Salt Lake is a beautiful destination for scenic drives AND autumn colors. Put the two together and POW - magic. It's a place known for gorgeous outdoor vistas and many of them can be seen from the comfort and safety of your car. While not always easy to predict, the best times historically to see the most amazing fall leaves are from mid-September through the first part of October. Check out the views with our picks for some of the best scenic drives in the area for seeing beautiful fall leaves.

Scenic View of Guardsman's Pass
Take the road less traveled at Guardsman Pass

Big Cottonwood Canyon

If you’re coming from Salt Lake, take the I-215 to the 6200 South Canyons exit and continue on the U-152 towards Solitude and Brighton. This beautiful 15-mile drive takes about an hour to traverse roundtrip. From the main road, the canyon narrows almost immediately dropping to the dramatic alpine scenery. Here, you’ll find some of the best hiking, fishing, rock climbing, and camping for miles around.

While you’re winding up the slopes, keep your eyes open for remnants of old mines dotting the hills. Since it is located in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Big Cottonwood is home to both Solitude and Brighton ski resorts. Both resorts offer full-service, year-round facilities. From Brighton, you’ll find several easy trails leading to lakes. Keep in mind that the Canyon is a protected area and no dogs are permitted outside.

Man Taking Photo of Fall Trees in Little Cottonwood Canyon
Little Cottonwood Canyon is worth leaving the car

Little Cottonwood Canyon

Only 25 miles from Salt Lake, Little Cottonwood Canyon offers an easy fun opportunity for a day trip. It got its name from the canyon’s length and width. Despite its smaller size, it is an equally wonderful playground providing many recreational opportunities to guests who come to visit. At the mouth of the canyon, you’ll find the quarry site for massive granite blocks used in the Historic Temple Square and Conference Center.

This 7-mile route leads you past the sheer rugged cliffs and out into a glacially-carved corridor on your way to Snowbird and Alta ski resorts. Wilderness areas are located to the north and south.

Millcreek Canyon Mountain Biking
Take in the sights of Millcreek Canyon

Millcreek Canyon

Not only is Millcreek Canyon one of the only canyons in Salt Lake you can bring your dog-child to, but it also hosts a wealth of sprawling fall colors, and is one of the closest drives to get to. We’d say finding warm tones in Millcreek is easily a dealer’s choice. Pick almost any trail, Elbow Fork, Bowman Fork, Big Water Trail, or keep driving Millcreek Canyon Road to experience the oversized whimsical yellow and orange trees.

Autumn Trees at Mirror Lake Highway
Autumn trees at Mirror Lake Highway

Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake is easily one of the most popular spots in Utah and Wyoming. Starting out in farm and ranch lands, it branches out to forested terrain framed by lush meadows and rugged mountain peaks. There are scenic viewpoints where you can stop your car and get out to snap some photos or even have a little picnic. In addition, you’ll find some spots for campgrounds and viewing spots for terraced cascades by walkways near the road. The byway climbs up some 10,687 feet to Bald Mountain Pass and then descends past Mirror Lake to the Bear River Ranger Station. Be aware, this is a bit of a drive (an hour and a half) from downtown Salt Lake, but it is a gorgeous part of the mountains and is well worth the effort.

Provo Canyon in the Fall
Provo Canyon is 28 miles of stunning views

Provo Canyon

This is the longest scenic drive we’ve listed so far. At 28 miles, Provo Canyon offers a wonderful, winding drive through a region where forces of a past era carved through the rock formations. From the road, you can see Bridal Veil Falls and there is a lookout spot where you can park and soak in the views. Starting in Provo 48 miles south of downtown, the canyon is a scenic treasure.

At the top of the canyon, you’ll find Deer Creek Reservoir, with sailing, boating, fishing, and windsurfing. The byway comes to an end in Heber Valley (home of the historic railroad) and Soldier Hollow, a network of cross-country trails carved out for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. If you have some time, the Alpine Scenic Loop is a very worthy side trip, particularly famous for its fall color drives. It leads past the Sundance Resort, through the Uinta National Forest, and Timpanogos National Monument.

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