Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Alpine Loop Scenic Byway: the best scenic loop drive in the Wasatch

The scenic Sunday drive is an American Classic! Like Thanksgiving turkey, apple pie, or Super Bowl Sunday, the Sunday scenic drive is an American tradition. Americans have always been fond of their cars and there's no better way to enjoy your automobile than taking it for a cruise. No traffic, no pressure, no time limits. Just you, your car and the road, and the scenery, of course. Not all scenic drives are created equal however. One of the key components of an enjoyable scenic drive is that it needs to be close to home, yet far enough away that it feels new and exciting.

If you live along the Wasatch Front, there's not a prettier stretch of pavement for a weekend gettaway than the Alpine Loop connecting American Fork Canyon and Provo Canyon. The Alpine Loop Scenic Byway (State Route 92) can be approached via American Fork Canyon through the town of Alpine, or alternatively from Provo Canyon (US Highway 189). Either way you approach it, the Alpine Loop promises stunning vistas and brilliant fall scenery. The loop drive curles around Mt. Timpanogos, one of the most dramatic summits in the Wasatch Mountains. Along the way, get out and stretch the legs by checking out Timpanogos Cave National Monument in American Fork Canyon. If you're interested in extending your outing, consider hiking up to the cave system. This is the last weekend the cave is open for tours before it closes for the season. The three cavern cave system is accessed via a paved trail that gains over a 1,000 feet. The cave can only be visited with an official National Park Service tour. Tour tickets are available at the monument, the tour takes approximately 3 hours.

Provo Canyon's Bridal Veil Falls offers another beautiful opportunity to get out of the car along this drive. The narrow ribbon of falls cascades down a 600 foot high step-like limestone rock formation on the south side of the canyon. The falls can be viewed by pulling off the highway at the Bridal Veil Falls/Nunn's Park parking lot. A short walk up the Provo River Trail (0.5 miles) will lead to the base of the falls.

The Alpine Loop Drive is best done in the next few weeks. Early fall storms have cloaked the upper reaches of Mt. Timpanogos in a blanket of white (see the photo above), adding to its already dramatic appearence, but the road remains snow free. The road won't be open for long though, it closes for the winter season as soon as it's covered by snow.

Here's the view looking west down American Fork Canyon - Photo by Mike Matson

View Larger Map

No comments:

Post a Comment