance.

Bridal Veil Falls

Provo Canyon turned out to be too low to be saturated with aspens and instead was covered with other trees turning red and orange. It was lovely, and as I kept driving east, the leaves kept getting prettier.

Fall in Provo Canyon with Provo River

I turned up Alpine Scenic Highway UT-92 towards the Sundance Resort, and with the elevation gain and bright afternoon sun, the leaves continued to impress.

Leaves near the Sundance Resort on UT-92

I returned to US-189, driving around Deer Creek State Park and Reservoir and turning north onto UT-113 toward Midway. My adventures in Midway and Heber Valley Artisan Cheese are worthy of their own post.

The next section of my fall foliage drive was the most outstanding and I was not the only person out admiring the leaves at Wasatch Mountain State Park. Pine Canyon Road/UT-224 heads upcanyon through the park on a windy and narrow two-lane road without guardrails. Even I made sure to not get too close to the edge. There were occasional opportunities to pull over and admire the view.

Surrounded by color in Wasatch Mountain State Park

Meadow with changing leaves in Wasatch Mountain State Park

Be sure to stop at a wide curve to admire the trees and Heber Valley before the road heads into the mountains.

Heber Valley and Wasatch Mountain State Park panorama

The drive continues through the park for a few more miles before getting to private land in a dense aspen grove and then comes to an intersection where UT-224 heads east to Deer Valley Resort and Park City and a left turn heads west down Big Cottonwood Canyon Road.

The trees were not as varied in Big Cottonwood Canyon and I stopped only once, when the haze was enveloping the mountains.

Big Cottonwood Canyon haze

Big Cottonwood Canyon haze

What to know before you go

The drive took about five hours with frequent stops.

No admission fees are required for the drive or any of the stops I made.

It was a tough drive down Big Cottonwood Canyon into the sun without sunglasses, so be prepared.

Shift down when driving downhill for a safer drive.

The drive could be completed in either direction. I think it is easier to look at my surroundings when I am driving uphill as opposed to downhill, and the drive from Midway to Big Cottonwood Canyon had the most to look at, so I would suggest the directions I took with heading first to Provo and then north on the east side of the Wasatch.

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6 Responses to Leaf peeping in the Wasatch

  1. Dounia says:

    Beautiful photos and the colors are amazing! Looks like it was a beautiful drive – thanks for sharing!

  2. Lutz Braum says:

    Beautiful! I’m enjoying the fall foliage as well, but up in Vermont. Although I love Utah!

  3. I’m so jealous of those who have ‘season’. Beautiful colors!

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