Let your colors show!
With September upon us, we sip our morning coffee with any eye on the mountains and watch for the first pops of color that will eventually erupt in full. One visitor last year described it best: “It looks like someone spilled a giant box of Trix cereal on the Wasatch Mountains!”
Last winter’s mountain snows, combined with a wetter-than-normal spring and a cooler-than-normal summer should deliver an incredibly vibrant, colorful autumn this year. The first colors will appear around mid-mountain levels among the oak, maple, elm, and other trees. Eventually, they’ll spread downward toward the metro area with colors traditionally peaking around September 24th. The aspens at the higher elevations typically erupt last and make for great leaf peeping well into October.
We’ve mapped out six of our favorite leaf-peeping spots around the area, but you’re going to see great autumn colors pretty much any direction you look.
The BST, as most locals call it, runs north-south just above the metro area just east of town. It can be accessed at several trailheads. Basically, just drive east from downtown on pretty much any street until you can’t drive any further and you’ll likely find yourself at a trailhead.
Tunnels of colorful oaks and maples on the BST open to stunning overlooks of the city below, and spur trails poke up most of the smaller canyons: Beus, Strong’s, Waterfall, Taylor, Jump-Off, etc. Any visit to Ogden in September needs to include at least a short stroll on the BST.
From Ogden, take 12th Street east and it turns into Highway 39 at the mouth of Ogden Canyon. There are a handful of pull-outs where leaf peepers can stop to snap photos, but no camera can really capture the magnitude of the whole canyon. The best way to experience Ogden Canyon’s steep walls is in a convertible or on a motorcycle.
Use extra caution when pulling into or out of the pull-outs in Ogden Canyon and be aware that you may be entering or exiting a narrow, winding road near a blind corner. Knock a few MPH off your speed as literally everyone on the Ogden Canyon Scenic Byway in September is a distracted driver when the leaves are popping.
While technically not a “slot canyon” in the southern Utah sense of the word, Wheeler Creek Canyon’s steep walls can’t really be described any other way. But don’t let the ruggedness of the terrain intimidate you. The trail is gentle and wide, leaving plenty of room for even novice hikers and mountain bikers to share it. And the steep canyon walls and abundant trees keep Wheeler Creek in the shade for most of the day, making it a great spot even on the warmest of September days.
Old Snowbasin Road
As you travel east on Highway 39, you’ll find the turn for Old Snowbasin Road near Lakeside Resort Properties. The road (Hwy 226) winds 4 miles through colorful scrub oak before revealing a stunning vista of both Snowbasin and the Ogden Valley below and ending at the Art Nord Trailhead at the top of Wheeler Creek Canyon.
From the trailhead, hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians can access miles of trails, and road cyclists can jump the barrier and continue up Old Snowbasin Road all the way to the resort.
The myriad of trails at Snowbasin could keep hiking and biking leaf gazers busy for days. For a less strenuous experience, plan your trip for a weekend and take a scenic gondola ride just above the canopy of changing leaves and descend back to the main plaza on a Sunday afternoon for one of the last Blues, Brews & BBQs concerts or any of the revelry of SnowWiesn, Snowbasin’s new autumn celebration in the vein of a Bavarian Oktoberfest.
The leaves aren’t the only things changing color in September around Ogden. For a truly unique adventure, hit the Weber State Outdoor Program or Gear :30 and rent a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddle board and head to Causey Reservoir to take in the Kokanee salmon run. These freshwater salmon run from the reservoir and turn the feeder streams a bright red.
Paddle up the southwest arm of the reservoir to the end, leave your watercraft and hike alongside the stream to check it out. Stay out of the stream and don’t hassle the fish.
At nearly 9,000 feet, Powder Mountain’s changing leaves are going to be primarily quaking aspen, but unlike most aspens that primarily turn yellow, Powder Mountain’s aspens often display orange and even red colors. Mixed among the pines, it makes for an otherworldly sight. Hike or bike the Brim Trail and listen for bugling elk in the deep canyons below.
Nestled on the east flank of the Wasatch Mountain Range, North Fork Park is the best place to camp among the changing leaves. Short hikes abound, and visitors should plan on sticking around after the sun sets to take advantage of North Fork’s status as a designated Dark Sky Park. With the Wasatch Mountains acting as a shield from the light pollution on the metro side, stunning views of the night sky emerge.
As with any Ogden-area adventure, end your day at the myriad of independent restaurants and bars, and enjoy a good night’s rest at any of our local lodging properties.