Arizona Fall Colors
Aspen Loop Nature Trail
October 1, 2021
Visit To View Fantastic Fall Color In Arizona
We ran up to NAU last October to visit our granddaughter for her 20th birthday. She's been hiking with us since she was three years old, so naturally we all wanted to go do some hiking in the forest, preferably with lots of fall color. A couple of years ago, her older sister had shown us a fantastic place only about 15 miles north of Flagstaff off Highway 180, so we decided to go there.
To get there, you just take Highway 180 about fifteen miles until you get to around mile marker 226. The road is actually the road to Hart Prairie, which is a Nature Conservancy site that you can only visit by reservation from April though September. The road is FR151. On the left, shortly after you get on 151, there is a largish parking area and a kiosk with maps of the area. At first all you see is pine trees for a few miles, but persevere. Soon you will be rewarded by a massive stand of aspen trees on the left side of the road. There is a rail fence and parking for at least a couple dozen cars. We went there on a Friday and there were about six cars there.
This place is magical. There are a bunch of old Jeep trails and foot paths, and some of the roads are no longer open to vehicles which makes for great hiking. There's an old fireplace and you can still see the foundation of the little cabin that used to incorporate it. This is a fantastic place for photos when the trees are changing color. When were there in late October there were still a lot of leaves on the trees, but also a lot on the ground as well, which made it even more beautiful. I got some great photos of my beautiful granddaughter and her dog, Grimmy.
San Francisco Peaks
There are many areas with gorgeous fall color on the road to the Snow Bowl. Aspen Corner is one of the first ones you'll come to, and across the road from it is the trailhead for the trail to Alfa Fia Tank, which often has beautiful fall color. The first part of the trail goes through forest, then it opens up into a meadow surrounded by trees but with a glorious view that includes swaths of color in the fall.
Aspen Loop Nature Trail
Further up, right across the road from the entrance to the Snow Bowl, is the Aspen Loop Nature Trail – a lollipop trail. This is one of our favorite places in the fall, with lots of color as well as conifers. The trail is less than three miles long and is easy enough for small kids – our granddaughters have loved it since they were little.
If you really want a bird's eye view of colorful fall trees, take the ski lift up the mountain. From the top, and on the way down, you can see for miles and miles and you'll get an eyeful of colors from reds to oranges to yellows. It is seriously beautiful.
Lockett Meadow is famous for fall color, and we've been there a couple of times. Two caveats: The road can be iffy: it's a dirt road, and narrow. Sometimes a driver will get overwhelmed and just freeze, blocking traffic. It's also crowded when the color is at its height. But it's one of the most beautiful places you'll ever see, so it's worth it.
Believe it or not, downtown Flagstaff can also be a wonderful place to see fall color, especially if you get there too late and the leaves on the mountain have already fallen. When we were up there to take graduation photos for our granddaughter, we found a bunch of places in town with tons of color.
Other Places In Arizona
Since John and I do so much off-roading, we've come across patches of unexpected color even in the desert. Those are few and far between, but a real treat. Look for places that have water most of the year in the higher parts of the desert.
Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest has gorgeous fall color. We were out there last year looking for grouse and the colors were fantastic on the Escudilla Mountains, and I'm sure there are other areas as well.
Color On The Mountains
You can find fall color on a lot of mountain ranges in Arizona, including the ranges in the southern part of the state. Aspens can grow in a wide variety of climates according to the Forest Service, from semi-arid shrublands to wet, spruce-fir forests. After a fire, like we discovered on the Escudillas, the aspens can be the first trees to come back.
In many places up there, the aspens were virtually shrubs, but in brilliant colors. So look around, check out any mountain ranges near you, and make sure you visit every couple of weeks or so, because the colors can begin and end suddenly.