Autumn in the Utah High Country

A great thing about being in the southwest is how there is a such a great diversity in climate and sights by elevation. Dry, hot, desert lowlands can be just a few miles away from lush mountain forests.

The Moab area is no different. Arches and Canyonlands are dry red rock country that seems lifted right out of a Roadrunner and Coyote cartoon. Yet a short drive out of town and you go up into the cooler pine and aspen forests of the La Sal Mountains.

So a rather clear day became perfect for heading into the high country in search of fall color. The color started out in the scrubby oaks on the lower hillside. It moved up into stands of aspen and even though the pines stay green some of the higher ones already had snow blanketing their bases.

The color could vary greatly in the aspen, even in the same grove. Some could be green. Others starting the yellowing process. Some were golden. Finally some were bare. All of them were photogenic. Images were everywhere-from long lens compression to staring up with a wide angle there was so much color to photograph it was hard to find where to start.

A great thing about fall color is how it seems to photograph well anytime and in any light. As a landscape photographer a clear day is usually our bane but backlit fall color can be stunning. Mid-day light is usually way too harsh for photography, but for staring up at aspens it works.

Now if it had been overcast and drizzly I would have liked that too.

The colors were so nice I made a return trip to see some of the same area mid morning. Just a few days made a big difference (as did the wind) as more trees were bare. There was snow on the higher peaks and you could feel fall was slipping away to winter.

While in the mountains, I also drove one of the high passes to look for snow and did I find it. What had been rain in the desert a few days before had been snow in the mountains. The peaks were white capped. The snow came down under 10,000' and I crunched through it in the thick pine forests that blanket the mountainside above the aspen.

It certainly seemed a long way from the dry red rock country I was camping in but it was only a few minutes by road.

The colors of autumn made the trip even better as did the touch of high country snow. It added a whole different type of photography and gave me many good images. See some of the better ones in the Utah Fall Color folder in my Galleries.


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