SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Utah’s mountains are beginning to shine with the vibrant colors of deep red, orange, and yellows popping up along the mountainsides. If you found yourself thinking the colors seem a bit richer this fall, you may be on to something.
Experts say all the wet weather from last winter and throughout Utah’s monsoon season last month is playing a role in making Utah’s fall trees brighter and could help them last longer.
“We had great winter months in terms of moisture followed by a nice wet spring. And then we had some really good monsoonal August rains that came through,” said Katie Wagner with the Utah State University Extention Horticulture Faculty. “So we tend to see more vibrant colors when we have moist soil conditions.”
Wagner said the wet weather coupled with the current weather of sunny autumn days followed by cool nighttime temperatures, the colors are at their most vibrant. Utahns will have more time with the beautiful fall colors too since trees enter dormancy slower during wet years, Wagner explained. In a really dry summer, leaves color sooner in the year and the “color season” doesn’t last as long.
But why do the leaves change colors? Wagner said it’s the trees beginning to prepare for the dormant winter months.
“What they’re doing is they’re slowing down chlorophyll production, which is the green pigment that we see on the leaves that’s dominant throughout the growing season,” explained Wagner.
The shades of fiery shades of red, yellow, and orange come from the type of pigment that becomes dominant as chlorophyll production slows down. For example, Oranges and yellows become more dominant when another type of pigment called carotenoids is no longer masked by chlorophyll.
With more of an opportunity to see the fall colors, Utahns are understandably looking for the best places to take in the changing of the seasons.
“I like to go up on Guardsman. Just because it’s close,” said Olympic Gold Medalist Picabo Street. “You can go from Park City over to Midway and Heber and you get kind of all the foilage as you go all the way up there and then all the way down back the side.”
Actress Susie Aeromeit told ABC4 the Midway hike is her favorite to take in on Utah’s mountains.
“It’s a little bit up there, but it’s the most incredible,” said Aeromeit. “It’s magical and you can drive right to it. That’s the best part. You drive right to the trailhead, you get out of your car and you’re up in the changing foilage like immediately.”