Southern Utah’s Fall Colors
Places like eastern Canada or New England are usually the front-runners when it comes to conversations about fall colors. But if those places are far away from your home base, or those locations just aren’t in the budget, perhaps you’ll be surprised to know that some of the best fall colors in the world can be found in Southern UT. Sure, Utah doesn’t have the famous, multicolored Canadian maple leaves. But what it does have are lots and lots of cottonwood trees, more so even that Utah’s nearby neighbor, California. Because the cottonwoods in Utah get more water than those in sunny California, this results in brighter and more vibrant colors. In addition, Utah has aspen trees in abundance that, in the fall, change to gorgeous hews of yellow.
Aspens are one of the first trees to change color in the fall. Countless acres of aspens reside in the mountains around Panguitch, Brian Head, Duck Creek Village, and Cedar City. Some other places to see them are north of Escalante as well around Capitol Reef National Park. If you take Highway 12 and Hell’s Backbone Road, you’ll be right in the thick of it.
In Utah, the bottom of virtually even canyon has cottonwood trees. Utah is very well known for naturally placing cliffs of red sandstone as the backdrop to the amazing yellow cottonwoods, creating a great color contrast. Zion National Park is perhaps the best place to view this phenomenon. Other great spots for this is the drive between Kanab and Richfield along Highway 89, Capitol Reef National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
How To Plan
Altitude, location, and time of year should all be considered when taking a trip to see Southern Utah’s fall colors. Almost immediately after the cold weather begins to show its signs, the colors start changing. Altitudes around or above 7,000 are where aspens typically grow which means that it gets colder sooner there resulting in color changes around mid-to-late September. Altitudes between 4,000 and 6,000 feet are where cottonwoods grow, so plan to view their color changes around mid-October to early November. To see both on the same trip, it is recommended to plan your excursion for either the final week in September or the first week in October. This is your best bet to experience both.
Consider The Weather
Paying attention to the weather will pay off for you in the end because you can use overnight temperature drops of below 32 degrees as a clue to when you should leave (leaving a few days after an area’s initial freezing temperature event is smart). Check weather.com and watch the ten-day forecasts. Pay close attention to the temperatures in the high elevation areas (Duck Creek Village, Panguitch) and the low elevation areas (Springdale and Escalante) and use this information to help gauge when to embark on your Southern UT fall adventure.
Even though the tree population is considerably different in the more desert landscape of St. George compared to other Southern UT areas such as Cedar City and Kanab, make sure to consider areas such as Gunlock State Park as well as the Pine Valley Mountains as potential locations to visit during the fall to see spectacular scenery. Companies like Dirt Road Uber in the Gunlock area can make seeing the beautiful fall landscape in Southern UT incredibly enjoyable.
Southern Utah’s Fall Colors