It’s that time of year again – the temperatures are cooling, the leaves are changing, and it’s OK to order a hot coffee without judgement because the temperature in Phoenix has finally dipped below 100 degrees. Put on your favorite cozy sweater and take a day trip to check out these five vibrant fall foliage scenes around Arizona.
Start the day early, and venture two and a half hours north of Phoenix to Flagstaff. The high mountain elevation turns the aspens into a beautiful display of golden-yellow jewel tones. Mid-October is the perfect time to take in the fall foliage. Bring your family to the Arboretum at Flagstaff for a relaxing stroll or picnic through 200 acres of high-altitude plants and a view of the San Francisco Peaks. Or hike the Kachina Trail through forests, meadows and golden aspen groves for panoramic views of fall hues. Use Flagstaff’s LEAFometer to track the changing fall leaves.
Sedona’s red rock landscape coupled with the changing foliage makes for a top fall destination. The West Fork hiking trail is one of Sedona’s most popular trails. Weave through towering canyons and cross several streams, while taking in all the autumn colors. Or take a scenic drive on State Route 89A from Sedona to Oak Creek Vista – a national scenic byway. The best time to catch the fall colors is from late September to mid-October.
There’s a lot to do in Payson to get your fall fix. Drive the Rim Road for spectacular views of the Mogollon Rim. Take Forest Road 300 to Highway 260 through thick forests of pine and ponderosa trees, hiking trails along the road, lakes and open overlooks of the edge of the Rim. Catch the peak fall foliage from mid to late October.
Nestled near the Bradshaw Mountains, Prescott is a must-see for “leaf-peeping.” Bring your camera and visit these fall photo-opt spots. Watson Lake is surrounded by rock formations. During sunrise or sunset, some parts of the lake reflect vibrant fall colors. Then visit the Watson Woods Riparian Preserve – a 126-acre nature preserve located a few miles from downtown Prescott and is home to cottonwood and willow trees. During autumn, the bright green leaves turn golden.
Tucson or Mount Lemmon
Mount Lemmon is the highest peak of the Catalina Mountain Range, and only an hour and a half drive northeast of Tucson. It has a couple of fall hot spots: Check out the Aspen Draw Trail for glowing hues of reds, yellows and oranges or immerse yourself in a lush forest filled with maple, aspen and oak trees at Bear Wallow Campground. The site no longer allows camping, but there are plenty of trails around the area to explore.