Skip to main content

U.S. Forest Service

Intermountain Region Viewing Area


A high elevation sagebrush hillside exploding with wildflowers. The high elevation sagebrush hillsides explode with wildflowers several weeks after the snowmelt in mid to late July. Photo by Teresa Prendusi.

Narrowleaf paintbrush (Castilleja linariifolia) and Parsnipflower buckwheat (Eriogonum heracleoides). Narrowleaf paintbrush (Castilleja linariifolia) and Parsnipflower buckwheat (Eriogonum heracleoides) are commonly found on dry hillsides and rocky ledges in our mountains. Castilleja linariifolia is designated as the state flower of Wyoming. Photo by Teresa Prendusi.

Sticky geranium. Sticky geranium (Geranium viscosissimum) gets its name from the glandular hairs in the upper portions of the stem and among the pink flowers. It is an important part of our flora on drier soils in upper grasslands and forests. Photo by Teresa Prendusi.

A beautiful meadow of little sunflower Helianthella, Wasatch penstemon and narrowleaf paintbrush spreads far into the distance along the Monte Cristo road. A beautiful meadow of little sunflower Helianthella, Wasatch penstemon and narrowleaf paintbrush spreads far into the distance along the Monte Cristo road. Photo by Teresa Prendusi.

Sheepherder’s horses. Sheepherder’s horses enjoying the bounties of springtime on the Monte Cristo range. Photo by Teresa Prendusi.

Cache Campground sign. Campground sign. Photo by Teresa Prendusi.

Monte Cristo Scenic Drive

Forest: Wasatch-Cache National Forest

District: Ogden Ranger District

Description: Utah Hwy 39 is a two-lane paved road that travels across three scenic areas within the Ogden Ranger District (Ogden Canyon, Pineview Reservoir, and Monte Cristo Road). It is an officially designated Utah State Scenic Byway. The scenic drive travels through the narrow river canyon, past the shores of Pineview Reservoir and climbs for many miles alongside of the willow and cottonwood-lined river toward the summit of the Monte Cristo range. The road climbs to over 9000 feet and passes through an array of vegetation types, from sagebrush covered hills and riparian forests in the lower elevations to the cool Englemann spruce, Douglas fir and Aspen forests near the summit. The beautiful mountain vistas, late-July summer wildflowers, and breathtaking fall colors of October make this scenic drive one of the favorites among the locals. Be sure to stop for a walk among the great wildflowers and sub-alpine forest at the Monte Cristo campground.

Wildflower and Fall Colors Viewing Information: Traveling along this road is a real pleasure for the sightseer because it transects so many plant communities and elevations. There are a fair number of pullouts along this scenic road to be able to stop and photograph wildflowers, fall colors and vistas in a safe and enjoyable manner. Among the colorful displays in early summer (mid-July) you will see fields of little sunflower (Helianthella uniflora) and mule ears (Wyethia amplexicaulis). Interspersed among this golden sea of color you will find, Wasatch penstemon (Penstemon cyananthus), Narrowleaf Indian paintbrush (Castilleja linariifolia), and sticky geranium (Geranium viscosissimum). Drier sites support Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Buckwheat (Eriogonum heracleoides), Tolmie owl clover (Orthocarpus tolmiei), and yellow mountain violets (Viola purpurea). Among the aspen and spruce-fir forest openings lovely pale columbines (Aquilegia coerulea var. ochroleuca), leafy jacobsladder (Polemonium foliosissimum), and woodland star (Lithophragma parviflora) make their home. Then, during early October the aspen forests turn the expansive vistas into a breathtaking vision of orange and gold. This drive is one to be enjoyed over and over again, from early spring well into late Fall.

Safety First: The Monte Cristo portion of scenic drive is a two lane road in mountainous terrain. Don’t be distracted by the scenery while driving. Stay on your side of the road except while crossing into a pullout. Watch for opposing traffic, cattle and wildlife on the road. In colder weather, watch for icy conditions in shaded or snowmelt areas. Be prepared for summer thunderstorms or early winter snow. The higher elevation sections of this road are closed with a metal gate during the winter season (November to late May) until the snows melt.

Directions: From the mouth of Ogden Canyon, drive through the narrow canyon along Highway 39, a designated Utah State Scenic Highway, then around the shores of Pineview Reservoir. Hwy 39 continues past the town of Huntsville (follow the signs towards Monte Cristo) towards Woodruff, Utah. Follow the road for 31 miles to the Monte Cristo Campground.

Ownership and Management: USDA Forest Service, Ogden Ranger District. For more information call (801)-625-5112.

Closest Town: Ogden, Utah.

Additional Photos

Rocky Mountain columbine. The lovely Rocky Mountain columbine in the Wasatch Mountains is a white variety (Aquilegia coerulea var. ochroleuca). Photo by Teresa Prendusi.

(Penstemon cyananthus) being pollinated by a Bombus bee. Wasatch penstemon (Penstemon cyananthus) being pollinated by a Bombus bee. Photo by Teresa Prendusi.

Leafy jacobsladder. Leafy jacobsladder (Polemonium foliosissimum) is found in forest openings with deep, cool soils. Look for it at the Monte Cristo campground. Photo by Teresa Prendusi.

A native bumblebees pollinating the western coneflower. Native bumblebees pollinate the western coneflower (Rudbeckia occidentalis), a species closely associated with aspen forests. This species of coneflower is made up entirely of tubular flowers (no rays). Photo by Teresa Prendusi.

A view of the forest along Monte Cristo road. The fall colors along Monte Cristo road are spectacular on a good year. Photo by Teresa Prendusi.

View of aspen clone. Aspen are clonal and turn color at slightly different times, some remaining green while others have already shed their leaves. Leaf color also varies among clones where some more orange than yellow. Photo by Teresa Prendusi.

Aspen leaves. The beautiful sound of aspen leaves is due to the flat stalks that make them tremble at the slightest breeze. Photo by Teresa Prendusi.