38 Miles of Fall Glory

Sun splashes on the side of the mountains on the Nebo Loop.

It has been a terrific Fall foliage season in and around Orem, UT, where I live. I have been here for 6 Fall seasons, and this one is by far the best. )I have previously posted about this season HERE, if you’d like to see all of it.)

This morning, I left at 6am to take my Fall quest and venture on Nebo Loop.

This byway crosses the Uinta National Forest between the cities of Nephi and Payson. It climbs to over 9,000 feet in elevation and provides breathtaking views of Utah valley, the Wasatch Mountains and 11,928-foot Mount Nebo, the tallest mountain in the Wasatch Range.

– Utah.com

While the loop is only 38 miles, it took me over 3 hours to complete the journey. Somehow I was distracted by all the photos I had to take. Also, with my acrophobia, the drive down from the 9000 foot elevation really tweeks me. As a result, I drive granny speeds around 15 mph. Yes, it’s kind of funny.

It is understandable that this trip is labeled as a National Scenic Highway. It is stunning!

It is about a 30 minute drive from my house to the northern entrance of Nebo Loop. The entrance is through Payson Canyon, which happens to be a marvelous destination all on its own. As I was driving through the canyon, it was still pre-dawn and little light.

This one was one of the first shots I took. No color in the eastern sky yet.
I started at sunrise. This shot is facing East and the sun is just rising.

One of my early observations on the journey today was that I had forgotten how much fire damage there was in the area and at the same time, that the colors seem remarkable compared to previous years.

This looks like it is similar to the 2 locations from above. While it is looing mostly east, it is not the same location.

I remembered from previous trips that there is a turn off to go to the Payson Lakes. I saw that turnoff and naturally had to check them out again. Last time I visited, it did not really make anything photo wise. Today was different.

A different take on the scene above

Today’s pix has a lot of landscapes. Because of the altitude of the loop, the views are breathtaking in all directions. I could see Strawberry Reservoir, Mount Nebo, Mount Timpanogos and Utah Lake from many vantage points.

You can see a small part of Strawberry Reservoir in this image.

One of the best parts of the day was meeting a father and his two sons. They were out deer hunting, but spent most of the time using a scope to spot Elk bulls and mountain goats.

Dad and his soons looking for mountain goats on the side of Mt. Nebo.

When I first met them, they were looking over a vast valley. We were able to identify 4 elk bulls. You could hear them loud and clear and their noises were loud and echoed across the valley. It was so cool seeing them through the high-powered scope. I shot a picture of one elk when it moved into a clearing. It is not a great shot because the elk was sooooo very far away. But you can tell it is an elk.

This is the valley of the Elk Bulls. It was amazing how well we could hear and see them.
Look in the dead center of the photo. That white and brown spot is an elk bull. This is the full frame shot.
I cropped the above image to give a better view of the elk. It was several miles away.
The aspens along the route, were thebest I have seen anywhere.

When I left dad and the boys at the elk outlook, I quickly came across a scene where a cattle wrangler was keeping the grazing herds separated. On the west side of the road the Payson herds were supposed to be. On the east side, it was the Nephi herds. This gentleman was spending his morning make sure they were staying within their boundaries.

He was very nice and had a gorgeous quarterhorse. I was able to watch him mount up, ride into the woods and ferret out the stray cows and get them to cross the road back into their home territory. It was terrific to watch and he and his horse obviously knew what they were doing. It did not take him long to get about 10 head of cattle back in place.

A new friend – the cattle wrangler
Here you can see him scurrying the cows in the direction of the road.
Going back to their side of the road
These cows were left behind because he was already on the correct side of the road.

After I left the wrangler to finish his wrangling, I drove down the road and came up to the Mt. Nebo lookout. As I started to pull into the gravel turnout, I saw the same dad and sons that I saw at the elk bull valley lookout. They has the scope out again. His son ran up to me and said that they had found 30 mountain goats. TBH, I didn’t believe it until they invited me to look at the side of Nebo through the scope. When I did, I easily saw 10 of them in a relatively small area. When I pulled away from the scope, I looked through my lens and could see white specks that looked like rocks. But they were not rocks.

While we were looking at them and I was trying to take a few pix, an airplane from DNR flew right by the mountainside. We conjectured that they were trying to count the mountains goats.

I put red ovals around a few of the key concentrations of the mountain goats. I did not outline all of them.
The plane flies low right over the mountain goats. Again the arrows and red dots denote where some of them were.
On the way down, I stopped for a “break” and saw this view of Mt. Nebo
This was the last shot I took on the way back down. This area is called Salt Creek. And yes, there is an actual creek.

I highly recommend this drive and hiking opportunity. It is a truly stunning area. If you like the outdoors, go as quickly as you can from the publication date of this post (Oct. 1, 2021). It’s gorgeous, but won’t last long.

Bring a camera, some binoculars and a scope if you have one. You won’t regret it.

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