The 5 Best Scenic Fall Drives from Salt Lake City

You’re probably bored out of your mind during the quarantine, so going on a scenic drive might be a wonderful idea! Don’t worry, you can maintain a safe distance from everyone and enjoy the wonderful views from inside your car. It’s the perfect time because Utah is a beautiful spot to witness the breathtaking fall foliage! Get ready to go on a road trip because in this list, we’re taking you to the best scenic byways near Salt Lake City!

Big Cottonwood Canyon

If you’re looking for a quick scenic drive from Salt Lake City, go to Big Cottonwood Canyon. This spot is a mere 30-minute drive from downtown and offers magnificent fall gradient views, with a dramatic alpine scenery that can be readily seen from the main road. From SLC, take the I-215 to the 6200 South Canyons exit, and continue on the U-152.

If you’re in the mood for some outdoor activities, the beautiful canyon also has the best hiking, fishing, picnicking, and camping spots throughout. It is also home to two world-class ski resorts, Solitude and Brighton. There are year-round activities in these resorts so there’s something to do even now during fall.

This picturesque location is only 27 miles away from downtown Salt Lake City and offers spectacular views straight out of an outdoor magazine. This is definitely worth your time!

Little Cottonwood Canyon

Another nearby scenic drive is Big Cottonwood’s little sister, Little Cottonwood Canyon. It is named after its length and width, but the views are just as incredible. The site can be reached by taking the 6200 South Canyons exit from I-215 and continuing east to the canyon on U-210. From there, follow the signs pointing to Snowbird and Alta.

Hiking, rock climbing, and camping are also pretty popular in this spot. Little Cottonwood is also home to two ski resorts, Snowbird and Alta (Utah’s first ski resort). Stop by Red Pine Lake to take photos with a gorgeous water backdrop. If you want a view of the alpines, go to Albion Basin.

This place is only a 25-mile drive from downtown, so go ahead and set aside one day for a fun day trip!

Alpine Scenic Loop

The Alpine Scenic Loop is dubbed as one of the best scenic drives in Utah. This 20-mile drive winds through rugged alpine canyons where you can see the glacier-carved peaks of Mount Timpanogos. The view is absolutely perfect to see fall colors with a breathtaking splash of orange and yellow trees.

Scenic driving is absolutely free, but visitors are required to purchase a recreation pass to access the amenities. Passes are available for $6 and are good for 3 days, $12 passes are good for 7 days. Annual passes are also available for $45. Activities include bicycling, fishing, hiking, and a lot more.

The route follows Utah Hwy. 92 up American Fork Canyon and then continues through Uinta National Forest into Provo Canyon on U.S. 189.

Provo Canyon

Another scenic byway is the route to Provo Canyon. The stunning, winding drive offers views of tall rock formations on both sides. You can also stop by Bridal Veil Falls and take in the beautiful fall views. The road is covered with a series of fall-colored trees, perfect for sightseeing right from the comfort of your car seat.

Outdoor activities such as sailing, fishing, and windsurfing are available at Deer Creek Reservoir located at the top of the canyon. At the end of the byway, you can see Soldier Hollow. This place was used for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games and is still being utilized as a training center to this date.

To go here, just take I-15 then drive through the US 189 from Provo. 

Nebo Loop

This spot is a bit outside of Salt Lake City, but trust us when we say that this is well worth the drive. Designated as a national scenic byway, Nebo Loop offers brilliant fall foliage that’s hard to match! Aside from the beautiful mountain vegetation, the wildlife here is spectacular. The Payson Lakes found along the way also reflects the fall colors in its clear waters. Nebo is a  photographer’s absolute dreamland!

Numerous campgrounds, trail systems, and picnic facilities are also available along the byway. One of the most interesting spots is the Devil’s Kitchen Geologic Interest Site, with bright red stones that contrast the surrounding greenery. It’s a wonderful sight to behold!

The Nebo Loop is 75 miles away from SLC and can be accessed off of I-15 from Payson or Nephi. The 38-mile byway adorned with amazing views all around takes 1.5 hours to complete.

Are you excited? Go ahead and plan your next road trip with your family and friends! Just remember to follow your local guidelines when going outside. We want you to have fun, but your health and safety must be the top priority.

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