Top Fall Hikes and Drives in Utah

Lake Mary Big Cottonwood Canyon

It’s fall and we all want to get out to enjoy the vibrant colors of the season. No matter which area of the state you are in, you can find beautiful autumn colors to enjoy. Whether you prefer the comfort of your car or an afternoon out on the trail, this is the post for you!

If you live along the Wasatch Front you really can’t go wrong visiting any of the canyons that bisect the mountain range. To ensure best color, check out this interactive Fall Foliage Predictor Map. This post will list all areas starting at the north end of the state and then move progressively more south.

Logan Canyon (US-89)

Canyon aspens

Drive the 41 miles from Logan to Bear Lake to enjoy orange and red maples, and bright yellows of aspen clinging to the near vertical limestone cliffs. You can enjoy a picnic amid falling leaves at one of five picnic sites, Dewitt being one of my favorites. You can also stroll or bike on the river trail for a more leisurely pace. If hiking is more your speed, there are dozens to choose from. The most popular being Wind Caves (4 miles RT) and Crimson Trail (4.7 miles loop) with views of the canyon that will take your breath away, if the climb hasn’t already. Tony Grove has picnic sites nestled next to a lake ($10 day use fee) with a short one mile hike that circumnavigates the water.

Monte Cristo Highway (Highway 39)

Definitely one of the lesser known scenic highways. A drive through this 67 mile stretch you see the brilliant colors of aspens, oaks and maple. You’ll pass by Pineview reservoir nestled under the peaks of Powder Mountain and Snowbasin ski resorts, then continue the trek following the South Fork of the Ogden River. If you travel the road mid to late September make sure to take the short side trip to Causey Reservoir, probably the most scenic reservoir in the state. Hike the Skull Crack to see the kanokee salmon run.

Gambel Oak and Aspens on the Skull Crack Trail

Big Cottonwood Canyon over Guardsman Pass to Midway (Highway 190)

Views from ridge over Big Cottonwood Canyon

Ever since Guardsman Pass was paved in the fall of 2018, this drive has become an increasingly more popular trek to experience fall colors. The drive up the canyon is bursting with color. As you crest the pass, you are treated to views reaching as far as the Uinta mountain range and Wyoming on a clear day. The spectacular drive doesn’t end there, because you can continue your drive down towards Midway and Wasatch Mountain State Park. Big Cottonwood canyon is a mecca for hiking with its many trailheads. Some of the most popular trails are great choices for leaf peeping, but you really can’t go wrong with any of them. The Silver Lake trail (1 mile loop) is accessible for all abilities and has picnic sites and bathrooms. Other popular trails include Lake Blanche ( 7 miles RT – hard), Donut Falls (1.5 miles RT – easy), and Willow Lake (2.8 mile loop – moderate).

Views from Wasatch Crest Trail Big Cottonwood Canyon

Pro tip: No dogs are allowed (even in your cars) in either Big or Little Cottonwood Canyon because of watershed. Nearby Millcreek canyon is a great choice to bring along your pup.

Alpine Loop and Cascade Springs (State Road 92)

Sundance in Fall

This glacial carved canyon covering 27 miles from American Fork Canyon to Provo Canyon offers vibrant fall colors contrasting with evergreen trees nestled below the iconic Timpanogos Mountain. This is arguably the most popular scenic drive in Utah for fall colors and is definitely worth the hype. If you plan on driving through there is no fee, but if you plan to stop to picnic or hike there is a $6 fee or free with the America the Beautiful Pass. Also the road is very narrow with some tight turns, so vehicles over 30 feet are not recommended.

Alpine Loop during Fall Storm

Some great stops along the way are Timpanogos Cave National Monument (reservations recommended), Cascade springs ( 7.5 mile detour) rated for all abilities, Sundance Ski Resort for lift rides and other activities, and Bridal Veil Falls which has an all accessible paved path (in Provo Canyon). The Alpine loop is a popular hiking destination with many trails. I recommend Stewart Falls (3.4 miles RT – moderate) and Primrose Overlook (3.6 miles RT – moderate).

