5 Stunning Foliage Hikes in Utah

By Elizabeth Barton

5 Stunning Foliage Hikes in Utah

Utah in fall is a veritable dream. Crisp air, bright autumn hues, and incredible mountain vistas—what more could you ask for during harvest season? If beautiful foliage is your first hiking priority, one of the following hikes is sure to hit the spot. 

1. Desolation Lake at Big Cottonwood Canyon

Desolation Lake is a classic for Salt Lake Valley locals. Spanning 7.2 miles, the hike is a second home for trail runners and a solid workout for any hiker (apart from young children). But don’t worry, it’s not all grueling—and especially not in fall, when the trail is accented by splashes of intense yellow courtesy of beautiful pine and fir trees. The trail is well-maintained and evades monotony with everything from meadows to switchbacks (plus a gorgeous lake). The Desolation Lake Trail is everything you crave in an autumn, alpine escapade. Make sure to bring a camera for the memories and snacks to keep your energy levels high. 

2. Lake Blanche at Big Cottonwood Canyon

This hike gives you spectacular views of the Salt Lake Valley, including the formidable and famous Great Salt Lake. Located up Big Cottonwood Canyon, the trail is also near various ski resorts and is pretty easy to access from any point along the Wasatch Front. The trail features large amounts of aspen and scrub oak as well as optional detour trails to two other lakes: Lake Florence and Lake Lillian. Both are not far from the main trail, making them worth the visit if you have the time. As you head up the trail to Lake Blanche, you’ll see myriad waterfalls and freshwater streams, but these are only the precursor to the hike’s main event. Lake Blanche itself is something of magic, making the seven mile out-and-back hike worth all the expended effort. The gorgeous colors of autumn also add a lovely richness to the hike. 

3. Squaw Peak

Squaw Peak trail is a pre-packaged workout that will leave you sweating even in the early morning. With steep inclines, small meadows, bountiful greenery, and an awe-inspiring view of Provo and Orem (albeit from a very steep view point), the hike isn’t necessarily for the faint of heart. You will feel like you conquered something great though, as you reach the top of the peak. It feels somewhat akin to landing on the moon, or entering Jurassic Park. In other words, you probably won’t be disappointed. And the fall foliage? Also far from a disappointment. 

4. Grotto Falls

Grotto Falls is a picturesque, little waterfall requiring nothing but a mere half-mile hike. The trail is located on the Nebo Loop Scenic Drive, which is renowned for its autumn colors. The hike is also nice in summer, but early fall is its prime (early September to mid-October, because the trees in the mountains turn earlier than the trees in the valley). A waterfall and fall foliage are a pretty tough combo to beat, so if you can possibly make it here (with your family and small children, if desired) you should. It is also likely you’ll then want to drive the entire loop and make a few more stops along the way. 

5. Stewart Falls

If you’re in search of one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the state, this is it. And in the autumn, it’s simply breathtaking. Stewart Falls cascades in two tiers with a height of over 200 feet. This moderate, 3.5-mile out-and-back trail winds through a fairytale forest. This is an excellent hike for the whole family to enjoy. 

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