By Eric Friend
Experiencing Fall Colors: Ultimate Guide to an Autumn Utah Adventure with Tripadvisor
Utah in the fall is like stepping into a living painting, with the amber, crimson, and gold colors all coming to life. It’s a place you HAVE to experience during this amazing time of year. As a born and raised local and a photography enthusiast, I've collaborated with Tripadvisor to put together a dream list of must do’s - full of experiences that will help you make the most out of the season and colors in the Northern Utah area. So, let's journey through some must do’s, region by region.
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Welcome to my Travel Blog, where we chase horizons, frame unforgettable moments, and uncover Earth’s best-kept visual treasures! I’m snapping my way through the world’s most epic locations, one breathtaking place at a time. Join me on this journey as I reveal travel’s hidden gems, share photographic secrets, and inspire your travel to reach new heights. Grab your cameras and passports; it’s time to take an adventure worth a thousand words and countless memories.
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Utah is a place that I didn’t fully appreciate until I started traveling the world. Little did I know that some of the most beautiful places were right under my nose.
Nestled in the heart of the American West, Utah stands as proof to the breathtaking beauty and diverse landscapes that this region has to offer. With its towering mountain ranges, expansive desert terrains, serene lakes, and enchanting foliage, Utah transforms into a canvas of vibrant colors during the fall season. It changes from the hot summer days into cool crisp mornings while the colors start to reveal Utah’s most stunning side.
Utah is not just a beautiful dream for outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore, the fall season brings a plethora of traditions and fall activities. This season allows visitors to immerse themselves in the natural beauty, engage in thrilling experiences, and create memories that last a lifetime. Whether it’s hiking through colorful trails, riding a coaster through Park City, riding horseback across scenic terrains, or simply relishing the crisp mountain air, Utah is a must visit place for the fall.
As someone who is local to the state of Utah and a photography fanatic, I have done it all! There are some specific places that are my go to’s every year to experience the beautiful colors and to celebrate the season before the cold winter months settle in. The weather is still beautiful for hiking and being outside so I take full advantage. To note, all of these things are linked to Tripadvisor who has worked with me to break this down for you.
So, let’s dive in and find the hidden gems, and best recommendations as we uncover the best ways to experience the fall season and colors in this spectacular area of the state.
SLC: Unique Experiences Near Salt Lake City
Things to do:
One of my absolute favorite things to do during this time of year is riding bikes! This is a great way to enjoy the outdoors before the snow comes in. If you stay in the Salt Lake City area there are beautiful parks to enjoy such as Liberty Park, City Creek Park, and Memorial Park. These are all beautiful as the colors start to change and would be a great place to ride the bikes to. This e-bike rental place in Salt Lake is an amazing option for not only a bike but an E-bike. E-bikes are 1 billion percent worth it if you want to cover more ground while still enjoying being outside. I love that I can go up hills, travel long distances, and enjoy the fall colors, all while not having to break sweat. You can book the bikes for 2 hours, 4 hours, and 24 hours depending on what you want to do.
A few other places to explore: Jordan River Parkway Trail, Provo Canyon Trail, have some really nice paved paths that will take you through the trees. The Provo Trail is my personal favorite but you may need a bike rack or a car that can fit the bikes to get the bikes to these areas but it would be well worth it to experience the colors in this canyon.
Salt Lake City Bike and Brew Tour
If you are looking for more of a guided tour and want to see what Salt Lake City has to offer when it comes to microbreweries and food, combined with some local sightseeing, this could be a great option as well.
If you haven’t been to Salt Lake City there are some other really unique outdoor experiences that you should check out! Some of these may not have as many fall colors as in the mountains but this time of year, the weather is so perfect to experience these unique spots.
Bonneville Salt Flats
So many people think Salt Flats only exist in countries like Bolivia so it’s always fun to surprise visitors with this incredible place! It’s free to go here but you will need to rent a car if you don’t have a way to get transportation. It’s about 2 hours away from Salt Lake City but it’s well worth the trip!
As you may have guessed, this is indeed an island. It’s in fact the largest Island on the Great Salt Lake. You can visit this island on your own or with a guide. If you go the guided route you will hike and explore this unique landscape, look for wildlife, and learn more about the lake ecosystem and what is being done to conserve this essential resource.
The Great Salt Lake
This is the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere! If you haven’t ever been to a salt lake, this is something to experience. Depending on time of year, some tours will even let you swim in the lake which is one of the coolest sensations I’ve experienced! I’ve also been to areas where the lake was completely pink (shown in the photos below) although this is not the case throughout the entire lake. If you would like tour options, I’ve included them below:
Food and Drinks:
A slice of Italy but in between downtown SLC and the Avenues near U of U campus. Imagine pasta dishes infused with truffle, risottos that melt in your mouth, and desserts that taste like an Italian autumn.
Pro tip: Our favorite meals to get and share are the Osteria Amore pasta (made with amazing pistachio), and the Diavola with added burrata cheese, and they also have an incredible Sangiovese wine.
