Setting the scene for a fall to-do list


Instagram, the social media hub for all things (more or less) photogenic, brings up more than 19 million posts for the simple hashtag #fall and more than 300,000 for #fallcolors.

The consistent use of these hashtags shows just how well-loved fall is. Capturing nature’s beauty can help students de-stress from school as they experience the outdoors firsthand or by taking a drive through a canyon or park.

The Stewart Falls hike is four miles long and takes about two hours for hikers and walkers to complete. (Elliott Miller)
The Stewart Falls hike is four miles long and takes about two hours for hikers and walkers to complete. (Elliott Miller)

Stewart Falls

Tia Davis, a BYU sophomore, hiked Stewart Falls in Provo Canyon a few weeks ago, when the scrub oak and other trees covered the mountain in flaming red and golden yellow.

“There is a road up past the trail head that you can drive up that’s miles and miles of yellow quaking aspens,” Davis said. “The colors were beautiful.”

Some access the hike by going up Provo Canyon and taking the left-hand turn up to the Sundance trail. Hikers can also pass Sundance and drive up the mountain to the Aspen Grove trail. The water at Stewart Falls is cold, especially at this time of the year.

Davis said the hike is a good activity for students and families because it’s easy and it’s a great way to de-stress from midterms. It also helps compensate for BYU’s lack of a fall break. “Around this time of year I need a break from looking at my computer screen and reading textbooks,” Davis said. “I love the mountain air.”

Provo Canyon

Jane Merritt, a photographer from Utah, does portrait photography in studios and in nature. She said the best time of fall to capture the season’s colors is the beginning of October, specifically the first two weeks.

“(That’s) when the leaves are fresh and full, and they are not falling,” Merritt said. “Before that, you can see the colors changing, but they don’t have the full pigment of the autumn colors you want. They’re still green.”

After that, she said, colors may be vibrant in Provo, but in the canyon leaves start to die. Leaves come and go in the blink of an eye, Merritt said.

Websites like timeanddate help people predict the times both the sun and moon rise and set, which can be useful in planning trips and photo opportunities.

Fall leaves in the Provo Canyon show the vibrant colors students can enjoy on hikes or drives. (Elliott Miller)
Fall leaves in Provo Canyon show the vibrant colors students can enjoy on hikes or drives. (Elliott Miller)

Merritt said Utah is so attractive to people because of the de-stressing effect it can have on otherwise-busy lives. “It’s calming, peaceful, I guess,” she said. “Other states don’t have mountains and canyons they can drive up to see God’s creations.”

Scott Ritter, a BYU geology professor, said knowing a little about the geology of places like the canyon improves people’s experiences as they use it. “If they’re going to live up here they should understand the specific rock falls,” he said.

Driving into the mouth of Provo Canyon on University Avenue takes visitors into a block of rocks that’s been uplifted by the Wasatch fault. “Utah Valley has dropped several thousand feet,” he said.

“Geological processes are going on there,” Ritter said. “And if they’re not aware of them, it can cause damage to life or property. But otherwise, it’s good to know and enhances their experience.”

Cottonwood Canyon

Merritt said Cottonwood Canyon’s colors are still vibrant and provide good scenery for photographers. People who want to reach the canyon can take I-15 north toward Sandy. Take exit 295 (9000 South), turn right off the exit and go to 9400 South. This leads to the mouth of Little Cottonwood by the Snowbird Ski resort.

American Fork Canyon

Merritt likes to take photos in American Fork Canyon because it has multiple types of landscapes. Aspen and pine trees surround the Tibble Fork Reservoir in the area called Tibble Fork. Bridges and open fields give Merritt’s subjects a place to stand and relax.

“There’s something about being bundled up in a jacket walking in the woods or on a pathway somewhere in the canyon with the leaves falling, and all the silence,” Merritt said. “All you hear is nature’s noises, like the crackling of the leaves and the wind.”

More than 1 million people visit the canyon annually to hike, bike, camp and fish during summer or fall months. Merritt said she’s noticed people having barbecues and even taking night hikes or stargazing. Common winter activities include snowmobiling and skiing.

There is a fee for use of the American Fork Canyon’s recreation facilities. One- to three-day passes are $6; seven-day passes are $12; and annual passes are $45. However, visitors who use State Road 92 or the Alpine Loop or who drive through and don’t use the facilities don’t have to pay the fee.

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