As the weather starts to cool, the area around Cedar City prepares to put on a dramatic show. With a backdrop of striking red rocks and southern Utah’s national parks, Cedar City provides an unmatched destination for of fall foliage viewing.
Rated as one of the “Top Eight Unique Destinations to View Fall Colors” by both NBC’s Today Show and USA Today, the display of fall colors around Cedar City is impressive and distinctive. The honors are due in part to the concentration of scenic routes that run through the red rock vistas of Southern Utah, including National Scenic Byway 143 and Highway 148 through Cedar Breaks National Monument.
Southern Utah’s Fall Color Loop
The Fall Color Loop is one of the best ways to see a vast amount of colors around Cedar City. Plan about 2 hours of travel time, plus time for viewpoints, lunch and/or hikes. The loop can be traveled in either direction.
Beginning in Parowan, the Fall Color Loop will follow Highway 143 through Parowan Canyon to Brian Head Resort. A few miles after the resort, take Highway 143 east towards Panguitch.
Known as the Patchwork Parkway, Highway 143 is like the blocks of a quilt; weaving through an astounding patchwork of historic towns, geological formations, vegetation, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities that appeal to all – from sightseers and leaf peepers to high adventure fanatics.
The byway descends through Sydney Valley (approx. 5 miles east after the junction), a spectacular sight in late September with immense stands of golden yellow and fiery red aspens. The pink cliffs of the Paunsaugunt Plateau glitter in the distance as an ancient lava field sprinkled with aspen trees line the highway.
After taking in the sights at Sydney Valley, head back west towards the junction of Highway 143 and 148; turn south onto Highway 148. Highway 148 runs along the red rock amphitheater of Cedar Breaks National Monument. The large, natural amphitheater is about three miles wide and 2,500 feet deep with walls of spires and dazzling rock formations, creating a supreme backdrop for fall leaves.
Along the way, find several viewpoints and trails, the best for fall colors is the Alpine Pond Loop. This trail winds through Spruce-Fir-Aspen forest then past the spring-fed Alpine Pond. The large loop is two miles round trip, the smaller loop is one.
Continuing the journey, follow Highway 148 south through Cedar Breaks National Monument. To finish the loop, turn west back towards Cedar City at the junction of Highway 14. Add to the experience by stopping at the Zion Overlook or Woods Ranch for a picnic and then continue to Cedar City.
When to Visit for the Best Leaf Peeping Opportunities
To plan the best possible leaf peeping opportunities, take a look below, or starting September 1st, find an up-to-date Fall Color Report on our homepage.
The highest elevation areas traditionally experience 30-50% color at this time. Cedar Breaks National Monument and the surrounding area will be at its best.
Late September through Early October:
Typically, the best time for leaf peeping in Southern Utah, the leaves around Brian Head and Cedar Breaks National Monument should be at peak and the Duck Creek, Navajo Lake and Panguitch Lake should be close behind.
The colors in the high elevation generally are past peak at this time; however, there should be some great color along Highway 14 from Cedar City to the Zion Overlook, as well as Parowan Canyon, along Highway 143.
Late October through Early November:
Zion National Park offers the best fall color viewing at this time.
Make it a Weekend with Events in Brian Head, Parowan + Cedar City
Rocktoberfest at Brian Head Resort
This past summer, Brian Head town and Brian Head Resort narrowly escaped a massive wildfire that left many wondering what the future would bring. While parts of the fall color loop will show the damage from the fire, Brian Head is alive and well. The resort successfully opened for the summer season and now is preparing for a stunning fall – surrounded by a beautiful Aspen forest.
Brian Head celebrates the stunning autumn colors with an annual “Rocktoberfest”, which is sure to satisfy the taste buds with tastings from local breweries and authentic German cuisine, and the ears with live bands throughout the afternoon. Take part in this year’s festival Saturday September 16th from 9:30am-9pm (resort activities from 9:30-6pm, live music from 12-9pm). For more information visit www.brianhead.com/events.
Parowan Fall Fest
Parowan celebrates the fall season with two fun events – the first, the Scarecrow Fest lines Main Street from October 9th to October 20th. Find over fifty unique scarecrows designed and created by local businesses. Open daylight hours.
The second, Parowan’s Fall Fest, features vendors, food, entertainment, costume parade and a wonderful day in the fall leaves in Parowan’s Library Park. Join them starting at 10am on October 14th.
Fall at the Utah Shakespeare Festival
The fall season of the Utah Shakespeare Festival features A MidSummer Night’s Dream, The Tavern, William Shakespeare’s Long Lost Play and How to Fight Loneliness. Catch them before the season wraps up on October 21st. Find more information and a schedule at www.bard.org.
Cedar Livestock & Heritage Festival
The 12th Annual Cedar Livestock & Heritage Festival will celebrate Iron County’s unique livestock and agricultural heritage October 26-29th with a variety of authentic events, including; cowboy poetry, Dutch Oven cooking contest, draft horse and antique tractor pull, stockdog demo, sheep camp display, quilt show, vintage auto display, ranch rodeo, cowboy church and of course the Sheep Parade:
Cedar City’s tranquil Downtown gets a little wild and wooly each October when the Sheep Parade herds its way down Main Street. Considered one of the most unique parades in the country, over 1,000 head of sheep will follow the historic Livestock Trail from Cedar Mountain, down Cedar City’s Main Street. The Sheep Parade is the highlight event for the Cedar Livestock & Heritage Festival and will be held this year on Saturday, October 28th at 10am. Find more information at www.cedarlivestockfest.com.