This classy contemporary bar and restaurant is one of our go to’s for brunch, drinks, and even dinner. Their autumn specials, crafted with seasonal ingredients and a touch of culinary magic, promise a dining experience that’s both comforting and novel. The drinks and food are seriously so delicious, and make sure to try their egg chip appetizers!
One of our favorite spots is Mumbai House! Located near the benches of SLC on your way to Park City, this restaurant is a treasure trove of authentic Indian flavors. From the rich and creamy butter chicken to the perfectly charred naans, every dish is a testament to India’s diverse culinary heritage. The warm, ambient lighting and traditional decor create a cozy atmosphere, making it a perfect spot for those chilly autumn evenings. Whether you’re a spice enthusiast or someone looking for comfort food with a twist, Mumbai House promises a dining experience that’s both exotic and heartwarming.
Here’s our favorite order to share with 2 or 3 people: Butter Chicken (at a spice level 2 or 3 depending on what you can handle), Chicken Tikka Masala, and their garlic naan bread. If you’re a wine drinker, they also have glasses of house merlot for only $5.50 each!
Places to stay:
The Grand America Hotel
Luxury meets comfort. Each room feels like a warm autumnal embrace, and the views? Simply breathtaking.
Hyatt House Salt Lake City/Downtown
Modern, chic, and perfectly poised to let you explore the city’s fall wonders.
The Cottonwood Canyons - Experiencing the Vibrant Fall Colors
Things to do:
A short 15 minute drive up Little Cottonwood Canyon, this festival is a blend of vibrant colors, incredible backdrop vistas, festive music, hearty foods, and of course… really great beer. As you wander through all the fun shopping stalls, the aroma of roasted chestnuts and the sound of live music create an atmosphere that’s pure Oktoberfest.
– Fall dates to attend Oktoberfest: Saturdays and Sundays, Aug. 12 to Oct. 15
This area will be one of the most scenic places to see the fall colors. There’s tons of places to hike, offroad, mountain bike, trail run, etc. Start by going up Big Cottonwood Canyon, go all the way through and come back out through American Fork Canyon. Or do the opposite, either way works great! You can also take a route that also leads into Park City, which has some of our most favorite and iconic viewpoints.
Lake Blanche Trail
This is one of my favorite lakes in northern Utah. The hike is a hard but you’ll be able to enjoy the fall colors and see the fantastic view at the top so it’s well worth it! I’ve seen all sorts of wild life on this trail so take your time and enjoy spending some peaceful time in the colorful mountains,
Food and Drinks:
Can we say “SPICED LATTES.” The coffee and food combined with the cozy ambiance, makes it the perfect spot to relax and look at the beautiful entrance into Big Cottonwood Canyon. The Poly is my own favorite specialty drink, but honestly they’re all so good.
Porcupine Pub & Grille
Set against the backdrop of the canyons, this rustic eatery offers dishes that are as hearty as they are flavorful. Their fall-inspired menu, with dishes simmered in rich gravies and paired with seasonal veggies, is a must-try. My personal favorite dishes are the fish tacos or the Baked Ravioli with added blackened shrimp. As far as drinks go, their sangria is to die for!
A delightful fusion of local and international flavors, with a menu that celebrates the bounty of the season. All of their dishes are delicious, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a better chicken sandwich than their Chef’s Chicken Sandwich. If you’re feeling the need to be a bit more health-conscious the salads and ahi tuna are also really tasty.
The Hog Wallow Pub
Just a stone’s throw away from the Cottonwood Canyons, The Hog Wallow Pub is more than just a pub; it’s an experience. With its rustic charm, live music, and a patio that offers some of the most breathtaking views of the fall foliage, it’s the perfect spot to unwind after a day of adventures. Whether you’re sipping on a craft beer or indulging in their hearty pub fare, the ambiance here promises cozy autumnal vibes.
Pro tip: Try to get seating in the outside area in the back of the pub, it’s an awesome vibe and ambiance with lush greens all around.
Places to stay:
Courtyard Salt Lake City Cottonwood
Here, every window offers a view that’s a riot of fall colors, making mornings a visual treat. The best place about this hotel is that you’re literally at the mouth to Big Cottonwood Canyon which leads to epic trails and great ski resorts like Solitude and Brighton, where you can do some incredible mountain biking during the fall colors.
The Cliff Lodge at Snowbird Resort
As the mountains around don the golden hues of fall, the resort transforms into a haven of relaxation and rejuvenation. The spa, with its array of treatments, promises to melt away the chill of the autumn air, leaving you refreshed. And as the evening draws near, the hotel’s plush accommodations ensure you drift into dreams with views of the starry skies and the rustling leaves outside. On the rooftop deck, make sure to hang out in the large pool and hot tub!
