A Near-and-Far Fall Bucket List
Story and Photos By Jenny Willden
Admit it or not, snow season is just around the corner. Instead of dreading the shorter days and cooler temperatures, embrace the changing seasons by doing all the fall things. From local Utah activities to father-flung jaunts, use this guide to check off the best autumn has to offer.
Bag a Peak
Millcreek Canyon lights up in fall, and one of the best ways to see the multi-hued palette of glowing gold and brilliant red trees is on a 5.5-mile hike to Grandeur Peak. The trail begins at Church Fork and winds through a colorful leaf canopy, popping out along the way for wide-open views of the canyon below. From the 8,299-foot summit, see 360-degree vistas of the Salt Lake Valley to the west and Parleys Canyon to the east, all amidst colorful, changing leaves.
Would it even be fall in Utah without Oktoberfest? Spend a weekend day at 8,000+ feet for Snowbird’s Annual Oktoberfest, which has grown to be the state’s best beer festival. Sip on local Pumpkin Ale topped with whipped cream paired with German sauerkraut and sausages. Stay for polka dancing, live music, and family outdoor activities. Oktoberfest runs weekends through October 21. Free admission; $10 parking.
Take One Last Dip
Clear blue waters and far fewer visitors make fall the perfect time to sneak in one last weekend at the lake. Stay close to home on the Caribbean blue waters of Utah and Idaho’s Bear Lake, or venture into Nevada to see the Jewel of the Sierra, Lake Tahoe, America’s largest alpine lake. Waters may be chilly for full-on swimming but are perfect for polar bear plunges, paddleboarding, and kayaking.
Drink a (Pumpkin) Beer
Some eagerly await Pumpkin Spiced Latte season, but we’re here for the beer. Utah breweries have expanded fall flavors beyond basic pumpkin beer, adding new tastes to heavier fall brews. Taste a pint of Wasatch Brewery’s Pumpkin Ale or the newish Nitro Pumpkin Ale. If you fancy something stronger, make it Epic Brewing’s Imperial Pumpkin Porter. We find they all taste best served ‘round a roaring campfire—preferably paired with s’mores.
Get Stoked for Ski Season
Instead of waiting in line for your season pass on opening day, take a fall color drive up the Cottonwood Canyons or Parleys and enjoy line-free, pre-season pass pickup. Then get psyched for powder days with ski movie premieres all fall long. Screenings of the 69th Warren Miller ski movie, “Face of Winter” begin in Utah on October 17 in Salt Lake City and continue throughout the month in Ogden, Orem, Park City, Logan, St. George, and Cedar City.
See Teton Gravity Research’s “Far Out” November 26-27 at Alta’s Our Lady of the Snows and December 7 on Logan’s Utah State campus. Or follow the life of legendary skier Eric Hjorleifson watching Matchstick Production’s “Hoji,” screening November 2 at Brewvies in Salt Lake City.
Explore a Ghost Town
There’s no better time to explore abandoned ghost towns than October when the spooky season makes haunting stories come alive. Travel to 9,300 feet to the old mining hamlet of Silverton, Colorado, a still-thriving tiny town, and rent an off-road vehicle from ‘Polaris Adventures’ Rock Pirates Backcountry Adventures. Drive 12 miles into the wilderness to reach Animas Forks—one of the highest mining camps in the Western U.S. Beautiful structures dating back to the late 1800s, an old jail, and spectacularly preserved cabins amidst changing fall leaves make this abandoned place one of our favorite ghost towns to visit.
From here, drive the Polaris side-by-side into more mining country to reach the recently restored Sound Democrat Mill, an ore-processing mill designed to treat gold- and silver-lead ores, that’s one of the best-preserved stamp mills left in Colorado. It’s truly in the middle of nowhere, so you’ll need a side-by-side to get there, but it’s so worth it. Once at the mill, you can climb and explore anywhere you like…rare in a historic landmark!
Drive back to Silverton and refuel with dinner at Eureka Station, a miner-inspired tavern specializing in Cornish pasties. These meat-and-veggie-stuffed hand pies were once a staple of miners and Eureka Station’s modern take on the classic is delightful. Grab a beer afterward at Avalanche Brewing Company’s cozy space then wander past historic structures from the mining days turned gift shops, restaurants, and hotels. Hang your hat for the night at The Bent Elbow Hotel & Restaurant before heading home.
Run a Festive Race
Autumn is arguably the best time to race of the whole year. Cool temperatures and crisp air offer prime conditions for setting a PR, and costumed Halloween races put the focus back on fun. Go the distance at the Haunted Half in Salt Lake City or Provo, or get spooked on the Haunted Hustle course where you sprint through a Tunnel of Terror and Foggy Forest—bonus points for wearing a costume.
Try Hot (Spring) Yoga
Outdoor yoga season is officially over, but if you still crave yoga beyond a studio’s walls, you can find it in Midway’s Homestead Crater. Hidden inside this 55-foot-tall, beehive-shaped rock, a geothermal spring maintains a year-round temperature of 95 degrees. Open to swimmers and scuba divers, Park City Yoga Adventures’ stand up paddleboard yoga classes have become a popular way to enjoy the space. Stretch into Downward Dogs and Warrior poses then jump into the water for Namaste in a whole new way.