Let’s just admit that we all love leaf peeping. Sure, we might scoff at the city slickers who drive up a mountain pass only to park in a crowded lot and pose for photos wearing a new scarf and cable-knit sweater, but we’re the very same people who love to snap those ubiquitous handlebar in a tunnel of yellow leaf pictures and post those artsy shots of a single crimson leaf lying next to a tire track in brown pow to our social pages. #Fallshred or #fallline or something along those lines. You know who you are.
Why not enjoy the fleetingly majestic wonders of nature this fall while indulging your inner shred at the same time? Embrace your secret love of leaf peeping and combine it with your love of mountain biking. Try these five fall mountain bike rides in Utah where neither the leaf peeping nor the riding will feel like the sideshow.
This ride links up some classic XC trails from the new Ontario Trailhead on Marsac Ave. Head up Tour des Suds before linking to the Flagstaff Loop and winding through brilliant yellow aspen forests and open mountain meadows. Head briefly up the doubletrack towards Bald Mountain before turning right on Bow Hunter Loop for a short detour around the a small peak with great views of the Jordanelle Reservoir below. Finish by taking Deer Camp back to Flagstaff Loop and descending the same way you came up.
High Star is one of the best trail systems in the autumn. The trails sit a little lower than those in Park City, which can be susceptible to early season snow, and they get some wonderfully warm sunshine at certain times of day. Start off with a comfortable, steady climb up Escalador. Add in an upper loop on Short Fuse and The Chase if you have the legs for them before heading down RADke. RADke is a phantasmagoria of rock features, berms and rollers. It’s like an old school downhill trail and a flow trail had a kid who really likes to party. It’s great fun.
The Whole Enchilada is the most famous trail in Utah (sorry Wasatch Crest, we still love you) for a reason, and fall is the perfect time to ride the it. The ride begins by with a lung-busting climb to the top of Burro Pass at over 11,000 feet before descending more than 6,000 feet over nine miles and 7,000 feet to the Colorado River. Along the way you go from shaded high alpine forests in the La Sal Mountains through rocky desert mesas with beautiful views of Castle Valley. It’ll be cold—possibly frigid and snowy—at the top and quite warm near the bottom, which is why the fall shoulder season is ideal. Numerous shuttle companies in Moab are happy to take you to the top for around $25 per rider.
The Thunder Mountain trail in Panguitch borrows its environment from the nearby Bryce Canyon and Cedar Breaks. A flowy singletrack ribbon runs through rolling terrain lined by dramatic red rock features with enough technical sections mixed in to keep you on your toes. The gorgeous desert views of and changing colors make every stop a worthwhile opportunity to snag your next big Instagram pic. The trail is typically done as an eight-mile one-way shuttle, but those with hearty legs can access the top via pedal power.
Warning! Obvious eponymous trail name joke alert: the changing colors of the foliage on the WOW Trail will have you saying, “Wow!” I kid. But seriously, you’ll descend through nine miles of aspen lined trails from near the top of Guardsman Pass down to Midway. The trail character changes along the way from rooty and dark to sunny and arid, but the views never relent. There are a few ways to ride the WOW, but most people will shuttle a car to the base of trail near Wasatch State Park to cut down on the ample effort.
Can't get enough? Here are some of our favorite fall hikes too.