Park City: World Famous Mountain City
Things to do:
If you’re a bit more of a thrill seeker, this option might be for you! Park City is known worldwide as a winter destination but it is equally amazing during the other times of year. The coaster is so much fun and is a fantastic way to see some beautiful views, see the fall colors, and have some insane amount of fun! There’s a coaster and a slide and both are sooo much fun. I think if you can’t do both the coaster is my favorite but you can also buy bundles with multiple activities. You can book in advance but you can also just buy tickets when you get there. It is seasonal so best to make sure you aren’t going in the off season.
(Deer Valley near Park City): What is better than a true western experience in a true western state! One of the most fun things to experience is horseback riding. Take that and stack the beautiful fall colors on top – what else could you ask for during this time of year. This is one of the most reputable ranches in this area and this area is truly one of the BEST places to see fall colors in the entire state! They have some different days, times and lengths that you can book. I did the Jordan River trail and it was unbelievably beautiful!
High West Distillery Tour
Begin with a deep dive into history, exploring the age-old traditions of distilling. We really enjoyed the tour and learning all about how our favorite High West Whiskeys are made! And the tastings were incredible – personally I never bought a bottle more expensive than about $50 so it was a really fun experience to try more complex and expensive whiskeys by the glass. Make sure you stay for brunch after your tour and tasting (more details below). Sitting out on the balcony overlooking the views while the colors are changing was a perfect Sunday activity.
Food and Drinks:
High West Distillery Brunch
If you go to High West on a Sunday, you can enjoy the brunch buffet as well which I HIGHLY recommend! It’s such a perfect fall vibe and the food was so incredible! We had everything from french toast and eggs to salads, fruit, roast beef and more. I give it a solid 10/10. And as you can only expect, the High West cocktails are really unique and tasty.
Places to stay:
Hotel Park City, Autograph Collection (Luxury)
Envision wooden interiors, fireplaces that crackle with warmth, and balconies that offer views of mountains adorned in fall colors.
Waldorf Astoria Park City (Mid-Tier & Deals)
A retreat where every corner whispers luxury, and the fall vistas outside compete with the opulence within.
Utah Valley: My Favorite Hiking Canyons
Things to do:
Alpine Loop Drive (hiking, lakes, beautiful views)
This isn’t just a drive; it’s an experience. As you navigate the winding roads, every turn reveals panoramic views of valleys bathed in autumn colors, serene lakes reflecting the golden hues, and trails that beckon for exploration.
Pro tip: There’s some areas up Provo Canyon right before you go up to Sundance and the Alpine Loop that are breathtaking. You have to go off the main highways and up to Little Rock Canyon Overlook. This might be one of the most stunning places to go during sunset so don’t miss it! American Fork Canyon has some incredible lakes and reservoirs such as Tibble Fork Reservoir.
One of the most amazing waterfall hikes in this area! It’s such a beautiful trail to enjoy the fall colors and the waterfall at the end is HUGE. It really is so beautiful.
Easy walk and extremely beautiful! This is very easy to get to if you have young kids and want a simpler walk but still enjoying the outdoors and fall colors.
My favorite area to view Mt. Timpanogos which is one of the most epic mountains in Utah. A MUST see spot!
This is the first of several bodies of water in this area. Theres plenty of offroad trails and beautiful hikes leading more lakes and lookouts in this area.
Ashton Gardens - Thanksgiving point
Scarecrow Festival: Thanksgiving Point transforms into a wonderland of colors and festivities during the fall. The gardens are beautiful and the festival is a fun activity for all ages. If you want to get out and pick pumpkins – make sure to check out the Pumpkin Patch for another family-friendly outings.
Food and Drinks:
Sol Agave - American Fork
Sol Agave promises a culinary journey to Mexico and is our favorite restaurant in the state of Utah. You honestly can’t go wrong with anything that you want to order there, and the house margaritas are also amazing. Here’s a few of our favorite dishes: Tacos de Hongo (add a side of Mole), Enchiladas de Langosta, Mar Y Tierra, and last but not least you MUST save room for their Butter Cake because it’s to die for!
Located in American Fork between your commutes from Southern Utah Valley to & from Salt Lake, Kitchen 88 is a culinary gem and great for quick, casual eats. With a menu that’s a delightful fusion of classic and contemporary, every dish here promises a gastronomic journey. The ambiance, with its warm lighting and chic decor, complements the fall season perfectly. Whether you’re diving into their signature dishes or sipping on an organic homemade lemonade, the flavors here are as vibrant and diverse as the autumn foliage outside. Their stake tacos are our go to!
Places to stay:
Hyatt Place Salt Lake City / Lehi
A blend of modern design and rustic charm, it’s the perfect base to explore the valley’s fall wonders.
If I haven’t convinced you yet, I don’t know what will! Utah is one of the best Fall destinations in this part of the world. Having a city like Salt Lake City while still having close access to insanely beautiful mountains is incredibly unique. Let your heart be your guide, and let Tripadvisor be your trusted companion as you decide which amazing things you want to experience here.
Note: As you explore the beauty of this fall season, remember to pause, breathe, and let every moment mean something. Safe travels!