Fall is a little different here in Arizona. While some parts of the state are now preparing for winter snow, other parts are just getting settled into much milder temperatures for the next few months. Only segments of the state naturally experience the vibrant leaf color changes and they don’t all happen at the same time. If, however, you’re itching to see fall colors now you’ll want to check out this road trip idea that is an absolute must for any Arizonan.
Traveling between Sedona and Flagstaff, this is a road trip that can easily be done in a few hours if you zoom right through but where’s the fun in that? We’re going to list a few areas where you might want to consider spending a little extra time exploring so feel free to pick and choose your destination in this road trip. A link to the
suggested route is located here
(for viewing only).
Starting Point: Sedona
It only seems natural that Sedona’s red rocks blend beautifully with the yellow, orange, and rust-colored leaves of autumn. This popular area can get a little crowded if you get a late start on your trip so we’ve included four potential stops.
The first option is to begin your journey in Red Rock State Park (A), which features some of the area’s most recognizable buttes, as well as the riparian area along Oak Creek. You’ll find numerous cottonwood trees along the creek banks slowly turning into those beautiful autumn colors. There’s plenty to do here, such as hiking, cycling, and viewing wildlife.
Another stop is Grasshopper Point (B), a spot known more for its refreshing summer swimming hole but the leaf views are still pretty here. This option also allows you to briefly hike along Oak Creek via Allen’s Bend Trail #111, which is just a one-mile round trip from the parking lot.
Another stop a few miles down the road is Slide Rock State Park(C) which, again, is known more for the summertime fun you can have here. You’ll find this area much less crowded in the fall season since the temperatures are just a little too chilly to go for a dip. However, it is still a good spot to some of the trees changing colors.
Your third option around here, and last before we leave the red rocks behind, is the entrance for the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon (D). The Call of the Canyon trail leads to the West Fork trail and ushers people straight into a leaf peepers’ paradise. At their peak, the leaves create a rich, warm-hued appearance in the forest that will briefly have you wondering if you’re still in Arizona. Yes, you are! You can choose to hike the entire 6 miles but keep in mind that you’ll find a lot of people here as the day passes.
Our last stop in the area comes right after some crazy mountain turns and is a good spot for those looking for a brief stop before continuing on. Oak Creek Vista (E) is a little pull-off along Highway 89A and offers a pretty view of the canyon you drove through. There’s a little walking area to better see the multi-colored trees and occasionally you’ll find vendors selling handmade goods.
The Arboretum at Flagstaff
This arboretum (F) sits just outside of Flagstaff and has one stunning backdrop! You can see the San Francisco Peaks stand tall against the sky and hundreds of native plants call this spot home, including quite a few trees whose leaves transform into stunning shades of red and orange in the fall. Stop by
for a tour
and learn a few things about the Arizona environment.
We didn’t note any particular stops to make while in Flagstaff but a drive through town will give a sneak peak of the fall colors to expect when we get to our next stop. Considering grabbing a meal here and even taking a walk through town.
San Francisco Peaks
Now we’ve definitely found a leaf peeper’s paradise! Here, you’ll find aspens dot the landscape with golden leaves and the sound they make on a breezy fall day is heavenly. There are two options you have for this area and that depends on your vehicle.
If you’re driving a regular ol’ car, you will want to travel along Forest Road 516 up to the Snow Bowl (G). From here, you can hike
along Kachina Trail
for a stunning view of the aspens at the southern base of the Peaks. The trail typically takes 6 hours to complete as it is 10 miles long. Another option here, if you feel so inclined, is to ride the ski lift to see the trees from above.
Have a vehicle that can power through rocky, bumpy dirt roads? Opt instead for a drive along Schultz Pass Road (H) for an incredibly scenic drive around the base of the Peaks. From there, you’ll get to stop at Lockett Meadow (I) and Hart Prairie (J) for stunning views of the mountain and its fall wardrobe. Just be sure to check the forecast before you drive this road to make sure you don’t wind up stuck in the road.
Along this drive, there are several hiking trails: Water Line, Bear Jaw, and Abineau. Give one of those a shot for a unique perspective of the mountain.