Guardsman Pass closes to keep fall color drivers safe this weekend

Posted at 9:18 PM, Oct 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-08 23:18:02-04

BRIGHTON, Utah — The Utah Department of Transportation took a proactive step as wet, winter-like weather moves in this weekend by closing a popular fall colors route.

Crews shut the gates to Guardsman Pass Friday night, getting ahead of the expected slick driving conditions at high elevations.

Big Cottonwood Canyon was pretty quiet Friday evening, with hardly anyone at the trailheads and parking areas.

Cory Connors was one of three people parked in the Donut Falls parking lot. He walked alone from the trail area as mist clung to the mountainsides and rain drizzled all around the fiery yellow aspens.

While others may not want to come see the fall colors in the rain, he loves it. It reminds him of Washington, where he served a church mission.

"It's kind of nice to experience this kind of weather and just feel peaceful," he said.

Had Connors driven up Big Cottonwood Canyon last weekend, he wouldn't have found so much peace and solitude. John Gleason with UDOT explained that it was one of the busiest weekends they've ever seen there.

"We were averaging about 10,000 vehicles a day," he said. "Usually during the ski season, during those powder days, we only see about 6,000 to 7,500 people. So, this was a big increase."

That's why, with the incoming storm systems set to drop snow in the higher elevations for one of the first times this fall/winter season, UDOT took measures to keep those thousands of people safe by closing Guardsman Pass.

"Guardsman Pass is at a very high elevation. It's a narrow, windy road," Gleason said. "And so, if you have snow that falls up there and slick conditions become an issue, you could see some really treacherous driving conditions."

He added that the rest of Big Cottonwood Canyon and all other fall color routes in the state are expected to stay open. It's only the access between Big Cottonwood Canyon and Park City that they'll cut off.

Gleason was hopeful they'd reopen Guardsman Pass on Sunday, weather permitting.

"If you're heading up there this weekend, you're still going to be able to get up in the canyon areas," he said. "It may not be the perfect weather."

Actually, it is — if you ask Connors.

"I'm definitely a fall guy, so this is my time to be outdoors," he said. "This is the perfect weather. I absolutely love it."