Written By Lynn R. Blamires, feature writer for My Local Utah
Utah has the advantage of four distinct seasons. With the fall season upon us, it promises to be spectacular for “leaf-peepers.” This is a term first coined in 1966 by a Vermont newspaper that refers to the activity of traveling to view and photograph the changing colors of the fall foliage. While New England is considered the gold standard by leaf-peepers, Utah has loops and drives that will indeed offer a pleasing palate of colors.
Atmospheric conditions have been shaping up to make this year’s colors bright and beautiful. Moisture from last winter’s heavy snows, followed by good spring rains and late monsoonal moisture, add to the optimal color formula. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, crisp but not freezing nights seems to bring about the most spectacular color displays.”
The best time to see nature’s colorful displays varies from Northern to Southern Utah. The window of opportunity in the northern part is late September through early October, with the colors peaking by October 9th. In Southern Utah, that window is from late October through early November.
That gives Utah leaf-peepers an extended season. The season begins in the higher elevations in the north, where native plants give their brightest colors. They can continue by coming down in elevation and then heading south for the later season.
Utah is known for its abundance of quaking aspen. Their leaves turn a beautiful bright yellow, starkly contrasting to its white bark. Utah is home to the largest quaking aspen clonal colony in the world. Scientists have named it “Pando “ near the shores of Fish Lake.
Pando is a Latin word that means “I spread.” “It is an aspen clone that originated from a single seed and spread by sending up new shoots from the expanding root system. Pando is believed to be the largest, most dense organism ever found at nearly 13 million pounds. The clone spreads over 106 acres, consisting of over 40,000 individual trees. The exact age of the clone and its root system is difficult to calculate, but it is estimated to have started at the end of the last ice age. Some of the trees are over 130 years old. Researchers first recognized it in the 1970s, and more recently, it was proven by geneticists. Its massive size, weight, and prehistoric age have caused worldwide fame.”
Mixed in with the yellows are the oranges and reds of the maples and the darker reds or purples of the Gambel oaks. These are discovered in a cluster and present a beautiful picture.
Now for your guide to leaf-peeping and good eating!
- Big Cottonwood Canyon Scenic Byway – South of Salt Lake City. Make a day of it and make dinner reservations at the Log Haven Restaurant.
- Little Cottonwood Canyon Scenic Byway – South of Salt Lake City. You can enjoy eating at the Porcupine Pub and Grille on this drive.
- Ogden River Scenic Byway – East of Ogden. Stop at the Greenery Restaurant for one of their famous “Mormon Muffins.”
- Logan Canyon Scenic Byway – Through Cache Valley. A stop at Angie’s Restaurant would make this trip complete.
- Provo Canyon Scenic Byway – In Utah and Summit Counties. A side trip up Highway 92 to The Tree Room would top off your trip.
- Alpine Loop – American Fork Canyon. A stop at The Foundry Grill at Sundance would be delightful.
- Energy Loop Scenic Byway: Huntington and Eccles Canyons Scenic Byway – Manti-La Sal National Forest in south-central Utah. Stop at the Ponderosa Grill in Huntington for this trip.
- Utah’s Patchwork Parkway Scenic Byway – State Route 143 between Parowan and Panguitch. A meal at Cowboy’s Smokehouse in Panguitch will add to the fall colors on this trip.
- Markagunt High Plateau Scenic Byway – Southern Utah on State Route 14. You will like the food at Chef Alfredo’s Ristorante Italiano.
- Cedar Breaks Scenic Byway – State Route 148 in southern Utah. Reviews are good at Aunt Sue’s Chalet.
Make your fall memorable by choosing one or more of these scenic drives. Add a taste of some of the local cuisine to add to the color. Document it all in your way, whether through video, pictures, posting on social media, or texting your peeps.