Best Places in Arizona to See the Leaves Change in the Fall
Arizona gets less attention in the annual color fest of autumn than Colorado or Connecticut, when the leaves change into sometimes brilliant colors and then drop to the ground, creating a carpet of beauty. The Grand Canyon State is perhaps the most diverse in climate of them all, though, and there are plenty of options to see this yearly brilliance.
Here are a few of my favorites:
89A and Northern Arizona
Heading north from Flagstaff toward the Grand Canyon, take a right at Snow Bowl and you’ll find marvelous meadows, some studded with Aspen trees, to see the falling leaves. Check out Hart Prairie and Locket Meadow.
Oak Creek Canyon
South of Flagstaff on 89A is Arizona’s scenic windy path through Oak Creek Canyon(which also boasts maple and sycamore trees), on the way the Sedona. A few day and overnight-use campgrounds offer a landing spots for leaf-changing hikes – including one of the best in the state in the West Fork Trail (it’s popular, so plan accordingly). Or just enjoy it on a slow meander down 89A.
When is it not scenic in Sedona? The leaves changing are more apparent nearby Sedona, like Oak Creek Canyon and Flagstaff, but you’ll find those colorful embellishments on many of the hikes that take you above the town. It frames what’s already beautiful.
Prescotthas two environments: the piney woods on the western part of town and the high chaparral to the east, as in Prescott Valley. A hike up Thumb Butte offers a panorama of the area, including the leaves changing. Some city parks and hiking trails also showcase colorful fall leaves.
Again, when is the Grand Canyon not scenic? You don’t find the clustered displays of colorful trees near the South Rim, but the contrast between the changing leaves and evergreen trees can be striking. And, hey, who needs an event to see the Natural Wonder of the World?
If you take the 89A route from Prescott north, you’ll come over the back side of Mingus Mountain from Jerome. If you hit it at the right time, the valley to the south just outside of Jerome (again, always worth a visit) lights up with mostly red swaths of changing leaves.
Changing leaves in the White Mountains
Before the Sunrise Park ski resort cranks up for the winter season of skiiing, it’s among one of the best viewing spots, particularly for Aspen. Another fabulous feature for seeing the fall leaves: Take the chairlift up for a top-of-the-world view. Or hike the nearby trails for a more close-up experience.
If you’re up for a bit of a drive, Hannagan Meadow, off 191, has a reputation for impressive fall foliage, with a combination of pine and aspen and pine. You can enjoy it with an ambling drive or take a scenic hike.
Around this high-elevation lake in the White Mountains are massive stands of aspen and pine trees, which you also can view by hiking or driving.
One of Arizona’s most charming small mountain town, Greeris smack dab in the middle of aspen, spruce and fir trees, which lit up like an explosion in a paint factory in the fall. The Little Colorado River and Greer Lakes are perfect spots for the leaf-changing crowd. Hit this early in the season as it’s at a high elevation.
Also along the Little Colorado River you’ll find Sheep’s Crossing, famous for the cottonwood trees that shine yellow and gold in autumn.
Where to See Leaves Changing in Southern Arizona
An hour’s drive from Tucson up a windy road is the sky island the Santa Catalina Mountains called Mount Lemmon (it also boasts the nation’s most southern ski run). Oak and aspen trees light up the colorful canopy in the fall.
Patagonia Lake State Park
This area near Patagonia features willow and cottonwood trees that display orange and yellow when the temperature cools.
Chiricahua National Monument
Maple and sycamore trees amid the scenic rock formations of the Chiricahuasgive this southeastern Arizona range a wide range of colors amid other compelling displays of Nature’s bounty.
Ramsey Canyon Preserve
The Ramsey Canyon Preserve in the Huachuca Mountains near Sierra Vista offers a wide diversity of animals and plants with some fall colors in the canyon.
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