Mirror Lake Highway (Highway 150)

Aspens near Beaver Creek trail

This road bisects the Uinta mountain range from Kamas, UT to Evanston, WY, and is known for its many alpine lakes, many of which are accessible right off the main road. It may be chilly, but you can take a canoe or kayak out on the water to enjoy the aspens clinging to the sides of the surrounding peaks. A great scenic stop is the Provo River Falls, located about 23.5 miles from Kamas. Great easy walks include the signature Mirror Lake trail (1.5 miles around the lake) and the Crystal Lake trail (.3 miles). Looking for a little more challenge. Hike the short but steep trail to the summit of Bald Mountain (3 miles RT) for a birds-eye view of the area.

Mount Nebo Loop (Forest Road 015)

Scrub oak and aspens on trail

This scenic byway runs 38 miles around the Wasatch Front’s tallest peak. Witness the contrasting colors of oak with junipers and aspens along with spruce and fir. Take the time to enjoy the scenic pullouts and definitely don’t miss the Devil’s Kitchen scenic overlook, which is like a mini-Bryce Canyon. Also of note is the Gotto Falls hiking trail (.6 miles RT) and Payson Lakes.

State Highway 25 to Fish Lake

Home to the world’s largest organism, the aspen tree Pando. This colony of aspen trees originated from one seed and has over 40,000 trees with a shared root system. It makes for some amazing yellow and gold quaking leaves in autumn. Continue the drive to the lake and the overlooks to enjoy vistas of Thousand Lakes, Boulder, and the Henry Mountains.

Huntington Canyon (State Highway 31)

Beaver Pond in late Autumn

This canyon is mainly known for it’s fishing, camping and ATV trails. It’s real gem is the access to the Skyline drive, a dirt high clearance 4WD or ATV road that sits at 10,000 ft and affords 360 views for 80 miles! That’s a lot of fall colors. Best hike recommendation is the Gordon Falls trail (2.5 miles RT).

Maples on canyon trail

La Sal Mountains

Eight miles south of Moab take a left at the La Sal mountains scenic byway loop sign. You’ll travel a narrow, winding road for 60 miles (no RVs or trailers). Enjoy the yellow quaking aspens and the orange and reds of gambel oak. Take in the views on trails such as Squaw Springs trail (8.6 miles RT), Hazard County (6 miles RT), or the Warner to Oowah Lake (4 miles RT). As you descend down off the mountain make sure to stop at the desert overlook to take in the views of Canyonlands NP and Moab.

Highway 12 on Boulder Mountain

All American Road: Highway 12

Known as an all-American road and touted by many as the most scenic drive, fall colors is not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about this drive. You can take in stellar shows of aspens driving over Boulder mountain and the showy cottonwoods down in some of the lower elevations of the drive. Calf Creek Falls (6 miles RT) has brilliant golds and Pine Creek Box Canyon near Escalante is a riparian oasis with reds, oranges and yellows (9 mile through hike).

Pine Creek Box Canyon

Highway 14 From Cedar City to Long Valley

Drive this 41 miles of gold and yellow aspens contrasting with verdant green spruces and pines. Make sure to stop and have a picnic and with views at Navajo lake, Strawberry Point (which actually overlooks a red rocks amphitheater) or take a detour to Cedar Breaks National Monument. All afford incredible views and the changing colors of the high alpine forest.

Yellow and Gold aspens off the highway

So which scenic drives have you done and which ones would you like to try? Let me know in the comments.

Looking for more fall adventures? Check out my post about Capitol Reef National Park.

Day Hiking the Uinta Mountains

Northern Utah has so many amazing trails to hike and explore, but when the summer temperatures soar that’s when I like to escape to the Uinta Mountain Range. With only a short 90 minute drive from downtown Salt Lake City you can enjoy temperatures 20 degrees (or more) cooler than in the valley. The Uintas are the tallest mountain range in Utah and boast: high elevation hiking, over 1000 alpine lakes, wildlife including the Utah’s largest population of mountain goats, and the tallest peaks in the state. It’s the perfect place for those looking to bag a few peaks, catch some fish, or paddle to your hearts content after enjoying some time on the trails.

The Uintas have trails for just about every ability and interest level. Here are 8 trails located off the Mirror Lake Highway (150) for a great day of exploration out of the heat.

