Utah Trip, Fall 2010

In October 2010, we made a road trip as a family to Utah, first to visit Salt Lake City and friends, then to check out the touted fall foliage and the national parks. Most things worked out well although not as we had envisioned. After days of getting ready for the camping trip, the weather did not cooperate and practically rained the whole time we went sightseeing. The kids probably preferred for us to sleep on warm motel beds in any event. Following is a summary day by day of our trip:

  • October 2, 2010: We drove from the bay area through Nevada to Salt Lake City. This was a long drive from morning to night. For the most part, it was a good driving day - mostly sunny, with occasional showers and few road works.
  • October 3, 2010: Before the trip, we looked up information about fall foliage. Utah does a great job promoting travels, especially for the fall season. There are many sites offering great advices, but we followed the suggestions provided by utah.com. We picked the Ogden Valley driving tour since it was reasonably close. It was a relatively short drive and the colors were pretty nice. At lower elevation, oaks and maples dominated the fall colors. As we reached higher elevation, aspens became prevalent. Overall, it was a nice drive, but without more specific guidance, we only saw the obvious and it was not as spectacular as we had hoped for. Returning to SLC, we stopped by the Capitol building and were able to get inside to see the beautiful chambers and halls. We then drove to Wheeler Historic Farm just in time to see a fire breaking out. While we could not walk into the interior areas where firemen were putting the fire out, we managed to see the farm house and the barn among other things. It is at this farm that visitors can participate in gathering eggs and milk cows (which my wife was fascinated with). A dinner with friends ended the day.
  • October 4: Our real sight seeing trip began. We took our friend advice and drove the Mount Nebo Scenic Byway. We stopped by a visitor in the city of Payson called Peteneet School. I could not find much information on the web to describe it in more detail, but the folks there were certainly friendly and helpful. A lady proudly showed us the collection of collectibles, including those donated by Lee Staheli who was a local and famous horse wrangler.
  • October 5: Skipping Capitol Reef National Park where fall colors are not a key focus and would be too early in any event, we headed on to Cedar Breaks. The drive to Cedar Breaks passed Dixie National Forest which should be a destination for fall colors in its own right. The red creek, winding roads, foggy sky and lava fields all complimented the gold aspen colors. Cedar Breaks National Monument did not have much to show for fall colors, although the canyons were spectacular even in the snow storm. After a short stop here to avoid getting stuck in the snow, we moved on toward Bryce Canyon. A nice roadside photo location is Red Rock Canyon. The park has much more to offer, but we did not budget time for further exploration. We arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park in the rain. We drove the scenic 18-mile park road to Rainbow point - there is only one main road extending Highway 63, but without a name. With so much fog, there was not much to see here, but we managed a few pictures at overlooks such as Natural Bridge. The rest of the evening was spent indoor!
  • October 6: Braving the weather, we returned to Bryce Canyon in the morning. My son and I decided to hike down the Navajo Loop Trail. Not paying attention to the fine print recommending doing it clockwise, we did it the other way. A word of advice - don't linger at the bottom of the Wall Street section during wet weather- small pebbles constantly rained down from above, with occasional rocks crashing down. Only after we passed that hazadous area that we saw a warning sign about the risk of injury or death! This was a short (1.3 miles), but steep (550 ft elevation change), but picturesque hike with features like Wall Street, natural bridges, and the famous Thor Hammer. After the hike and not much more to do at Bryce due to the weather, we headed toward Zion. We booked into a motel at Mount Carmel Junction, then proceeded to Glen Canyon Dam. Of the two big dams in the region - Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam, Glen Canyon is by far my favorite due to its picturesque location, absence of huge crowd, and the informative tour to the operation center near the bottom of the dam. The road to Glen Canyon - Vermillion Cliff Highway, passes through many beautiful red rock formations, with glimpses of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
  • October 7: We drove in Zion National Park early in the morning from the East side on the windy Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. This road was an engineering marvel at the time with long tunnels dug in the mountain. We then took the shuttle for the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, and visited all the typical stops such as River Walk. My son and I took a long hike to Hidden Canyon. This was a 4+ mile hike with dangerous sections of steep and small trails carved into the side of the mountain, with steep dropoff on the other side. To make things worse, the slippery slick rock causes unstable footing. Fortunately, chains were attached to the wall making it climb-able. At the end of the hike, a natural arch was the reward.
  • October 8: We took a morning hike to Emerald Pools, with lighting condition not at its best due to a late start. By mid day, we left Zion to go back to California.
  • October 9: Some interesting stops on the way home were Fossil Falls, and Mount Whitney Trail. Then long drives into the night home!

Overall, it was a fun trip both for the scenery and family bonding. With the wet weather most of the way, our original plan to camp did not work out and we stayed in motels/hotels all the way. Utah is a great destination for fall foliage is aspen is your subject. There are many streams and mountains creating great backdrops for fall colors. There are famous drives, but I also found unamed ones among my favorite shots.