Catching fall foliage is all about timing. Too early, and the leaves are still green. Too late, and the show's already on the ground.
Unless, that is, you tour Utah's Alpine Loop, which actually isn't a loop at all, but a 27-mile backcountry byway that begins at American Fork Canyon and rolls up and over the 12,000-foot Wasatch Range into Provo Canyon. Drive past 350-million-year-old layers of rock, stunning views of glacier-carved peaks, and climbers dangling from limestone cliffs. Since the varied altitudes peak at different times, you're guaranteed crimson maples and aspen groves crowned in gold and amber.
Getting there: The Alpine Loop route follows State 92 up American Fork Canyon, then continues through Uinta National Forest into Provo Canyon on U.S. 189.
Midway's Swiss Days. Vant some bratvurst? Plan your trip around Midway's 59th annual Swiss Days, when the town's pioneer descendants break out the lederhosen and schnitzel. It's a good time to grab farm-fresh goodies. Sep 1-2; free; Midway Town Square, 200 West and Main St.; 435/654-3666.
The Alpine Loop Summit. Pick-a-hike-any-aspen-lined-hike from the visitors' board at the 8,000-foot summit parking lot, 11 miles from American Fork Canyon. $3 day-use fee; from I-15, take State 92 east to American Fork Canyon; www.fs.fed.us/r4/uinta
General Store at Sundance Resort. Filled with down-home goods and handcrafted cowboy boots, this shop inspired Robert Redford's oh-so-serene Sundance catalog. On State 92, north of U.S. 189; 801/225-4107.
Foundry Grill. The menu changes seasonally, but the views of Mt. Timpanogos, the famous tortilla soup, and Sunday brunch are staples. $$; at Sundance Resort (see above); 801/223-4220.
Heber Valley Historic Railroad. Chug through the beautiful Heber Valley behind a classic steam-powered engine. Info: $28; 450 South 600 West, Heber City; www.hebervalleyrr.org or 435/654-5601.
Timpanogos Cave National Monument. The ideal stop on a warm Indian-summer day. Walk the heart-pumping 1.5-mile (one way) paved incline and tour cool, 45° caverns dripping in stalactites. Allow 3 hours. $7; on State 92, 2 mi. east of State 146; www.nps.gov/tica or 801/756-5238.