Saturday, September 26, 2009

Five fun ways to enjoy the fall colors in the Wasatch Mountains

Autumn has officially arrived and the Wasatch Mountains are awash in fall color! The aspens and maples are starting to turn and the palate runs from a deep gold to fiery red. Autumn is one of the most enjoyable times of year to experience Utah's mountains, but the best colors don't last long. When the first storm of the season rolls in, many of the leaves get knocked off the trees and before you know it, things have that, stark, wintery feel. The next two weeks will be the peak of the fall color.

Here's five quick ideas on how to get out into the Wasatch Range and enjoy the color while it's at its best!

1) Hike to Mary and Catherine Lakes near Brighton at the top of Big Cottownood Canyon. This chain of small mountain lakes (also includes the pond-like Dog and Martha Lakes) sit in a series of saddles above Brighton Ski Resort near the crest of the Wasatch Range. At just under four miles round-trip, the hike is a great half-day outing. The scenery gets progressively more impressive as you hike up, culminating at Catherine Lake, which sits in the bottom of granite cirque perched between Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood Canyons. Keep your eyes peeled for moose grazing on the foliage around the lakes. Their huge antlers are especially impressive during fall!

Mary Lake, Big Cottonwood Canyon, Wasatch Mountains, Utah, Photo by Mike Matson

2) Rock climb at the Hellgate Cliffs above Alta in Little Cottonwood Canyon. In the rock climbing world, Little Cottonwood Canyon is known for its clean granite rock and vibrant bouldering scene. But up near the top of the canyon near the little town of Alta, you'll find excellent sport climbing on white and black streaked limestone cliffs. Great views all the way down the canyon give climbers a chance to appreciate the beautiful fall colors while they clamor up the rocks.

Michelle White climbing on the Hellgate Cliff, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Wasatch Mountains, Utah, Photo by Mike Matson

3) Spend a day with your camera on Mt. Timpanogos. Mt. Timp, as locals call it, is the jewel of the southern Wasatch. At 11,749 feet, Timp is the second highest peak in the Wasatch Range, and stands dramatically above the town of Provo. Its open slopes and steep topography make it a stunning place to take pictures. And if you have the energy to get there, the summit offers dramatic 360 degree views. There are photo-ops all along the trail and at the base of the mountain at the Sundace Resort. So pick your adventure and don't forget your camera!

4) Take a scenic drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon, over Guardsman Pass, and down into Park City. If you're looking for a low-key weekend adventure, just hop in the car and take a mountain drive. It takes about an hour to drive from Salt Lake City, up Big Cottonwood Canyon, over Guardsman Pass, and back down into Park City. Guardsman Pass will close for winter once it starts to snow, so this is the best time to cruise this scenic route. Enjoy dramatic views of the Wasatch from down in the canyon and wide open vistas over Park City and the Heber Valley from the pass. Golden and orange aspens line the road, with the brightest colors at the upper elevations. Note: Guardsman Pass is not paved. The road is well graded and appropriate for most cars.

Aspens on Guardsman Pass, Wasatch Mountains, Utah, Photo by Mike Matson

5) Mountain biking in Park City. Park City is northern Utah's mountain biking capital. Trails branch out like a spider web from downtown in every direction. Because Park City is higher in elevation than Salt Lake, the fall colors are significantly more pronounced. Riders will be welcomed by a constant birage of crimson from the rocky mountain maple trees lining the single track. If you need somewhere to start, check out the Lost Prospector Trail right above town.

Mike Matson mountain biking at Deer Valley near Park City, Photo by Sonja Matson

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Buckskin Gulch Story Published in the Utah Adventure Journal

Check out my latest feature story about Buckskin Gulch in the fall issue of the quarterly magazine, Utah Adventure Journal. The magazine is new this year, it's free, and can be found at many of the outdoor shops in Salt Lake City like REI, IME, Black Diamond, Christy Sports, Canyon Bicycles, etc. They go fast, so pick one up soon! If you're a Salt Lake local, it's definitely worth checking out. You can also read the story and see the photos on-line at their new website