Oct 20 2017

Autumn at Brian Head

A Weekend Drive Through Fall Leaves

Categories: Fall Colors, Road Trips, Utah

It’s fall, my favorite time of year in Utah, so I figure I should put up a post about Fall Foliage! Last year for my birthday we decided to stay in Brian Head, for lack of any better ideas during the short time that we gave it any thought. Autumn starts in September and lasts for several months in Utah, starting at the highest points around 12,000 feet with the colors slowly working their way downhill over the weeks that pass.

I had never actually been to Brian Head, even though I’ve been up on the Markagunt Plateau/Cedar Mountain many times. Being a ski resort out of season the prices were good and there were no crowds. Food options were limited, though, and not ideal.

Our first day we drove up to the lodge (stopping at Parowan Gap on the way) and checked in, then drove back down the canyon partway, and took First Left Hand Canyon to a forest road that ascends from 6,600 feet to just about 10,000 feet up on the plateau. We visited Yankee Meadows Reservoir and then took Forest Road 048 to the top of the plateau.


First Left Hand Canyon has some really neat rock formations in it, so we decided to come back the next day to hike around.

Many of the trees near any road are scarred with people’s signatures.

Kona was having a good day too.

Yankee Meadows Reservoir was ready for some winter snow.

I couldn’t quite tell if this was some kind of pheasant or a young wild turkey. It was running off quickly.

Golden Aspens glow as the sun shines through them.

Forest Road 048

Near the top of the forest road there is an amazing view towards the Basin and Range district.

We returned to the top of Brian Head late that night to look at the stars. They were fantastic but it was super extremely windy and that made it nearly impossibly to get any sharp images.

We were really lucky to see Brian Head in all it’s glorious fall colors on the weekend that we did. Just after we left a series of big wind storms blew all the leaves off. Then, the next summer some guy who thought he knew better than the experts decided to use a flame thrower on a very windy day during a prolonged drought, and he set the whole area on fire.

One hundred years of fire suppression and the remnants of a beetle infestation combined with the drought conditions, allowing the fire to spread very quickly. The fire became the biggest in country, and sadly most of what you have seen in the above pictures has been burned away. The fire burned the forest so completely that late summer rainstorms on the newly barren hills were able to cause major floods, damaging the roads through the area and in some places completely washing them out. We returned to Brian Head the following August and saw some of the damage to the roads and forest. Fortunately the resort areas remained mostly unharmed and the man who started it in currently on trial.

The roads near the fire were of course closed but I found a very long series of meadows that I walked across to get a better view.

I had been to a meeting in Cedar City and when I came out the smoke was so much larger than I expected that I couldn’t resist driving up to take a better look.

The fire filled up half the sky, despite being miles away. It was strangely quiet and relaxing, like watching big waves crash on the shore in slow motion. The silence was only interrupted by a fire fighting plane, which i watched fly towards the smoke until it disappeared in the distance. That added a whole new frame of reference to the size of the burn.

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