Making the Most of Autumn in Arizona

It’s officially fall in Arizona. Seeking to make the most of autumn?

Arizona offers a number of scenic hikes, drives, and sites for taking in the beautiful colors of fall foliage.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Look for Arizona fall color as early as mid-September in mountainous elevations and lasting well into early December at high-desert spots.

Enjoy the best of what Arizona has to offer during the fall season by taking a trip to one of these uniquely Arizona locations:

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park

Located in the Tonto National Forest near the rustic town of Superior, Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park is Arizona’s oldest and largest botanical garden. Boyce Thompson is a surprising spot for fall color, given that the high-desert garden is only about 1,000 feet higher in elevation than nearby metro Phoenix.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the fall season, enjoy live music and cider at the park while admiring the changing colors of its pistachio, hackberry, black walnut, and sycamore trees.

Follow trails through the 100-acre botanical garden to see colorful trees and shrubs such as canyon hackberry, sycamore, willow, ash, cottonwood, pomegranate and the spectacular red of the Chinese pistachio.

West Fork Of Oak Creek

Oak Creek Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oak Creek Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience fall in Arizona with a visit to West Fork, a narrow, tree-filled canyon following Oak Creek about a 10-minute drive from downtown Sedona. The trail is relatively easy with shallow streams throughout. The canyon is 14 miles from end to end, and only the first three miles of the trail are marked. The West Fork Trail is one of Arizona’s most-popular and most-photographed trails. And, it’s no surprise, really, since it’s uniquely beautiful all year long.

On Old Baldy Trail at Madera Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights

On Old Baldy Trail at Madera Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Madera Canyon

South of Tucson, Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains is a popular birdwatching spot, but in fall, the riparian area surrounding the canyon’s creek is golden and orange as velvet ash and Arizona sycamore display their fall finery. Drive the canyon’s roadway, which crosses the creek at several spots, and stop at picnic areas and trailheads for a closer look.

Hualapai Mountains

The Western Arizona desert near Kingman seems endless, but there, the Hualapai Mountains are a classic example of a sky island, rising more than 8,000 feet above the desert floor. Near the top, Hualapai Mountain Park offers hiking and mountain biking trails, campsites and cabin rentals, all great places to see aspens, maples, boxelders, walnuts and other trees showing off their seasonal color.

The Catalina Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights

The Catalina Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights

Mount Lemmon, Santa Catalina Mountains

Going from the Colorado River to the rim of the Grand Canyon is the ecological equivalent of walking from Mexico to Canada in less than 10 miles. Plants, animals, weather all change dramatically as you gain elevation. There’s no journey like it on Earth. But you can’t do the Canyon in an RV.

Down south, however, there is a vehicle-friendly version of this ascension through the ecosystems. The Catalina Highway, also known as the Sky Island Scenic Byway, climbs Mount Lemmon, the highest peak of the Santa Catalina Mountains. You won’t get all the way to the 9,100-foot summit on this drive, but you will drive through forests dense with not only pines, but also colorful aspen, maple, and walnut trees.

The Catalina Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights

The Catalina Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights

Worth Pondering…

October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace!
―Rainbow Rowell, Attachments

Leave a Reply