Autumn Brilliance

Fall at Red Butte Garden

Deanna Devey | Photos courtesy of the University of Utah Sep 12, 2019

When the trees start changing color, many families drive their cars into the foothills or through the canyons to see Utah’s mountains blanketed in a patchwork quilt of autumn leaves. The only problem is you miss out on many of fall’s sights, sounds and scents when you’re in a vehicle.

For those who prefer to see, touch and feel the beauty of the season at a slower pace, Red Butte Garden offers close-up views of nature’s changes.

“Fall is one of my favorite times of the year in the garden,” says Red Butte Garden Horticulture Director Marita Tewes Tyrolt. “There are a number of things in bloom, and the ornamental grasses are gorgeous.”

Red Butte has 21 acres of developed gardens and 74 acres of natural area perfect for exploring, especially in autumn when the plants and trees turn vibrant shades of yellow, orange and red. It’s an ideal place for strolling, hiking, picnicking or bird-watching.

“Take your time to walk around and enjoy,” Tyrolt says. “Whether you come to find a peaceful place or are particularly interested in the plants, I think everybody will find something they’ll enjoy.” 

Themed Gardens

Within the developed garden are a number of distinct areas including the Rose Garden, Water Pavilion Garden, Fragrance Garden, Medicinal Garden, Herb Garden, Children’s Garden, Four Seasons Garden, Courtyard Garden, Floral Walk and the new Water Conservation Garden.

Tyrolt suggests taking a stroll down the Floral Walk where you’ll find yourself immersed in a brilliant serviceberry tree tunnel with yellow, orange and red leaves.

“We have around 200 different species of trees in the garden,” Tyrolt says. “They all have their own fall color so it’s fun to walk around and see what you can see.”

At the end of the Floral Walk is the Rose Garden, where many roses are still in bloom during the fall. Look for yellow, orange and lime colored smoke bush foliage along with pink, peach, red and white blooming roses.

Another place for autumn views is from the top of the Water Conservation Garden. There are several overlooks where you can see the fiery-colored trees in Red Butte Canyon below or the breathtaking vistas of the Salt Lake Valley, Mount Olympus and the Oquirrh Mountains.

Natural Area

The 74 acres of Red Butte’s natural area are crisscrossed by about four miles of hiking trails. It’s the perfect setting for up-close views of the fall colors in Utah’s native landscape.

Some paths follow Red Butte Creek in the canyon while others climb to rock outcrops and overlooks. You’ll gain about 400 feet of elevation between the lowest and highest points on the trails.

“If you go to the higher parts of the trail along the southern portion, you’ll have spectacular views of the valley, especially at sunset,” Tyrolt says. “If you walk along the creek, you’ll be immersed in oaks and native maples.”

A trip to the Secret Wayside takes you alongside Red Butte Creek where you’ll find bigtooth maples with yellow, orange and red leaves. Or walk under a canopy of yellow and reddish-brown scrub oak leaves in the Gambel Oak Tunnel.

No matter which route you choose, there are plenty of benches to relax on while enjoying the sights.  

“It’s a beautiful, serene place to be,” Tyrolt says.

Helpful Hints

To make your visit more enjoyable, Tyrolt suggests bringing water, sunscreen and a jacket. It takes an hour or two to walk around the developed garden, but you may want to stay longer to hike or relax.

Dining options include snacks at the visitors center and a small cafe at the neighboring Natural History Museum of Utah. You can also bring your own lunch and enjoy a picnic.

As you plan your visit, consider coordinating it around Red Butte’s fall activities. During September, there are six concerts in the outdoor amphitheater. The garden’s fall plant sale takes place the last week of September.

Another popular event is Garden After Dark, held the last two weekends in October. There are Halloween lights and activities, and kids come dressed in costumes.

“Both the kids and adults really enjoy it,” Tyrolt says. “It’s for kids and kids at heart.”

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