Leaf Peeping Adventures Near Salt Lake City

Do you feel that? The morning air carries just a hint of chill, and the crisp sunset temperatures last night had your reaching for a flannel out of necessity, not vanity. Fall is on the way, and that means only one thing: it’s leaf peeping time.

In some places—cough, ahem, Front Range, cough—leaf peeping has a negative connotation associated with sitting in endless traffic only to listlessly look at the changing colors through a car window before taking a series of photos that will inevitably be heavily filtered for use on social media pages. Well, that’s not us. We like to mix our fantastic foliage into a good old fashioned outdoor adventure. These five fall leaf peeping adventures near Salt lake City are tailored for whatever flavor of fun you’re after—biking, hiking or just a casual stroll, there’s something for you.

Best Hike for Leaf Peeping: Lake Blanche Trail in Big Cottonwood Canyon

The hike up to Lake Blanche is a Wasatch Classic, but that doesn’t make it any less spectacular when the leaves start to change. Start from the Mill B South Fork Trailhead at the bottom of the S-curve on Big Cottonwood Canyon Road (S.R. 190). The trail itself is fairly stout covering 2,808 vertical feet on the roughly seven-mile out and back trail. You’ll meander up through dense forest in the Twin Peaks Wilderness before popping out at Lake Blanche where the colors will be firing around the water beneath dramatic views of Sundial Peak.

Best Mountain Bike Ride for Leaf Peeping: Tour De Suds Loop in Park City

This ride begins with a mellow spin up Daily Canyon in Park City’s Historic Old Town. From there, you’ll hook on Tour De Suds, one of the area’s original mountain bike routes. The trail weaves up through aspen trees before connecting to Flagstaff Loop and topping out on Empire Pass. The panoramic views from the summit might make you gasp in awe, so remember to catch your breath before descending a series of trails—Corvair to Little Chief to Sams to Trapper’s Gate—snaking their way through the forest back to the car.

Photo courtesy UOT Images

Best Trail Run for Leaf Peeping: Blood’s Lake Trail in Bonanza Flats

Trail running is basically hiking—just slightly faster—so it helps to have a flatter grade and smoother surface. The Bloods Lake Trail in Bonanza Flat near Guardsman Pass is only a couple years old, and it’s ideal for a pleasant jog. The three-mile out and back trail starts with a mellow pitch, only tipping up significantly for the final .4 miles to reach the aforementioned lake. You’ll follow the twisting trail through bursting yellow and red aspen trees before hopefully seeing a moose or two relaxing in the water. If you’re one of those sickos who prefers to suffer over a much longer distance, I recommend the Desolation Loop from Millcreek, which is about 13 miles and also turns around at a picturesque lake.  

Best Road Bike Ride for Leaf Peeping: Millcreek Canyon in Salt Lake City

Let’s face it, fall can still be pretty hot in the city. Millcreek Canyon is a wonderful place for a road bike ride because the harder you work, the higher you get and the cooler temperatures you’ll find. Cyclists can grind all the way up 2,700 vertical feet of pavement in a touch over nine miles, all while enjoying remarkable views of changing colors in the Wasatch as well as stunning overlooks of the Salt Lake Valley below. Millcreek has only a fraction of the vehicle traffic as the other classic climbs in the area, so you won’t have to worry as frequently about being mowed down while just trying to see red and yellow leaves in all their glory.

Photo courtesy UOT Images

Best Urban Escape for Leaf Peeping: City Creek Canyon

You needn’t head into the high wilderness in search of fall colors because they’re right in your backyard in Salt Lake City. City Creek Canyon may sit within city limits, but it feels a lifetime away from the bustle of downtown when you’re surrounded by glowing gold, red and orange foliage. You can bike, hike, jog, walk your dog or even just sit down and enjoy a moment to yourself in City Creek. Start at Memory Grove Park and embark on as long an adventure as you’d like.

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Tony Gill
Tony Gillhttps://www.saltlakemagazine.com/
Tony Gill is the outdoor and Park City editor for Salt Lake Magazine and previously toiled as editor-in-chief of Telemark Skier Magazine. Most of his time ignoring emails is spent aboard an under-geared single-speed on the trails above his home.

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