If you live in Utah, look outside. If you live elsewhere, check the Instagram fees Utah friends or any Utah ski resorts. The colors are POPPING right now. Every aspen tree has turned into a shimmering gold tambourine and, as much as it pains me to say as a native New Englander, this 2021 fall season in Utah can rival the best in Vermont.
The best way to experience this fall miracle is to grab a pumpkin spice Clif bar and Stio flannel and hit the trails. Below are a few of my favorite day hikes around the state. And because I’m using these hikes as a way to get in shape for ski season, I’m focusing on hikes where you can see ski resorts, because as much as I love fall, winter is coming and I’m itching for snow.
Mount Timpanogos (Provo)
This is a long one, but there’s no better way to get your legs ready for the bootpack up Baldy than a 15-mile trek up the second-highest peak in the Wasatch. You’ll have to start early to make it a day hike—6 a.m. or earlier—but the views are stunning over the out-and-back trail. Keep an eye out for Sundance Mountain Resort, which is just a couple miles away as the crow flies. For something a little shorter, our friends at Salt Lake Tribune recommend the nearby Primrose Overlook trail for vistas of rolling meadows and vibrant aspen trees.
Dawns (Park City)
Park City is a myriad of multi-use trails, but it’s always nice as both a biker and a hiker to have some separation. As a biker, I’ll always yield to the fellow recreators, but as a hiker, I’d prefer to not have to keep an eye out for someone like me on a speeding carbon-fiber bullet. Dawns is one of the few hiking-only treks in town and makes for a wonderful out-and-back with some of the best leaf-peeping in the state and gorgeous views of our once little mining town. You’ll stroll under a Park City Mountain ski lift for a while and traverse many a ski trail, so feel free to dream about the upcoming powder days this winter and plan your untracked lines.
Pro tip: There are tons of trails to take on to Dawns if your legs are feeling strong, but I do not recommend Spiro. Spiro is a fantastic mountain bike trail, but it is super dangerous as a hiker with riders nuking around blind corners at high speeds. Give Armstrong a try instead!
Clayton Peak / Bloods Lake (Midway)
I may be biased because I got engaged to my now-husband on this hike, but this is probably my favorite trail on the list. Start at the new Bloods Lake trailhead—a welcome addition to this area—and you’ll wind around Bloods Lake and Lackawaxen Lake at a leisurely ascent. But be prepared for the final scramble up Clayton Peak; it’s steep but worth it. At the summit, you’ll be able to see Park City Mountain and Deer Valley Resort while standing at the top of Brighton's highest lift. It’s pretty cool to see firsthand how close all of the Wasatch mountains are!
The Living Room (Salt Lake City)
Tucked behind the Natural History Museum of Utah is one of Salt Lake’s best-known and easily accessible trails called The Living Room. The colors won’t be as vibrant here—there aren’t many trees—but it makes for a great post-work jaunt to stretch your legs on the 2.5-mile trail. I also highly recommend throwing a beer in your pack—the top is an excellent spot for happy hour as you gaze over all of the Salt Lake valley. Given that it is fall, it only seems appropriate to take up Ski Utah’s favorite seasonal: Wasatch Brew Pub's Pumpkin Ale.
Pfeifferhorn (Little Cottonwood)
The views are unparalleled on this 11-mile trek—the beautiful Red Pine lake, butter yellow aspen trees and more. This trail is certainly more advanced, so if you’re not feeling exposed ridgelines, rocky scrambles, and steep ascents, shift your eyes toward Maybird Gulch Lake. It’s a more moderate and quieter trail—perfect for dreaming about the first snowfall at Snowbird as you stare at the Pfeifferhorn looming above you.
Mount Raymond (Big Cottonwood)
This hike starts from the Big Cottonwood side, closer to Solitude Mountain Resort. You’ll do a combination of easy strolling, bounding over streams, scrambling and some steep vertical climbs—all while you gawk at Big Cottonwood Canyon showing off its blazing aspen trees. It will get chilly up in the Cottonwoods in the fall, so be sure to bring your Stio vest to stay cozy at the top of the 10,241-foot peak.