It is August and time to go to our coolbrUtah mountains. Close by, and a scenic byway is the Nebo Loop road betweenbrPayson and Nephi. However, this year there was a question if it would openbrafter the Bald Mountain and Pole Creek forest fires of late last summerbrfollowed by unusually heavy winter snow and late wet spring. The Nebo Loop roadbrdid open a few weeks ago, but most of the spur roads are closed That includesbrthe Mona Pole Canyon and the Santaquin Canyon roads. Most hiking trails arebralso closed.
The reason for the closures is due to thebrimpact of the fire resulting in standing hazard trees, downed trees, burnedbrtrail structures such as retaining walls and bridges. The snowpack and wetbrspring have resulted in saturated and unstable soil, contributing to potentialbrsafety issues, as well as concern about habitat protection. The National Forest Service is assessing thebrdamage and developing a road and trail rehabilitation plan. It is uncertain at this time when various closed areas will open
After the fires and spring erosion, webrdid not know what to expect when we set out to drive from Payson to Nephi. The Nebo Loop Scenic Byway is still abrspectacularly beautiful drive. The 37-mile drive takes about one to two hours,brdepending on how many times you stop for pictures. It is a narrow winding roadbrwith few turnouts. Drive with lights on, drive slowly and be alert for other traffic, including bicycles which are popular during good weather. You will, ofbrcourse, see some large burn areas. What is interesting is that you will see large areas of green pine and spruce forestbrthat were not touched by the fires. In fact, driving the paved Nebo Loop Road,bryou will see more green lush forest than burned. It makes you wonder why herebrand not there.
As you proceed southerly on the road, youbrwill climb to 9,000 feet, and the eye-catching attraction is the scenic bywaysbrnamesake, Mount Nebo towering to 11,877 feet. The air temperature was 80 degrees, with a very comfortable light breeze. As you descend you will pass thebrred rocks of Devil’s Kitchen. Here we have another piece of eye candy unlikebranything you have seen on the drive and somewhat reminiscent of Bryce Canyon. Abrlittle further down the road, there is a nice view of the red rocks and MountbrNebo. We continued winding down the canyon to connect with Utah Highway 132 and then on to Nephi. Arriving on the valley floor, we noted that the outside airbrtemperature was 99 degrees. What a wonderful scenic drive right in our backbryard.
Nebo Loop Scenic Byway can be traveled inbreither direction, from Payson or Nephi. (Helmick is a Serve Daily contributor.)