Colorful leaves in southern Utah? In the desert? Pah, you say. It’s the land of red rocks, not of deciduous trees. Well, plan to be pleasantly surprised, folks. Fall color may not be quite as spectacular in the American Southwest as it is back east–however, I assure you there is color indeed to be found in Zion National Park. Plan your fall visit now to catch some very pretty displays of leafy color.
Believe it or not, eye-popping autumn foliage can last as long as four months in this national park, since its 147,000 acres are spread between high (8,726) and low (3,666 feet) elevations. Mid-September is usually the time to catch those turning leaves in the high country, in the Kolob Canyons area. The glorious color is showcased in the lower elevations of the main canyon well through October, sometimes even lasting into December depending on the year’s weather.
How to See Fall Foliage in Zion:
Early season (mid-late September): head up to the Kolob Terrace section in the northern, less-traveled part of the Park. Lava Point, hovering around 8,000 feet, features aspen trees that like to show off glossy golds when the first hint of autumn lends a cool snap to the nights.
Mid-season (late September-early October): you should find color at Kolob Canyons; check out showy red maples strutting their stuff. (Okay, trees don’t strut, but you get my drift.)
Late season (mid-late October, sometimes even later): cruise the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive (on the mandatory, free shuttle through October 30 this year, by car after that) to exclaim over the bursts of color from the stately cottonwoods and other deciduous beauties displayed against the huge sandstone walls rising all around. Click click…I can hear your cameras now.
If you want more up close and personal time with the leaves, a few color-worthy hikes include Taylor Creek (Kolob Canyons section), Emerald Pools, Angels Landing (strenuous and exposed at the very top), and the gentle amble by the Virgin River along the paved Pa’Rus Trail (allows strollers, wheelchairs, and leashed dogs as well).
Call the Visitors Center for up-to-date fall foliage information: (435) 772-3256.