Fall is a great time of year—one of the best in south-eastern Utah. Since I’ve moved here, it has definitely become one of my favorite times in Moab. It’s a wonderful feeling when the days begin to get shorter, the colors begin to change, and the temperatures begin to cool, bringing to mind the desire for pumpkins, autumn spices, and hot cider sipped from underneath a cozy blanket. Moab especially holds a draw for me in autumn because it offers a blissful reprieve from the scorching heat of a desert summer. In my opinion, Moab has more to offer in the fall than at any other time of the year.
Take Moab’s spring, for example. Spring is another great time in Moab. The temperatures begin to warm, and local activities that signal the beginning of spring, such as the Moab Car Show and Easter Jeep Safari, begin all over again. It’s a fun and active way to start off the Moab year, but while I always look forward to those activities, spring just isn’t my favorite time of year here. Things tend to be too crowded for my tastes, and it seems it doesn’t take long for the weather to become too hot too fast. Utah weather doesn’t help, either. Springs here are often cold and windy, leaving the locals to joke half-heartedly about how in Utah, seasons go from winter straight to summer. It’s not always that bad, though, and I’m sure much of that opinion derives from a dread of the summer heat that is sure to follow spring.
Like spring, summers in Moab are fun, especially for water activities on the river where the cooler temperatures of the water help compensate for the heat of the summer sun, but it’s not long before the heat becomes too much, reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit regularly. Activities in the summer are generally restricted to mornings and evenings, and it always seems difficult to stay hydrated. There are some wonderful summer activities to do at night, such a Canyonlands by Night tour on the river or maybe even a moonlit hike to Delicate Arch; however, those activities don’t compare to the joys of autumn.
Autumns in Utah are often wonderful just because of the long durations. I always start to feel the cooler shift in the air near the end of August, and by the time September arrives the temperatures begin cooling enough for me to enjoy hiking, biking, and horseback riding again. Most of September feels like a late summer save for the promise of more temperate days to come.
Toward the end of September, temperatures tend to reach the ideal mark. It becomes cool enough to go out even at midday, but it remains warm enough to still do things at night, though a jacket is often needed. The thing I love most about September, though, is that toward the middle to end of the month, the colors of the leaves on the mountain begin to change into glorious shades of yellow and gold (the oranges and reds don’t come out until October when the brush oak on the mountain changes). The aspen trees seem to blanket the mountain with color, providing the perfect opportunity to go for scenic drives.
One of my favorite drives to take to see fall colors is the La Sal Loop Road. It can be reached by driving up the mountain from Castle Valley. It winds its way through the La Sal mountains and ends up back in Moab, all the while providing some of the best autumn views around. It’s about a three to four hour drive from Moab, I’m guessing, though I’ve never timed it. Another option is to drive all the way up the mountain and follow the road to Gateway and then on to Grand Junction, Colorado. I’ve heard many of the locals talk about taking that road to Grand Junction in the fall before the snows hit, but I have yet to take it myself. The other option is to continue up the road turning off onto Taylor Ridge and Taylor Flat. That drive provides a nice view of the La Sals along with some great chances of viewing local wildlife such as deer, elk, or bears.
October is a great month in Moab as well because it brings the colors down into the town itself after they give way to the snow on the mountain. I’ve seen the colors still vibrant at the beginning of November as well in town. Anybody driving up the mountain in October, however, should be on alert for cows walking across the road as they tend to be on the move in October. Cattle ranchers were some of the first settlers to the Moab area, having arrived well before Utah was a state. Their descendents can still be seen riding along the mountain in October gathering their cows. For some of the ranching families, ranching has been in their families for seven generations!
Although Autumn is nice in October, it often brings with it the threat of falling snow and freezing temperatures. October 5th is the average frost day in Utah, and it always manages to snow throughout most of the state at least once before Halloween. These cold temperatures rarely stay long, though, and a week of temperatures in the 50s to 60s often gives way to temperatures in the high 70s again. Toward the end of November, the temperatures get colder and the weather less predictable, but there’s never a shortage of things to do in Moab.
Anytime is a great time to visit Moab, but fall will always be one of my favorite times. Even as I write this blog, I am sitting in a camper on the mountain watching as the wind blows through the yellow leaves of the aspen trees. Later, I will probably eat a warm dinner with some hot cider or hot chocolate and simply enjoy this breathtaking area of the country.