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5 Great Fall Foliage Drives Close to Salt Lake City

Published: 09/22/2010

Aimee Maxwell, NileGuide --The Salt Lake City area becomes a canvas of color in autumn as leaves turn spectacular shades of red, orange, and yellow. Colors are just about at their peak so take one of these fall foliage drives to see some gorgeous mountain scenery right outside of Salt Lake.

Little Cottonwood Canyon

Little Cottonwood Canyon is home to both Snowbird and Alta Ski resorts. Called Little Cottonwood Canyon because it's width is smaller and length is shorter than Little's sister canyon, Big Cottonwood Canyon.

There aren't too many places to pull off to take photos of the colors on the road so take a hike up to Red Pine Lake for some great photos and then stop off at Snowbird's Oktoberfest celebration before heading to the top of the canyon and snapping some shots in Alta's Albion Basin. To get to Little Cottonwood Canyon, take I-215 from Salt Lake City to the 6200 South exit and follow the signs to Snowbird/Alta.

Big Cottonwood Canyon to Park City

The Big Cottonwood Canyon Road offers some incredibe options for fall color viewing. From Salt Lake City, take I-215 to the 6200 South exit and follow the signs to Big Cottonwood/Brighton/Solitude ski areas. Dramatically carved by ancient glaciers, Big Cottonwood Canyon offers gorgeous alpine scenery with plenty of hiking, biking, and picnicking opportunities.

Stop off for some hiking around the Brighton or Solitude ski resorts or continue onto Guardsman Pass (unpaved in a small section) all the way to Park City.

Alpine Scenic Loop

The Alpine Scenic Loop is a windy, narrow 24-mile long road that connects American Fork Canyon with Provo Canyon. Access the loop from American Fork Canyon. Pass by the Timpanogos Cave National Monument and continue on UT 92 at the first junction to climb high into the rugged Alpine landscape packed with golden aspen groves. Stop off for a short hike to Cascade Springs or stop by the famous Owl Bar at Sundance Resort on your way down canyon.

Mill Creek Canyon

Mill Creek Canyon is the closest canyon to Salt Lake and although it doesn't offer as dramatic of vistas from the car window as the Cottonwood Canyons, you can view some great fall color panoramas from one of Mill Creek's many hiking trails. Located at the top of the Canyon, the popular Dog Lake Trail is a great for fall colors. To get to Mill Creek Canyon, take I-215 to Wasatch Blvd and turn onto Mill Creek Canyon Road.

Nebo Loop

A bit outside of Salt Lake, this 32-mile loop has many scenic overlooks with some of the best fall foliage views in the nation. The road climbs to 9000 feet with sweeping views of Utah Valley, the Wasatch, and 11,877 ft Mt. Nebo, the highest peak in the Wasatch Range.

There are numerous campgrounds along the way as well as picnic areas, hiking trails, and interpretive sites. The Nebo Loop can be accessed off of I-15 from Payson or Nephi.