For every other state in the Mid-West, on the East Coast, in the South, and in New England, the changing colors of trees and the Autumn breeze just means more yard work. Simply it’s just another task to complete having to rake the leaves, bag the leaves, mulch the leaves. It’s a yearly process they all endure.
In Arizona however, this is something much more. We don’t have nearly as many trees as other states and most of what we do have are either palm trees, pine trees, or weed trees in the middle of a field no one cares about. But in some rare places and remote locations, Arizona has beautiful forests of birch, oak, and maple that all turn vibrant colors in the fall ranging from brilliant maroon to piercing yellow. So here I am to tell you where these gorgeous locations are.
(P.S. In case you were wondering, most Arizonans enjoy Autumn because it’s an escape from scorching hot days and wilting palm trees.)
(P.P.S. This is mainly for people in Central Northern Arizona and our Quad-City area (Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley, & Dewey/Humboldt)…so forgive me if I fail to mention places south of Phoenix.)
Surprise surprise. If you live in Arizona, you probably know that Flagstaff is full of trees and is known for being much cooler than the rest of the state. HOWEVER, there are a few places in Flag that are really quite spectacular. As you may or may not know, birch trees don’t grow many places in Arizona. They are a rather beautiful tree as well, with their famous white bark and beautiful variation in leaf colors.
They do however grow in Flagstaff in some places. You might see one or two in the city but there are several chunks of the forest that are entirely birch. If you drive up to the San Francisco Peaks, you will encounter at least one of these groves. Since they like to grow at a certain altitude, these are a really beautiful stretch of road that is almost surrounded by these beautiful birch trees. If you can find a safe place to stop and get out, I highly recommend doing so. Driving by just doesn’t do them justice.
So this destination might seem more like a summer town to some people, but it actually has some spectacular sights when Autumn hits. The beautiful changing trees combined with those oh so famous red rocks exudes Autumn throughout the brilliant city.
Oak Creek Canyon is an especially beautiful part of the area during the fall. Not only does the canyon have a beautiful variety of changing trees and brush, but it also is complemented by the sheer red rocks and rushing streams that linger throughout. This is really the perfect location for a fall pick-nick.
All three of these places offer stunning areas to see the grand effects of Fall. Prescott in itself is one of the best Autumn towns. Not only does it have a great number of huge color changing trees, but the architecture and aesthetic vibe the town gives off just makes you want to sip a PSL and watch the leaves fall. From the Court House Square to the Gateway Mall, there are numerous hangout spots perfect for Fall.
Prescott Valley is equally as beautiful but in different respects. The town itself does have trees that lose their leaves, but the really incredible places are a little way away from the town center. Fain Park is almost a cliché in Prescott Valley as an Autumn must see. The park is littered with massive Ash, Oak, and Cottonwoods, each producing a unique yet vibrant leaf color. The civic center and library also have a unique combination of vibrant trees and modern architecture that make for some spectacular photos.
As one of few mountains in this area, Mingus is a fairly well-known place full of trees that look amazing in Autumn. If you happen to hike, then you will love Mingus, especially in these last few months before it really starts getting cold. There are so many fantastic trails that range all different difficulty levels. Some are very popular with spectacular views while others are less known with incredibly lush foliage.
So if you are not from the area, I recommend grabbing a local to take you up on Mingus for a hike across the rim. It’s not by any means the largest mountain in the world, not even in Arizona, but it is honestly a really nice place to hike and it only gets better in the Fall. Plus, the ghost town Jerome is up there which is an October favorite for just about everyone in the area!
This one is quite a drive if you are starting at any of the other locations, but it is a well-known spot in Arizona that will soothe your need for cooler weather. Similar to Flagstaff, this area is full of pine and fir trees that, combined with the mix of other foliage, create an amazing palette of colors in Autumn. Although this might be more of a ski town, Pine Top is still an amazing place to visit in the Autumn, if you’re up for the drive.
The Grand Canyon (obviously)
Yeah, most people do go to the canyon in the summer, and most people are missing out. Even though the canyon is higher in elevation, it still gets flippin hot up there in the summer and it really just isn’t fun. In the Autumn though, the weather cools down a bit, the trees in and around the canyon start to change, and the whole experience is just completely different compared to the summer. You should be more up to walking around because it’s cooler too. The pictures you take tend to have a very warm feeling to them as well because of the combined orange-ish color of the canyon and the autumn leaves. It really makes for quite the experience. Honestly, if you can, I would go see the canyon during every season, especially when it rains or snows.
That’s It (but there’s more out there)
Sorry if I left some amazing autumn location out, but I really only hit the big ones and the local ones. Arizona, on the whole, has some really great location to visit this fall if you’re not quite ready for the cold weather. I hear some places have already gotten snow. Snow! In October?? I guarantee this will rarely if ever happen in Arizona. You might like snow, it is fun, but October is not the time or place for snow to happen, no sir. Anyway, if you live in the area, you really must go out and see all the beautiful changing leaves before all this stupid wind blows them off.
Good luck out there and Happy Adventuring!
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A: Ben Delamater