Cascade Springs, photo courtesy of Suzanne Stensaas.
Utah has no shortage of colorful fall hikes, and it's an ideal time to hike peaks above the tree line, too. Picking the best is like choosing a favorite child, but here are the trails where you'll find us this fall:
Trail: We'll be blunt: It's short, but steep. You'll climb 600 feet in three-quarters of a mile. Golden aspens, a picturesque meadow, lake and place to picnic are the payoffs, so pack gourmet (1 hour).
Getting there: Drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon and look for the stone marker on your left, just past Silver Fork Lodge.
Note: Fuel up for it with breakfast at Silver Fork Lodge.
Trail: Easy and beautiful. To get there, drive through colorful terrain and end in Mount Timpanogos' shadow. The kid-friendly trail is a half mile of boardwalk and paved paths with interpretive signs, natural springs and tiny waterfalls (13-30 minutes).
Getting there: Get on the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway from American Fork Canyon, follow the signs.
Note: Natural springs mock small bladders, restrooms are close by.
Mueller Park Trail
Trail: Like a video game, pick your difficulty level: Easy is hiking until you're tired and turning back, normal is seven miles round trip from the aptly named Big Rock, and hard is 13 miles out and back to a meadow called Rudy's Flat. No matter which you choose, you'll see red- and gold-covered hills along the way (1-5 hours).
Getting there: Take the 2600 South exit in Bountiful off I-15, head east until the road becomes Orchard Drive. Eventually, make a right on 1800 South. Drive past some fancy houses and see the trail signs ahead.
Note: You'll likely share the path with mountain bikers and trail runners.
Bullion Divide Backwards Plus or Minus a Peak or Two
Trail: For peak-baggers. Stroll from Little Cottonwood's Albion Basin campground to Cecret Lake. Then get hardcore with a hike to Sugarloaf Peak and follow the ridgeline for six to eight peaks. When you have had enough, exit toward the White Pine trailhead. Amazing views included (10-12 hours).
Getting there: Drive up Little Cottonwood Canyon, slight right at Peruvian Acre Rd., right on Albion Basin Rd.
Note: Go with a group, it's a Wasatch Mountain Club favorite.
From the Top
Julie Kilgore joined Wasatch Mountain Club to give family and friends a break from hiking peaks. "I was hooked, but I had a very limited group of friends who were interested or capable of getting to the tops of these mountains," she says. She doesn't blame them for backing out, given her type of hike. "I'm a ridge run peak-bagger," she says. In other words, her favorite hikes end very high up. She's been climbing to the top with the club for 13 years, and she's been the group's hiking director for five. "We have over 30 peaks in Salt Lake County that are over 10,000 feet," she says. "That's what I look forward to in the fall—the snow is gone, and the ridges are clear."
Club members follow her lead on trails to Lone Peak, Twin Peaks and a 12-hour hike she calls Bullion Divide Backwards Plus or Minus a Peak or Two (see above). For foliage, she says to hike where there's moisture. "Find the water, and you'll find the colors," she says. "Look for a stream, creek or drainage." While thunderstorms could turn hikers around this fall, Kilgore warns of another danger: "Moose and their big racks—you've got to watch out for those guys."
Wasatch Mountain Club also offers outings for skiing, mountain biking, and more. It costs $35 per year to join. Visit wasatchmountainclub.org for more info.
Taking the Deuel Creek South trail near Centerville