Nebo Loop Scenic Byway Enchants at High Elevations, by Road or Trail
From Interstate 15, access state Route 132 from Payson in the north or Nephi in the south.
Nature is dancing!
It's an invigorating deciduous flamenco dance. It's spiced with turmeric and ginger.
In a word, it's colorful.
Savor this moment. Fall is here.
The aura of Utah's autumn is a presentation of intoxicating flavors and vibrant colors set against diverse and otherworldly backdrops of entrada sandstone, iron-rich limestone and quartz monzonite.
In southern Utah varied hues of mineral rich soil and blood orange rock formations make for a striking contrast while the more northern latitudes are stacked with a Wasatch Mountain Range full of high-altitude adventure and truly world-class leaf-peeping.
In the cooling high country air, subalpine evergreen forest brings a degree of constancy to landscapes in flux.
Even as the last leaf falls, nature welcomes. Stretch the limits of that three-season tent. Think: comfy down sleeping bag. Or, maybe synthetic? It's not chilly, it's crisp. No better cup than the jetboiled French press.
Come late November, this path will be primed for snowmobiling. Now, it's yours.
Mount Nebo is the southernmost bookend of the Wasatch Front, and the highest peak in the range. Views from Nebo encapsulate sweeping vistas into Central Utah and down into Utah Valley.
George Garcia is District Ranger for the Spanish Fork Ranger District on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.
Reflecting on the Nebo Loop Scenic Byway, he captures the sensation both literally and figuratively.
"Mount Nebo is ‘life elevating' because it gives you perspective of where you're at. At the high elevations you're overlooking some pretty incredible vistas," he says, specifically citing one incredible stop:
"The Utah Valley overlook," says Garcia, "Really makes you feel like you're on top of the world. And at the top of Nebo looking down into the valley and gives you a whole new perspective. With canyons on either side your view funnels to the lake in the valley."
While summits and many areas are accessible by trail, Mr. Garcia says the Utah Valley Overlook is great for auto tourism on the weekend.
"Get up early, get the family together and pull the old classic out of the garage," he says.
Of course, with incredible overlooks decorated with the season's fall foliage, consider packing a lunch and spending the day. You'll want to take your time on this drive.
Loyal Clark is the Public Affairs Staff Officer for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. She builds on Garcia's reflections by pointing to the wide range of opportunities on the Nebo Loop for all levels of adventurer, running the spectrum from paved journeys that are ADA accessible to multi-day backcountry treks.
"Payson Lakes are very family friendly, including for families with small children, and we've just reconstructed the paved nature path around the lake," says Ms. Loyal.
Developed campgrounds on the forest have been closed for the season, but recreation on the forest is permissible year-round.
Among the diversity of deciduous and evergreen forests exists surprises like the out-of-place-and-time orange hoodoos of Devil's Kitchen and seemingly infinite dispersed camping amid — but a couple hundred feet from — a myriad streams, lakes, meadows and wildlife. The road climbs from the valley floor through scrub oak into maples, quaking aspens and the conifer forests of fir, engelmann spruce and lodgepole pine, then drops back down to the other side, for a total of 37 miles.
For classic car travelers, drive carefully. Backcountry trekkers: watch for bears. Either way, the season is now, the dance is underway and there's still really great seats for the show.
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