People in Arizona love fall colors – I’d love to think that is largely because most of us are not from here, but are transplants from the midwest.
Who doesn’t love fall? Milder temperatures and the change of seasons make for some gorgeous colors – and while it might not feel like fall yet here in Phoenix, it’s definitely starting up in Northern Arizona.
If you love to take your family on day trips or, if you are looking for a place to see the beautiful fall colors at their best, we have them rounded up below. You can find day trips covering Northern AND Southern Arizona, hikes, drives, and even the opportunity to catch a wide view on open vistas.
Obviously there are probably many more places to catch the beautiful change in colors than what we have below, but this is a great start for anyone looking to hit the road this fall.
Boyce Arboretum, Superior
The Arboretum is a great place for those who are in the Phoenix area as it’s right outside the town of Superior. The leaves peak mid to late November – at that time you can also catch the Arizona Fall Foliage Finale which is usually held between November 20th and December 5th.
The Arboretum is located off HWY 60 and open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Head up to Flagstaff – it’s by far the #1 location for most of us when we think of all colors.
Fall color is best viewed from late September to November – and the drive will take you a few hours north on the 1-17. Be prepared going up and coming back as the 1-17 is usually a haven for accidents so make sure you have lots of snacks and time on your hands.
Hart Prairie Road: This road runs along Forest Service Road 151. To get there take the U.S. 180 10 miles north. That’s a nice loop that will bring you around and right back to where you started.
Aspen Nature Loop: This 1.8 mile hike is an easy way to see the San Francisco Peaks and Kendrick Mountains. Both are laden with aspens, which are beautiful at this time of the year.
Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona
From October through November, you can head up to Oak Creek to see maples and oaks. A trip to Oak Creek Canyon is 2 hours north of Phoenix and is between Flagstaff and Sedona. Drive the canyon OR take West Fork Trail by foot.
West Fork Trail: One of the most popular trails in the Coconino National Forest, the trail is 14 miles. It’s maintained for the first 3 miles, and after that, requires you hike in he stream bed among the rest of the 14 mile stretch.. It runs 8 to 8 pm in the summer, and 8 am to dusk he rest of the year. It’s best visited spring through fall.
Drive the Canyon: Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive is about a 14 mile drive along Route 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff. The 14 mile stretch will take you about 2.5 hours, or, you can spend all day doing the drive. Before you drive into the canyon you’ll want to stop at Oak Creek Canyon Vista. The Vista will allow you to get a glimpse of the road ahead.
Grand Canyon, North Rim
This is one of Arizona’s natural wonders – it’s one of the wonders of the world too. We can’t forget to mention the North Rim – which is full of aspens that are changing colors from September to October.
The best place to catch your view is the Kaibab Plateau where you can see a wide few of the leaves.
Overnight Trip: Head up the 1-17 to Flagstaff. Take HWY 89 north to Bitter Springs. From there, take HWY 89 Alt. West to Jacob Lake – where highway 67 leads to the North Rim. You’ll want to head up before October 15th as the leafy season is a bit shorter.
The best time to head up to the higher elevations of the Mogollon Rim, north of Overgaard and the mountains of Show Low and Springerville is the first few weeks of October.
You can enjoy the fall colors on any of these drives:
From Show Low: Head south on HWY 260 – you’ll hit Hon-Dah casino and turn east. For the next 30 miles going east you will see some beautiful fall leafy colors. If you’d like to go to the Sunrise Ski Park, turn south at the Big Lake turnoff on HWY 273.
From Alpine: Go north on HWY 191 for 6 miles. Turn east at the milepost 421 onto Hulsey Lake Road (FR56). Drive for 4.7 miles, until you reach a fork in the road. That fork in the road is the start of a 6 mile loop of Terry Flat.
From Payson: Go east on HWY 260, until you reach milepost 282. Then turn left (north) on Forest Road 300 toward Woods Canyon Lake. You can also see the colors off Forest Road (FR) 512, Young Road, off HWY 260 around milepost 284. OR, down at mile post 283.
Usually when you mention the changing of the fall colors, you think northern Arizona – but Tucson has just as many places to view the fall foliage, too. Though not quite as dazzling, they do have a softer season of colors in certain areas.
Catalina Mountains: North of Tucson, the mountains are at their peak mid to late October. To see the fall foliage, take the Tanque Verde Road to Catalina Highway ($5).
Bear Wallow: You’ll see maples in rust and red tones when you head near milepost 22. Then, watch for more maples or get out and take a short walk when you turn right onto Bear Wallow Road.
Turkey Run Road: Head past milepost 24, and enter Summerhaven. Near the community center building, look for Turkey Run Road (on the right hand side). Drive all the way to the end, and walk up the unpaved road. You will be able to see maple and walnut trees.
Aspen Draw Trail: If you head to Turkey Run Road, and follow that road to the end, where the gage blocks you, walk up the road a 1/2 mile, and look for a sign for Aspen Draw Trail. You can walk up the trail to see huge groves of Aspens.
Marshall Gulch Trail: As you leave Summerhaven, find this area at the en of the mile long road. The trail is near the parking lot where you can walk just 0.25 mile to see maples with deep red leaves.
Mount Lemmon: Near the top of the 9,000 foot Mountain Lemmon is a parking area, and aspens with a rich, gold color.
Southern Arizona doesn’t have quite as many spots to view the change in colors, as compare to Northern Arizona. Ramsey Canyon is nestled in the Huachuca Mountains, 90 minutes south of Tucson.
Not only can you see the change of colors in mid to late October and early November, you can see any of the 14 species of hummingbirds of as many as 150 species of birds in the preserve.