Salt Lake City is a good base from which to explore the surrounding mountains. Peak color in this area of the Rockies is mid- to late September and into October. Mornings are chilly; afternoons warm to the sunny 70s.
Although settled by pioneers of the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS), and still a strong presence there, the members, commonly called Mormons, make up less than half of the population of Salt Lake City. In part, this reflects the rapid growth of businesses moving to the Salt Lake area. In the city, you can visit historic LDS Temple Square. There are tours of the facilities, including the exterior of the majestic, six-spired temple, domed Tabernacle with its immense organ, and the Conference Center. Three acres of grass, local trees, and shrubs have been planted on the roof of the Conference Center. There are free concerts in the Assembly Hall on Friday and Saturday evenings. On Sundays at 9:30 a.m., you can sit in on the Mormon Tabernacle choir’s weekly program; Thursdays at 8:00 p.m., you may attend rehearsals. There are daily organ concerts. The Family History Research Center is a wonderful place to do genealogy research. In just a few minutes, I was able to find the ship passenger list for my great grandparents, something my father had tried to locate for years.
Other attractions in Salt Lake City include Clark Planetarium and its 3-D IMAX theater, Gallivan Centerwith an ice skating rink, the Living Planet Aquarium, Tracy Aviary, Utah Museum of Natural History, and Hogel Zoo. Red Butte Botanical Garden is a beautiful oasis with a panoramic vista of the valley and nearby mountains.
The Great Salt Lake is 16 miles west of the city. Antelope Island State Park, on the largest of the lake’s nine islands, offers hiking, biking, horseback riding, beaches, a marina, and the opportunity to see antelope and bison.
Nearby Thanksgiving Point has gardens, a working farm, golf course, dinosaur museum, and frequent special programs. Mt.Timpanogos Cave offers a tour of three dramatic caverns.
Affordable golf courses abound in the Salt Lake area. A favorite of many is the course at Soldier Hollow in Wasatch Mountain State Park, which was an Olympic venue in 2002. The views of the surrounding mountains, including Mt. Timpanogos, provide the opportunity for recreation as well as viewing the fall colors.
An alternative to staying in Salt Lake City is to stay at one of the nearby ski resort areas and experience the aspen glow close up. Alta and Snowbird are in Little Cottonwood Canyon, while Big Cottonwood Canyon is home to Brighton and Solitude. Park City, with its three major ski areas offers more accommodations, restaurants, and entertainment. At any of these resorts, you can take a lift up for commanding views of the autumn splendor.
Ballooning, popular in Salt Lake and Park City, is another way to experience the fall colors. In Heber City, there is an historic railroad that provides picturesque rides from which you can view the mountains, including Mt. Timpanogos, and the Provo Canyon. And speaking of the Provo, this river is world famous for fly fishing.
The best way to experience fall in all its glory is to take any one of a number of scenic drives. Among myfavorite drives is what is called the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, a 20-mile trip that takes you through American Fork Canyon and the Uinta National Forest to Provo Canyon. It affords stops at Timpanogos Cave National Monument and Robert Redford’s Sundance resort. At Sundance, you can take a lift to the top of the mountain or hike to a waterfall. There is also a wonderful restaurant at the resort. Be sure to see the early photos of Redford as he helped develop this area. An addition to this trip is the Alpine Scenic Backway which takes a side trip to Cascade Springs, natural falls that pour down the mountain in a series of cataracts and pools.
Another picturesque drive, the Provo Canyon Scenic Byway, takes you past the 607-foot Bridal Veil Falls, which becomes a double falls as it cascades down and Deer Creek Reservoir. Sundance resort is just a short side trip off of this tour.
From Salt Lake City, a third scenic drive is the Nebo Loop National Scenic Byway. On this 32-mile trip, you can see the Wasatch range and Mt. Nebo, as well as some red rock and salt flats.
A drive I frequently take is from Kamas along the Mirror Lake Highway through the Wasatch-Cache National Forest and its high Uinta Mountains. It is possible to drive all the way to Evanston, Wyoming on this road. There are numerous scenic overlooks, trails, and lakes along this byway. Portions of it parallel the Provo and Bear Rivers, and there is parking at the Provo RIver Waterfalls which cascades down in a set of triple falls.
You can get specific information and directions for these trips at the websites www.utah.com and www.utahvalley.com. Salt Lake visitor’s bureau is www.visitsaltlake.com. There are no direct flights from Ft. Myers to Salt Lake City, but there are frequent connecting ones.