Ruth Lake

2 miles RT, 285 ft. gain

Kayaks on Ruth Lake


Ruth Lake is the perfect hike for families. At only two miles roundtrip everyone can enjoy the satisfaction of reaching a destination and after only one mile of hiking. Once you reach the lake you can enjoy the day on the water fishing, floating, hanging in your hammock, and even a picnic before heading back to your car blissed out by your afternoon spent by this alpine lake.

Bald Mountain

2.9 miles RT, 1,198 ft. gain

Views from the top of Bald Mountain

I can’t think of a more perfect first timer peak to bag. It’s challenging enough that you feel like you really accomplished a hike but approachable enough that you can hike it in a few hours. And the VIEWs. This peak has major wow factor and you’ll have bragging rights with your friends and family. After all the peak of this mountain is just under 12,000 feet.

Haystack Lake

5.3 miles RT, 387 ft. gain

Haystack Lake in front of it’s namesake mountain.

This hike is really one of the easies hikes you can do for the distance because there is so little elevation change. The first mile or so you hike along the shore of lake Washington enjoying it’s beauty and the scenic view of Haystack mountain. Next, the trail begins to climb slightly to Shadow lake. The last mile you descend down to Haystack lake. Whenever we visited, we’ve had the picturesque lake practically to ourselves. Aah.

Lofty Lake Loop

4.7 mile loop, 981 ft gain

Views From Lofty Pass

Arguably one of the most popular day hikes in the area. Lofty Lakes loop is well worth the hype and not to be missed. You’ll have more elevation gain that on some others, but the views you gain as you crest Lofty Pass to peer down at Cutthroat Lake are well worth the effort. If you have the desire your can even summit Lofty Peak from the pass just follow the “trail” up the boulders to the peak. (I only recommend this part to experienced hikers.)

Fehr Lake

3.9 miles RT, 617 ft. gain

Lily pads on Maba Lake. My favorite on the Fehr Lake Loop

This another great short hike but unlike Ruth Lake you descend down to Fehr Lake on the way in. This means you’ll need to climb back out. The cliffs on the side of Fehr lake are just stunning. If time and energy allows you can continue on to Shepard (yes that is the spelling), Hoover, and Maba lakes which are quieter and scenic.

20 Lake Loop

7.3 mile loop, 780 ft gain

Front to back: Twin Lakes, Wall Lake, and Trial Lake

This is one of my favorite hikes in all the Uintas! Not only do you have the mentioned twenty lakes, views of many of the surrounding peaks, but the elevation gain is a mere 780 feet over seven miles. The hike is long enough to give you a great workout or push the littles, but the relatively little elevation gain helps the miles really sail by. It can make for a great backpacking trip and if you’er really feeling like it, you can bring something to float on the enjoy the serenity at one of the many lakes. Wall or Crystal lakes are popular choices with their proximity to the trail head but my personal favorites are Cliff and Three Divide lakes.

Clegg, Notch, and Bench Lakes

6.5 miles RT, 653 ft. gain

Bench Lake

This hike shares the same trail head as Bald Mountain and like the Fehr Lake trail you descend down to the lakes but with the incredible scenery and gentle grades as you climb back out you will hardly notice. I also really enjoy this hike because it is quieter than Lofty Lakes or the 20 Lakes Loop. Most people stop at Notch Lake but if you continue on to Bench you’ll have greater chances of having this beauty all to yourself.

Lake Country Trail

4.4 miles-8.4 miles RT , up to 1,107 ft gain.

Weir Lake
Weir Lake

This one is on the long side, but you can choose how many lakes you want to visit and how many miles you’d like to tackle. If you head all the way to Island lake you’ll be in for 9 miles roundtrip but you can choose to go only 4-6 miles by visiting either Long or Weir lakes. Weir Lake even has a few hidden waterfalls nearby you can enjoy.

Before you go:

Unlike much of the Wasatch Front, the Uintas are dog friendly so feel free to bring Fido along.

There is a $6 day use fee. Bring cash or check. If you have an America the Beautiful pass you can use this instead. They do ticket at the trailheads, so make sure to pay the fee and display your receipt to avoid a hefty fine.

Mosquitos can be prevalent in June and July so wear bug spray.

July through September is monsoon season in Utah and storms can approach quickly at higher elevations. Stay off the peaks in the afternoons to avoid lightening and hail.