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Are there leaf-peeping opportunities in Utah?

Recently Gail Marsh shared lesser-known leaf-peeping locations with the readers of this newsletter. While the locations shared were not in New England, which is considered by most the crown jewel of leaf-peeping, locations in the Western United States for leaf-peeping were still lacking. One Western state unlikely to come to the mind of RVers looking for somewhere to enjoy leaf-peeping is the Beehive State of Utah. Most associate Utah with red rocks and the Mighty 5 National Parks, but Utah is also a great place for leaf-peeping.

Following are two impressive routes for leaf-peeping this fall in Utah. Not only are they great leaf-peeping locations, but they are also popular scenic loop drives even when the leaves are not strutting their fall colors. RVers that travel them in the fall can enjoy not only the brilliant fall colors, but also the scenery and activities these scenic drives are known for at other times of the year. Consider it a twofer!

Two great leaf peeping drives in Utah

Alpine Scenic Loop: This narrow, twisty drive with an elevation change of 3,000 vertical feet is considered one of the most scenic drives in Utah. The Alpine Scenic Byway stretches 20 miles from the mouth of American Fork Canyon via SR-92 to Provo Canyon, ending at US-189. Traveling southwest on US-189 will complete the loop and return you to your starting point. That will likely be one of many campgrounds or RV parks within the I-15 corridor between Draper and Provo, Utah.

Leaf peeing along alpine loop
Alpine loop – Scenic & colorful

During the autumn months, aspen groves along the drive will keep leaf-peeping enthusiasts in awe with their bright yellow leaves. In several places aspens form a canopy over the road. In these sections it’s easy to picture yourself starring in a TV car commercial, as the dry fallen leaves rustle across the road while brilliant rays of sun stream through the leaves above, bathing you in a golden glow.

Aspen
Aspens line portions of the route

In addition to leaf-peeping, other points of interest along the way include:

If you want to stop along the way to hike, disperse camp or picnic, you’ll need to display an America the Beautiful Pass. Or you can purchase a $6 recreation pass, which is good for three days.

Click here for more information and a map of the byway.

Pulling a trailer on the scenic byway portion of the route is prohibited due to the twisty narrow road.

Nebo Loop Byway: Climbing to more than 9,000 feet in elevation with breathtaking views of Utah Valley, the Wasatch Mountains and Mount Nebo are reason enough to travel the byway. Add autumn colors of maple, aspen and other deciduous trees and it becomes a leaf-peeping event not to be missed. The 38-mile paved byway traverses Utah’s Uinta National Forest between the cities of Nephi and Payson on Nebo Loop Road (FR 015). Complete the loop via Hwy. 132 and I-15 back to your starting point.

I could write more about the leaf-peeping opportunities that await, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. The photos below should be enough to whet your appetite.

Nebo Mountain leaf peeping
Nebo Mountain and fall colors

In addition to leaf peeping, other points of interest along the way include:

  • Outstanding views of 11,928-foot Mount Nebo, the tallest mountain in the Wasatch Range
  • Numerous scenic overlooks
  • Opportunities to view wildlife
  • Devils Kitchen – an up-close miniature version of Bryce Canyon

There are numerous camping opportunities along the byway. However, it is not ideal for larger RVs as there are several twisty sections with steep grades. It is best to leave large RVs near either end of the byway and tour it via your tow vehicle or dinghy.

Campground Sign
Even the campgrounds are colorful!

Click here for more information and a map of the route.

If you are traveling the byway north to south, a great spot to drop the RV for the day or spend the night (dispersed camping) is a large area at N39° 45.537 W111° 42.613. The best campsites are just north of the graveled area.

Note: Both loop drives are closed in winter.

Make your plans now to enjoy one or both of these leaf-peeping drives this autumn. Oh, if you have been leaf-peeping in New England, let everyone know how these Utah locations compare using the comment box below.

##RVT1019

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Martha Tassi
29 days ago

We are in Utah right now and have been delighted with the scenery! It’s a bit early for leaf peeping, but the Ashley NF is beginning to turn color and there are groves of blazing yellow, red and lime green within the dark pines. The mountains are spectacular, too. Yesterday we took the scenic tour through Dinosaur National Park and it was otherwordly … blue, red and yellow striped mountains! Fabulous!