View Full Version : Boulder Mtn Utah - Fall Color

Sideshow Bob
18-Sep-2009, 09:39
Iím leaving a week from tomorrow for the Boulder Mtn Utah area in search of fall color. If anyone is familiar with the area I have a few questions:

1. Is the end of Sep, first week of Oct a good time for color?
2. Are there roads, rivers, streams, lakes, etc. that you would recommend?
3. Are there campgrounds in the area or is open camping permitted?

Any input would be very much appreciated and also, If anyone is going to be there during this time and would like to meet, PM me and Iíll give you my contact info.


Drew Wiley
18-Sep-2009, 12:05
Color varies with altitude. Aspens up at the pass late Sept or early Oct, depending.
Beware of deer hunters that time of year up in the aspen. They often hunt drunk.
Also the campsites up on Torrey Pass tend to be full for the same reason. On the
other hand, camping is usually available in Capitol Reef and on Calf Creek. Colors down
in the Escalante peak in early Nov, so Oct is a good compromise month. Hwy 12 is one
of the finest drives in all America. Cold at night - take a good sleeping bag. Beware of
motels except Ruby's Inn. Stay away from Panguitch or you're guaranteed a ticket.
This is incredible country, even by Utah standards. It often snows on the passes this
time of year so carry chains (though 4WD generally works). Take plenty of food and
water and avoid slot canyons, which still flashflood in Oct. Easy drive from Boulder to
Capitol Reef, which is a "must see" in Oct.

Drew Wiley
18-Sep-2009, 13:08
Let me follow up a bit more. Take plenty of gas, especially if you wander down into
the Grand Staircase area or Waterpocket Fold. If a road washes out you might have
to backtrack. No facilities until Lake Powell. Wonderful dayhikes either up or down the
Escalante right off Hwy 12, or an easy hike from Calf Cr campground up to the falls.
Motels in Boulder and Hurricane tend to be medieval at best (bedbugs included). Some
decent B&B's around Escalante, however, if you have reservations. Basically, everything from Bryce to Capitol Reef and beyond is photographer's heaven in the fall.
You could explore this area your entire life and not see everything. Always inquire
locally about any of the unpaved roads. There is an excellent BLM office in Escalante
with maps and information. You can camp in Bryce too but it will be nippy at night.
Apple harvest in Capitol Reef. One or two motels are open in nearby Torrey plus a
sub sandwich shop etc - all of which I boycott because the development has spoiled
the atmosphere - about twelve boarded up motels there due to speculation and greed!
Torrey Pass closes briefly at times, then will open a few hours or a day later. I'll never
tire of that drive. And in the rain or snow the aspens are wonderful for either color or
b&w film. The fabulous thing about this area is that you can adjust your activities by
altitiude, and within a half hour either direction get spectacular desert and canyonland
or high country aspen forests and snow.

18-Sep-2009, 13:55
Drew has ya' covered pretty well, but as I'm leaving Sept 23 for a two-week photo trip to Southern Utah myself thought I'd through in a few-cents worth as I've been keeping an eye and researching weather and color conditions expected.:

Just read an article last night that states colors are just now starting to show up in the higher elevations, and in general colors usually last from now until mid-October. But then again... some areas don't have any trees except for Utah Juniper's that stays green all year!

This trip we'll be camping... our two previous trips staying in motels taught us that many/most Utah rural hotel/motels were Spartan at best. We're planning on setting up a base camp in the Capitol Reef area (most likely Fruita or Petrified Forest or Calf Creek.

If you haven't been to Southern Utah before: Southern Utah has a completely Other Worldly look about it, and is full of Must See places... the list would be too long to post.

Biggest mistake one can make there (besides not keeping the gas tank filled when stations are available) is trying to cover too much territory in a given time. Our trip there two years ago saw nearly 3000 miles put onto a rental vehicle and we still didn't get all the Must See places on our list covered. This trip we've vowed to stay in the South Central and South West quadrant only and travel less.

A good source for information is: www.utah.com

Has lots of information and plenty of links.

You're gonna love it there.....

SW Rick
18-Sep-2009, 15:22
Boulder Mountain Inn and its restaurant in Boulder are top-notch!

Drew Wiley
18-Sep-2009, 19:11
I forgot to mention the Hell's Backbone road, which is the old stagecoach alternate
route between Boulder and Escalante. Good condition gravel and spectacular in its
own right. There are almost unlimited camping options if you carry a jerry can of
water. You can pull over many places in Grand Staircase, Dixie Forest, and just to
the east of Capitol Reef. Some of these little turnouts are gorgeous. But once you
leave the pavement it's easy to get stuck even with 4WD. A tiny bit of rain or snow
on rock-hard slickrock clay will turn it into slippery goo, and sand tracks that look
easy can be a real trap too. I always carry a small shovel. A simple trick if you do
get stuck in sand is to dig under the tires a little a show a little sagebrush under
them - great traction! The Grand Staircase road is paved about 18 miles or so,
before hitting gravel - a real taste of canyon country if you aren't backpacking.
You can get showers at Ruby's Inn, just outide Bryce. The Inn itself tends to be
booked up in advance during the fall color season. Accomodations tend to be less
crowded in Torrey, which is only minutes from Capitol Reef - but I would rather
camp in Fruita - almost a fairy-tale setting. And the rangers there aren't all uptight
and stressed out like those in Yosemite and crowded parks - friendly indeed. The
only developed campground up in Dixie near Torrey Pass is usually closed this late
in the year, but casual camping depends on whether deer season is open yet. If not,
there are plenty of gorgeous spots among the aspen.

Sideshow Bob
18-Sep-2009, 19:17
Thanks for all the excellent suggestions and for taking the time to respond.
I guess I should have given more of my background when I started this thread. Iíve gone through this area numerous times over the years. I usually go to Colorado each fall and on my way home, back to the bay area, I go through Capital Reef, Hwy 12 over Boulder Mtn, Bryce and Zion LV and home. The problem is by the time I reach the pass over Boulder Mtn the leaves are off the trees. Last year I spent several days around the 20th of Oct in Capital Reef and the color at that elevation was at peek (see attached) but I was too late for Boulder Mtn. This year I am not going to Colorado, instead I want to spend all my time in the area between CR and Escalante. I drive a full size Ford van so I camp almost every day, thatís why I asked about camping.
Like I said, I'm leaving on the 26th of Sep and don't have to be home until Oct 7th (I have a show on the 10th and 11th), I'm just hope the timing is right for Boulder Mtn.

Drew Wiley
19-Sep-2009, 10:46
Sorry to misunderstand, Bob, but your timing seems excellent. I figure roughly three
weeks to month between the color peaking in the aspen and down below in Capitol
Reef. But a single hard storm can trigger sudden color changes. The Aquarius Plateau has aspen growing over a cosiderable elevation range, so the trees up high
will often be bare when those a couple thousand feet down are just getting rich in
color. You can't go wrong. But if it we me I'd check the web for the deer hunting
season in Dixie Natl Forest. If weather permits and you can bag one of those high
turnout campsites near the pass itself you'll have fabulous views.

Sideshow Bob
19-Sep-2009, 12:32
Hi Drew,
No reason to be sorry! You have gone above and beyond with a lot of excellent info and I appreciate it.

Mike Hansen
19-Sep-2009, 16:28
31342 Here are some shots from around the Fish Lake area from the second to last weekend in september, four years ago. Fish lake is not far from Capital Reef, just out of Loa.