SW 092217 Fall Colors 02

Fall colors are shown here during a rainy morning Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, along Ogden Canyon Road.

OGDEN — Last winter’s stellar snowpack means good things for fall foliage, though autumnal colors may arrive later than they have in years past.

Northern Utah trees are expected to turn between a week and 10 days later than they have in recent years, said Helen Muntz, Utah State University Extension horticulture agent for Weber and Morgan counties. She hesitated to identify an exact date colors will peak, but said the area will see “good colors” sometime between early and mid-October.

“I happened to be driving through Sardine Canyon this morning, and it’s just barely getting going,” she said. “Within a week, it’s going to look fantastic.” 

As soon as this weekend, fall colors could be quite vibrant in higher-elevation areas — in the Ogden Canyon and at Ogden-area ski resorts, about half the aspens’ leaves should be turned, Muntz said.

Down in the valley, fall colors likely won’t peak until a couple of weeks out, she said.

There’s a nice trade-off for the foliage’s slightly later turn date, according to Muntz. It means the colors will stick around longer, particularly at higher elevations.

Over the past 10 years or so, the state has seen many winters with low to average precipitation, as well as drought conditions, said Nick Carr, National Weather Service meteorologist. Typically, drought conditions mean fall foliage arrives earlier and fades more quickly, Muntz said.

On the flip side, heavy snowfall and abundant snowpack result in fall colors that kick in later but last a bit longer, Muntz said. Since last winter’s snowfall total was in the top 25 percent ever recorded in the state, according to Carr, that’s what the region is likely to see. 

Those precipitation levels can also influence fall colors’ vibrancy, Muntz said. Drought stress hurts trees’ health, which means they’re more susceptible to leaf scourge and other problems that dull their autumn hues. 

Trees that haven’t experienced as much drought stress can, in turn, produce brighter colors, Muntz said. 

Higher-elevation trees have experienced less stress related to heat and dryness than those in lower elevation areas this year, Muntz said. So, while lower-elevation landscape trees’ vibrancy could be hit or miss, trees at higher elevations should be quite beautiful. 

Though the peak season is expected to last longer this year, Muntz doesn’t advise waiting too long to go on a fall color drive in the mountains. Often in longer peak seasons, foliage will start looking beautiful just as a big, blustery storm arrives.

“All the wind and rain and snow and all that can often blow off the leaves easier,” she said. “So if you get up there before we have a big storm, that’s better. Otherwise you’re looking at some beautiful colors, but they’re just half there.”

Ann Elise Taylor can be reached by phone at 801-625-4213, by email at aetaylor@standard.net or on Twitter at @annelise_taylor.

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