For most of the country, they see Arizona as just a barren desert with only sand and brown as far as the eye can see. Little do they know the Grand Canyon State is full of some grand fall foliage. Now that it is autumn, it’s a great time to head north (or south) and check out what the fall leaves have to offer those in Arizona.
Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona
Sedona is gorgeous year-round but the area kicks up the beauty a bit when fall arrives. One of the best places in the state to see those changing leaves is in Oak Creek Canyon on Highway 89A. Experts say the best time to go is between late September and mid-October. If you drive between Sedona and Flagstaff, it’s about a 28-mile drive. For those looking to explore on foot, the West Fork Oak Creek trail is a great hike to do to gaze at those leaves.
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Just an hour and a half away is a great spot in Mogollon Rim Country and that’s the Payson area. Just north of the city off of State Route 87 is the Tonto Natural Bridge, which is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world and is surrounded by some great cottonwood and elder trees, plus aspens.
Mogollon Rim Road
Don’t feel like getting out of your car? No problem. Just head out to Forest Road 300, which runs along the edge of the Mogollon Rim and overlooks the ponderosa pine forest. If you want to make the loop, it’ll include Forest Road 321. However, it’s mostly dirt or gravel so be careful, but the views are great.
Most people think winter sports when Snowbowl is mentioned but the destination also has great areas for spotting fall leaves. Snowbowl Drive has golden aspens with ponderosa groves while Veit Springs Trail is a shady and heavily-wooded area. Aspen Corner has dazzling aspens and is great for photography.
3TV's April Warnecke says Lockett Meadow, Hart Prairie and the Inner Basin are close to Snowbowl and are amazing.
They may be called the White Mountains but they are full of color during autumn. Several towns to check out include Pinetop-Lakeside, especially along State Route 260. Greer, in the heart of the White Mountains, has great fall foliage. Those looking for a hike can check out Greens Peak that oversees the colorful aspens.
Catalina Highway Scenic Drive
Southern Arizona isn’t being left out and actually has one of the most scenic highways in the southwest in the Catalina Highway Scenic Drive. It features great mountain forests along with rock shapes and deep canyons. The 27-mile- long stretch has colorful aspens, pines, maple and walnut trees. You can also check out Mt. Lemmon for a great view.
For road trip fanatics who REALLY like driving, they can hit the road for four hours and check the leaves in the Hualapai Mountains, which are 8,000 feet above sea level. There are hiking and biking trails to see some great seasonal colors of aspens, maples, walnuts and other trees in their fall form.
According to the Forest Service, first fall colors show up in late September and colors peak around Flagstaff and the Mogollon Rim the first couple of weeks in October. West Fork and Oak Creek Canyon usually peak around the third week of October. Sedona and the Verde Valley don’t reach peak fall foliage until the end of October and into November.
The Forest Service provides excellent updates for specific forests and areas each season. They have links to those areas and forests on their website.
The Flagstaff Convention Visitors Bureau also puts out and updates the “LEAF-OMETER” every season. Check it out at http://bit.ly/2xOZuye