Arizona Best Hikes For October
Enjoy Amazing Arizona
October 1, 2020
We went up to Flagstaff at the beginning of September, and even at that altitude, it was still warm. We even went way up the mountain to hike the Kachina Trail and it was still warm in the sun.
But Kachina is a gorgeous trail and in October, it should be a glorious time to do that hike. The Kachina is very long and joins a lot of other nice long hikes on the mountain. It is an out-and-back trail, so we usually just hike until we decide we need to turn back. To get to the Kachina Trail, you just head to the Snowbowl. Take Highway 180 to the Snowbowl turnoff, then drive up the road until just before the gate to the Snowbowl. The parking lot on the right is for the Kachina Trail.
Different Each Season
What I love about the Kachina Trail is that no matter how many times you hike it, it's different. In the fall there are beautiful colors. In spring and summer there are fields of ferns and flowers. There are always lots of birds, gorgeous trees, plenty of shade, and many boulder piles for kids to play on.
When our granddaughters were little, we never hiked far because we stopped all the time so they could play on the boulders. I would make lunch the night before the hike and freeze the sandwiches. By lunchtime they were thawed but still nice and cool. We'd feast with Rainier cherries and homemade trail mix and just enjoy the beautiful Coconino Forest. It's still our favorite trail, and the one our granddaughters pick when we visit them at NAU.
Alpine Loop Nature Trail
The Alpine Loop Nature Trail is another favorite of ours. Across the street from the Kachina Trail parking lot there is another parking lot for the Humphrey's Peak Trail. The Alpine Loop trailhead used to be on the downhill side of this lot, but when we were there in September, they had big machinery there and they are making the parking lot much bigger and it looks like they are adding another ski slope. We were really bummed because we thought Alpine Loop was a victim of construction.
But over at the Kachina parking lot, an attendant told us that the new trailhead for the Alpine Loop is actually about a hundred yards up the Humphrey's Peak Trail. I'm glad it's still there and I'm looking forward to seeing for myself if it is still as beautiful as ever.
Flagstaff Trails Map
I have a Flagstaff Trails map that we have used for years, and it shows all the hiking trails so you can see which other trails they connect to, etc. It also has profiles of some of the trails, so you can see how steep they are. Depending on the weather, you can choose trails close to town or up on the mountains. We love Buffalo Park trails at sunset, and that is right in town. Picture Canyon with its waterfall, ponds, and bridge is another favorite that is right in town. It's east off Highway 89.
If you'd like to have a Flagstaff Trails Map, it's made by Emmitt Barks Cartography. I paid just under $11 for mine and it's waterproof plastic. They also make a Sedona Trails Map, and you can find them at http://www.emmittbarks.com. I bought mine at an outdoor store, but you can also get a digital version for $9.99 on their website that you can use on the Avenza app.
It might be cool in October, and if so, there are some dynamite trails around town. I love the Dragonfly Trail in the Jewel of the Creek preserve near Spur Cross outside Cave Creek, Ariz. To get there, head to Spur Cross and watch on the left as you near the gate. You'll see a rock wall and a pretty gate. Park there and go through the gate.
The trail follows Cave Creek on the far side, so we usually turn right and go that way near the beginning of the trail. It has water (most of the time), a little cave, tunnels formed by trees overhanging the trail, little plank bridges to cross, and beautiful scenery. We love this trail and it's easy enough for even small kids.
Another easy hike is the Waterfall Trail in the White Tanks west of Phoenix. It's actually a sidewalk for a quite a ways, and if there has been rain the waterfall is really cool. The wash alongside the trail is pretty, and as you get closer to the waterfall, you get gorgeous views. Once you reach the waterfall, you have to clamber over some rocks and get into a little hollowed-out area before you can actually see the waterfall.
There isn't much room in there, especially if there is a large pool of water, but people are pretty good at taking turns so everyone can get a photo. There is an entry fee for the White Tanks – it's $7 per car.
Before it gets cold and snowy, you need to get out to Springerville and go to the Wenima Wildlife Area. It's about three miles northwest of Springerville. At the junction of 60 and 180, go north about a quarter of a mile up 180/191 and look for a graded road on the right. After a mile and a half, that road goes down into the Little Colorado River area. Park by the restroom and info kiosks.
The trail across the road from the parking area is called the Beavertail trail. It is about a mile and a half long and follows the Little Colorado through gorgeous meadows. There is an old ranch house at the end that is in really good shape. We took shelter from a rainstorm there once!
The Powerhouse trail goes south for under a mile and goes across some little bridges. It also follows the Little Colorado and there is an old abandoned building with half the roof gone that you can explore. Both of the trails are easy enough for kids, and since they follow the water, kids love them. This is also a fantastic place to see birds, and we have also spotted deer here many times. It truly is beautiful.
Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area
Another place close to Springerville is Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area. There are four hiking trails here from easy to a bit difficult. Trailheads for three of them are at the parking area. The Trinity Trail is very short (350 yards) and goes to a wildlife viewing point at Trinity Reservoir, which is a very small tank. The High Point Loop Trail is rated moderate and it's just half a mile to a scenic overlook. There are even big binoculars to look through and the views are great. We saw a flock of at least fifty turkeys there when we went in September. I have never seen so many turkeys at one time in my life.
Sipe White Mountain is a fun place to visit and hike, plus your chances of seeing some cool animals is very good. We also found petroglyphs and saw a ton of beautiful birds.
Becker Lake Wildlife Area
One last little trail to take with the kids near Springerville is at the Becker Lake Wildlife Area. This lovely place is two miles northwest of Springerville off Highway 60 on the left side. The Lakeview trail is a one-mile loop along the edge of the lake and goes to a platform on the marshy end of the lake so you can see birds. The River Walk Trail is a half-mile trail that follows the Little Colorado River. This part of the river has many places where it widens and we saw a lot of animals on this trail including beavers. Both of these trails are very easy and very pretty.
So those are my picks for great October hikes. I hope you have a chance to get out there and enjoy this amazing state with your family this month.