This is my favorite time of the year—the air is getting cooler, the mornings are crisp, there are pleasant rainstorms, but things haven’t started to freeze or frost over yet; it’s time to bring out the sweaters and boots and starting enjoying soups and stews.
Of course no autumn in Utah is complete without the gorgeous fall foliage. Last year I found my favorite place in the Heber Valley to admire the colors—Guardsman Pass. Guardsman is nothing new or not a secret to be sure, but up until last year it was only a very mountainous, uneven, narrow dirt road. I’d tried once, years ago, to drive it but even though it was only October there was snow on the road and in my little front-wheel passenger car I didn’t dare try. But not this year! The road is still steep and narrow, but now it’s been paved, making it more accessible.
And the views! They were completely stunning! To begin the drive you continue up past the Wasatch Mountain State Park, beyond the golf course. As you climb the road gets narrower and the trees overhang. But when those trees are bursting with bright red leaves, well, it’s pretty spectacular.
I pulled off the road several times to stop and take pictures. Once where the road crossed a bubbling brook (and where I threw leaves into the water to snap pictures as they floated past). Another time I stopped to look back over the valley and see how high I’d climbed. As the road continued up the mountain the pull out spaces became less frequent and several times I stopped in the only place available (the middle of the road) to capture the perfect lighting on a tree.
Guardsman Pass eventually starts heading downhill as you crest over the mountain ridge, dumping you down into the Salt Lake Valley. I noticed the closer I got to the valley below, the more people there were on the road. There were even several pullouts that I’d loved to have stopped by, but had to bypass since they were already completely full.
But it was okay, because the most beautiful foliage was on the Heber side of the mountain where the aspens and maples were located. The trees on the Salt Lake side were mostly pines and other evergreens.
Eventually though I had to head back the way I’d come and go home. The drive back though was just as spectacular as I watched a storm roll in through the valley with the sun still shining behind me. It was breathtaking.
If you decide to go: make sure you leave yourself plenty of daylight. It’s not a drive you’ll want to do in the dark. Especially if you’ve never been before. Take a camera. Drive slowly and watch out for wildlife. Use this map to get started.