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.
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.