You don't have to travel far to take a scenic road trip this fall.
Utah is already full of breathtaking foliage, so if you want to get a good view, now through early October is the best time.
Ashley Cox, spokesperson for Utah State Tourism, said the fall season beckons for long weekend drives and adventurous hiking and backpacking trips. She shared several of the most popular places to see where nature's paintbrush has been busy at work.
Mirror Lake Highway near Park City
Reaching north from Kamas to Evanston, the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway traverses through the Uinta Mountains. The byway is 78 miles each way, much of which parallels the Provo River.
You can see panoramic views of the alpine landscape from the road’s high point at Bald Mountain Pass (10,715 feet above sea level). There are also scenic overlooks at several lakes. Driving the entire stretch of the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway can take more than three hours, including the return trip, but will be longer depending on side adventures.
Ogden River Scenic Byway and Trappers Loop Scenic Backway
Heading east from Ogden, the dense and varied the foliage is breathtakingly beautiful. The most-traveled route is along the Ogden River Scenic Byway for 44 miles to the eastern boundary of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest at the Monte Cristo Campground. This route passes through narrow canyon, an expansive valley and some mountain meadows and forests.
There's also the optional side-trip that includes the 9-mile one-way Trappers Loop Scenic Backway. Come back to the Ogden River Scenic Byway and continue eastward.
If you're hungry on the way back, there are several places to stop and eat in Huntsville and Eden. The drive takes about three hours, depending on how much you stop and if you take Trappers. If you want to travel even more, you can continue to drive to Woodruff in the Bear River Valley.
Alpine Loop Scenic Byway near Provo and Sundance Mountain Resort
This 24-mile drive veers up American Fork Canyon, cuts through the Uinta National Forest’s towering 12,000-foot mountains, and winds down into Provo Canyon. All three areas are brimming with golden aspens and crimson-colored maple. The trees are sharply contrasted with a backdrop of the area’s evergreen forest, and the colors give way to stunning views of Mount Timpanogos and other glacier-carved peaks.
Cox said many locals find the Byway to be the ultimate of scenic fall drives. If you have time, you can tour Timpanogos Cave National Monument and Sundance Mountain Resort.
Logan Canyon National Scenic Byway en route to Bear Lake
Few places rival the fall beauty of Cache Valley, Cox said. The area consists of undeveloped terrain, old farms and plenty of plant life such as Aspens, maples and more in a multitude of hues with evergreens and deep blue waters mixed in.
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The 41-mile stretch is one of the most scenic routes in Utah and runs alongside the Logan River from Logan at an elevation of 4,525 feet, climbs to Bear Lake Summit at nearly 7,800 feet, and ends in Garden City at Bear Lake. The byway peaks at a vista overlooking Bear Lake, then heads to Garden City.
Fishlake Scenic Byway near Fishlake National Forest near Capitol Reef National Park
Fishlake National Forest boasts some beautiful scenic drives as well as mountain biking, snowmobiling and hiking opportunities. Its three mountain ranges and desert canyons are primarily located to the east of Interstate 15 and to the north and south of Interstate 70.
Fish Lake and the surrounding acres of recreational bliss are known for their beautiful aspen forests, including Pando, the heaviest organism in the world, mackinaw and rainbow trout. The high-alpine lake sits at about 8,800 feet above sea level and is surrounded by Quaking Aspens, which are brilliantly yellow and amber during the fall.
It makes for a picturesque drive along Fishlake Scenic Byway (Highway 25) as you head from Highway 24 to the north edge of the lake. The route in total is 30 miles and can be driven in approximately two hours.
All-American Road Scenic Byway 12 near Boulder Mountain and Aquarius Plateau
Also known as “A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway,” this epic road begins to the west in Panguitch and ends in Torrey to the northeast, via a four-plus hour drive. It connects Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef national parks with several natural wonders along the way.
For fall foliage gawking, travelers spend the most time on the section winding through Boulder Mountain. The possibilities are endless for adventure on the mountain with more than 80 lakes and ponds. Patches of yellow aspens in contrast to clear, blue skies make this one a winner in the fall.
Uintas National Scenic Byway near Dinosaur National Monument and Flaming Gorge
When it’s all ablaze with the golden and crimson hues of autumn, nothing else can compare. The Byway is 82-miles one way and can take more than four hours to complete. Drive from Vernal through Ashley National Forest. Pass Steinaker State Park and Red Fleet State Park as you climb into the Uinta Mountains before topping out around 8.400 feet in elevation. Then, carry onward to the aptly-named, water-filled Flaming Gorge.