Phoenix isn’t exactly famous for its fall foliage. After all, saguaros stay the same grey-green hue year-round. However, there are plenty of places in other parts of the state that provide a plethora of trees that shift from varying shades of green to dazzling golds, reds and oranges in the cooler months. While vibrant autumn sunsets dazzle in the Valley, other parts of Arizona offer crisp temps and a kaleidoscope of fall colors, so pick up a piping hot PSL, put on a cozy sweater and check out these 11 places to peep Arizona’s natural fall color palette.
11. Lockett Meadow
Though an unassuming sign and a primitive dirt road serve as its harbinger, Lockett Meadow offers a slice of the season’s most spectacular display of colors. Located 20 miles outside of Flagstaff, Lockett Meadow’s Inner Basin Trail is a steep, sinuous 3.4-mile hiking trail surrounded by towering aspen trees whose leaves form a saffron-hued halo in early October.
10. Oak Creek Canyon
Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona offers a bevy of natural beauty year-round, but October and November feature a forest of multicolored maples, cottonwoods and oaks. The tranquil, seven-mile West Fork Trail is a popular choice for leaf peepers, as its vermilion verdure is reminiscent of an East Coast autumn, while Sedona’s storied brick-colored cliffs serve as a classic southwestern backdrop.
While winter at Snowbowl is marked by an iridescent, ivory-colored blanket of snow, October is the perfect time to get a glimpse of its mountains and meadows punctuated with oranges and yellows. The Aspen Nature Loop is a simple, 1.5-mile jaunt that offers sweeping views of the Kendrick, Sitgreaves and Bill Williams Mountains. Hop on the chairlift to get a birds-eye view of the western side of the San Francisco Peaks, but be sure to bundle up — the temps drop as the elevation rises.
8. Bear Jaw
Located about 25 miles north of Flagstaff in the Coconino National Forest, Bear Jaw Trail is a strenuous voyage with stunning views. The steep, two-mile loop begins with a cluster of conifers that slowly dissolve into a canopy of colorful aspens. With stunning views of the north slope of the San Francisco Peaks and a dense population of deciduous trees, Bear Jaw is a prime location for leaf peeping.
7. White Mountains
The eastern part of the state is home to the picturesque White Mountains, which are freckled with fir, pine and oak trees that flaunt bright golds and brilliant reds in early October.
6. North Rim, Grand Canyon
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is gorgeous every season of the year, but the mass of golden aspen trees against the crimson-colored cliffs during mid-October is a jaw-dropping sight not even postcards can do justice.
5. Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park
Boyce Thompson Arboretum is both the largest and oldest botanical garden in the state — and it’s less than an hour from Phoenix. Peak week for fall foliage at the arboretum is usually around Thanksgiving, when among its 323 acres and 3,000 plant species are the breathtaking copper-toned honey locust, canary-yellow cottonwood and scarlet pistachio trees.
4. Santa Catalina Mountains
Northeast of Tucson, the Catalina Mountains are home to a glittering grove of aspens, oaks and maples that start to flaunt their autumn hues in early October. A cruise up the 25-mile Catalina Highway offers roadside exhibitions of arboreal grandeur, while various pullouts provide the perfect fall photo op.
3. Madera Canyon
Nestled in the northwest reaches of the Santa Rita Mountain Range, Madera Canyon boasts a medley of flora that turns a fiery hue in November. Cottonwood, sycamore, ash, hackberry and willow trees show off various shades of auburn, burgundy, burnt orange and amber, which are especially breathtaking when reflected in Madera Creek.
2. Hassayampa River Preserve
This rich riparian area is lined with a crown of cottonwoods and willows that morph from an emerald green to a bright yellow in mid-October, which creates a stunning contrast against the otherwise monochromatic landscape of desert fan palms, saguaros and palo verde.
1. Hualapai Mountains
“Hualapai” translates to “people of the tall pines” in the Walapai and Havasupai languages, so it makes sense that the Hualapai Mountains are studded with towering trees. The mountain range offers a series of hiking and biking trails bordered by aspens, maples, boxelders and ponderosa pines that provide a patchwork of color in the fall.