Take a gander at the mountainsides around Salt Lake City and you’ll see the reds and yellows starting to pop, which means only one thing: leaf peeping season is officially here! As any seasoned leaf peeper will tell you, the vibrant hues are fleeting, so get out there while the getting’s good. These three fall hikes near Salt Lake City are perfect for getting up into the mountains and soaking in the fall colors before shoulder season’s mud and cold come to call.
SILVER LAKE TO BOWHUNTER LOOP AT DEER VALLEY
Just a short drive up Interstate 80 is Park City, where you’ll be able to enjoy resort town access to trails and amenities without the typical crowds this time of year. This hike to the top of Deer Valley’s Bald Mountain starts at the resort’s mid-mountain Silver Lake Lodge, easing your trek to the high-altitude aspen trees a bit.
Drive past downtown Park City on Deer Valley Drive before heading up Marsac Ave. to the parking garage at Silver Lake Lodge. From there, access the Silver Lake trailhead just past the Homestake Express chairlift. Now for the hard part. Ascend nearly 1,300 feet through twisting, root-covered singletrack towards the top of Bald Mountain. You’ll pass through massive, golden aspen groves with periodic scenic overlooks over the Jordanelle Reservoir before reaching the the summit.
From there, descend on the snaking Ontario Canyon trail through a field of crimson scrub oak into a high-mountain meadow will fall wildflowers. A short way further, take a left on the Bowhunter Loop. Complete a clockwise loop on the undulating trail before returning the way you came, up Ontario Canyon and down Silver Lake until you reach the lodge.
BROADS FORK TRAIL IN BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON
Upper Broads Fork is home to some serious alpine terrain, and along on the way, you’ll be treated to some gorgeous high-elevation forests, meadows and waterfalls. Start by driving up Big Cottonwood Canyon on UT 190 for four and a half miles and park just below the s-curve.
The trailhead is just past the picnic area, where you’ll begin an ascent of more than 2,100 feet in just over two and a half miles. It’s common to see moose on the trail this time of year. Everyone loves posting moose pictures on social media, but be sure to give them ample distance.
While climbing the steep, heavily-forested trail, you’ll pass by a couple small falls before ultimately reaching your turnaround point in a rocky meadow with breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks. Some of the Wasatch’s most imposing mountains, including Dromedary, O’Sullivan and the Salt Lake Twins form an awe-inspiring natural cathedral. After you’ve had your fill of views, return the way you came back to the trailhead.
FERGUSON CANYON TO OVERLOOK
The trail up Ferguson Canyon rewards hikers with incredible views of the Salt Lake Valley and mountain cirques similar to those in the Cottonwood Canyons, but since it’s not part of the Salt Lake City Watershed you’re allowed to bring your four-legged companions along.
The trailhead is located just past Big Cottonwood Canyon Road off of Wasatch Blvd. Take a left on Prospector Drive just past the 7-11, then an immediate right to continue on Prospector and finally a left on Timberline drive where the trailhead is. Start by heading up the gravel road past the water tank before heading straight up the canyon.
The trail rises some 1,500 vertical feet into the Twin Peaks Wilderness, and is lined with rock buttresses that are popular among rock climbing climbers. Thirsty pooches will appreciate several natural springs along the way. In about two miles, you’ll reach a rocky outcropping with expansive views back over the Salt Lake Valley. Most people will turn around here and head back down the way they came, though truly hearty hikers can continue up the increasingly steep trail for another mile and a half to reach the ridge and climb to the top of Storm Mountain.
Discover more ways to soak in the autumn season here!