Run for the mountains
Photo credit: Jeff Pederson/Red Cliffs Photography jeffpedersenphoto.smugmug.com

It is marathon weekend in St. George. For 38 years running (no pun intended), the St. George Marathon has delivered a race “like no other.” This highly touted race has earned a well-deserved reputation in the running world of being one of the best marathons in the country. It is one of only four international “Marathons to Build a Vacation Around” as rated by Runner’s World magazine. They also designate the marathon as one of the 10 Most Scenic. All of this is fantastic for those participating, but for those not running the St. George Marathon, it is a fantastic weekend to make a run for the mountains instead.

There is a lot to love about the St. George Marathon. However, there are a few by products that are not so easily enjoyed. The heavy traffic and closed roads make traversing town a difficult proposition for a good portion of the weekend. Traffic congestion is only the beginning. The deluge of crowds that will descend upon the community make it difficult to get out for a dinner or other events. A run for the mountains couldn’t be more appealing.

fall in southern Utah Brian Head
Photo Credit: Jeff Pedersen/Red Cliffs Photography

Even if it wasn’t marathon weekend, this is still the perfect time of year for getting out and enjoying the scenery. The mountains are bursting with vibrant fall colors. The surrounding mountains are on fire with the bright, radiating colors of fall. The season is short-lived in southern Utah, with the leaves quickly completing their metamorphosis as they fall to the ground (often prematurely helped along by the characteristic southern Utah winds). For those wishing to capture the beauty of the magnificent fall colors in southern Utah, there are only a couple of weeks of peak opportunity, and we are in the midst of it now.

Although we are in October, the temperatures are still quite warm on the desert floor. There is a significant temperature drop offered in the surrounding mountains that is very welcoming. It allows—even encourages—the turning off of the air conditioning and the rolling down of windows. As the cooler temperatures flow in, so do the fresh scents of the mountains. The cool, aromatic mountain air offers a refreshment for the body, mind, and soul. Pine, aspen, sage, flowers, and forest floor mix together throughout the drive and make you want to breathe deeply and take it all in, creating a peace that seems to only come from being in the mountain.

fall in southern Utah Brian Head
Photo credit: Jeff Pederson/Red Cliffs Photography

With the windows rolled down, the noise of the city fades, and the sounds of the forest are amplified. The wind is heard rustling through the gorgeous colors of the leaves. Trees can be heard cracking and stretching. Wilderness inhabitants can be observed in the song of the birds, the squirrel running up a tree, a deer moving through the twigs and fallen branches. The continued deep breathing makes it possible to even start to taste the freshness of the air. 

fall in southern Utah Brian Head
Photo Credit: Jeff Pederson/Red Cliffs Photography

After a day of sightseeing, perhaps a hike through the forest, or capturing the beauty in lasting photographs, an evening under the mountain stars is an incredible experience. With the city lights not blocking out the night sky, it is simply amazing at how many stars that light up the canvas overhead.

Some of the best opportunities for taking in fall in southern Utah exist along Cedar Mountain, Beaver Mountain, and atop Brian Head Resort. Whether making a day trip or weekend, there are plenty of gorgeous routes to take. It is possible to take in all of the sites mentioned within a weekend trip. For those wanting to really to make the most of it, a stay in the southern Utah mountains in the fall couldn’t come at a better weekend. With plenty of camping opportunities in these areas, it is easy to make a run for the mountains with a little planning and packing. For those that would rather get out and cover some ground without having to set up camp, there are several places to stay along the way.

fall in southern Utah Brian HeadThis is a great time of year to stay in Brian Head. With the town of Brian Head being the highest elevation town in Utah, it offers a spectacular color contrast along the climb to the summit. Fall is also the off-season, meaning the crowds are fewer and the prices are more favorable. There are several dining options, ranging from a pizza parlor to The Lift Bar and Patio to the fine dining of Leany’s Steakhouse. For those able to get to Brian Head this weekend, if you’re looking for music entertainment once you’ve finished your outdoor experience, Jensen Buck will be playing at The Grand Lodge both Friday, Oct. 2, and Saturday, Oct. 3, from 7-10 p.m.

fall in southern Utah Brian Head
Jensen Buck is the perfect performer for a run for the mountains getaway. Born in Idaho, growing up on the plains of Wyoming, working for a number of years as a commercial driver in the south, and currently residing in Utah, Buck has toured all over the states creating the unique sound he is renowned for. Buck brings a raw feel and sound with influences from country, reggae, rock, southern rock, and delta blues. His music plays well anywhere, but in the quiet southern Utah mountains, in the beautiful Grand Lodge, following a day of spectacular contrasting fall colors, his music will feel like it was made for the occasion. Buck likes to let the show and his voice tell the story.

Having just finished up a tour with his band, Jensen Buck & The Family, Buck will be doing his show solo on Friday and Saturday.

“This weekend is about a brokedown singer songwriter set with a mix of original and covers that stoke my fancy enough to use on stage,” Buck said. “I won’t have a band or any frills. It’s a meat-and-potatoes, just-me-and-a-guitar kind of show. The way I like it.”

fall in southern Utah Brian HeadThe Grand Lodge is also offering a Fall Special in combination with their already seasonally discounted rate. For those that book directly with the hotel by phone, asking for the Fall Special will get an additional $20 off room reservations. While they are offering the rate through Dec. 17, those wanting to incorporate a stay while seeing the fall colors at their peak should get up within the next couple weekends. Call (435) 677-9000 for more information.

So you can ask yourself:
Stay in town and take your chances with traffic and the crowds or make a run for the mountains to view the vibrant fall colors? What are you waiting for? This weekend is ideal for a little altitude adjustment.

We at The Independent would enjoy seeing your fall color photos. Please watch for our link/post where you can share your best photos of the fall colors of southern Utah with your run for the mountains.

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