Fall Colors on the Coconino National Forest
Fall photos from previous years [Flickr]
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By October each year, colors are usually in full splendor in the upper elevations of the Coconino National Forest. Many of the trees in the higher elevations near Flagstaff reach their prime in early October, but the views are still beautiful throughout the season. See this map image for all viewing locations. The maples on the Mogollon Rim District are worth the visit, and the deciduous trees in Oak Creek Canyon and the Sedona area later in October and well into November are spectacular. Check out photos of our fall colors on our Fall Colors album on Flickr and get updates at @CoconinoNF on Twitter.
As the colors gradually change, reports come in, and weather permits us to scout for fall color across the Coconino National Forest's 1.8 million acres, we will ocassionally share observations and color forecasts on Twitter, Flickr, and this page. Also follow the City of Flagstaff's Leaf-o-Meter [Flagstaff CVB] for regular reports. For the curious-minded, check out our Why Do Leaves Change Color in the Fall? page.
Here are some of the most spectacular and popular locations for viewing fall colors on the Coconino National Forest as the season progresses.
Best Sites in the Flagstaff Ranger District
This district surrounds Flagstaff, Arizona, and the San Francisco Peaks.
- Hart Prairie (FR 151): Accessed via U.S. Highway 180 and Forest Road 151, which also loops around the north end of the San Francisco Peaks for a pretty view and can take you all the way to U.S. Highway 89 by heading east at the intersection of Forest Road 151 and Forest Road 418.
- Snowbowl Road (FR 516): Accessed by U.S. Highway 180, this paved road up to Arizona Snowbowl offers great colors and views. At the top, visitors can park at the Humphrey’s Trailhead and take a walk across Hart Prairie, as well as the Kachina Trail which leads to a thick stand of aspen.
- Mt Elden Lookout Road (FR 557): This road leads to Mt Elden Lookout and has wide views of Flagstaff and the San Francisco Peaks from afar. Check the status of this road, as it may be closed to vehicles due to construction at different times of the season.
- Around the Peaks Loop Scenic Drive (FR 418)
- Bismark Lake Trail (Hart Prairie Road), Aspen Loop (Snowbowl Road), and the two-mile stretch of the Arizona trail that runs between them through Hart Prarie, all moderately easy trails suitable for hiking or biking.
- Kendrick Park Watchable Wildlife Trail and Kendrick Mountain Wilderness
- Lockett Meadow and Inner Basin Trail: Enjoy a picnic with excellent views into the interior of the Peaks, and with hiking opportunities into the Inner Basin and around the north side of the Peaks. The Inner Basin Trail is a moderately strenuous hike into the caldera of the San Franciso Peaks. Lockett Meadow is an extremely popular destination on the weekends that is accessible via a narrow, rough forest road. On busy weekends (usually the first two or three weekends of October) Forest Rangers control traffic going up the mountain into Lockett Meadow, so expect long delays at the bottom of the hill. We recommend getting out mid-week for a morning hike to avoid the crowds. See the Lockett Meadow Brochure for more information.
- Abineau-Bear Jaw Loop: This is a strenuous hike on the northern slope of the San Francisco Peaks. Approaching from the east via U.S. Highway 89 and Forest Road 552 takes a similar amount of time as approaching from the west via U.S. Highway 180 and the north end of Forest Road 151. Portions of either section are rough, and possibly tricky for low clearance vehicles.
Best Sites in the Mogollon Rim Ranger District
This district is north of Strawberry near C.C. Cragin (Blue Ridge) Reservoir.
- Forest Road 139 along Dick Hart Ridge: Take State Route 87 to Forest Road 95 next to the Mogollon Rim Ranger Station. Turn right on FR 95 and stay on FR 95 for approximately 8.75 miles, then left on FR 139.
- Forest Road 321 along Dane Ridge: Take State Route 87 to FR 95 next to the Mogollon Rim Ranger Station, Turn right on FR 95 for approx. 6.4 miles. Then left on FR 96 for approx. 2 miles where you will see FR 321 on your right.
- Forest Road 300 along the Mogollon Rim: Also know as the Rim Road, the quickest way to access this road is at the intersection of State Route 87 and FR 300. Stay on FR 300 until you reach spectacular views of the Mogollon Rim. FR 300 stretches along the edge of the Mogollon Rim for a little over 20 miles, so there are many incredible sights along the way.
- Cabin Loop Trail: Colors are going to be particularly brighter closer to the Mogollon Rim.
Best Sites in the Red Rock Ranger District
This district surrounds Sedona, covering Oak Creek Canyon, and extending to the Verde River, Fossil Springs Wilderness, Clear Creek Wilderness, and Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness. As the peak of the season passes on the Rim and around Flagstaff, the colors are just getting started in Oak Creek Canyon and Red Rock Country. Colors in Oak Creek Canyon and into Sedona and the Verde Valley typically start in early October:
- Oak Creek Canyon and West Fork Oak Creek are extremely popular locations that attract large crowds during fall color season. Parking is limited, and traffic congestion is common. Plan to be there before 9 a.m. or you are unlikely to find a parking spot. But remember...there are many other places to visit!
- Huckaby Trail
- Casner Canyon
- Allen's Bend Trail
- Girdner Trail
- Crescent Moon
- Templeton Trail
- Chavez Crossing
- West Clear Creek
- Wet Beaver Creek
- Fossil Creek
- Coconino National Forest's Fall Colors album on Flickr
- @CoconinoNF on Twitter: Regular live updates when we go out scouting for fall color. Share your fall color photos and observations!
- CoconinoNF on Facebook: Fall color updates. Share your fall color photos and observations!
- Leaf-o-meter: Provided by the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau.
- Regional Fall Colors: Forests throughout Arizona and New Mexico.
- National Fall Colors: Forests through the United States.
- Fall Color Brochure: A pocket brochure, four folds, to help navigate the forest's colors.
- Why Do Leaves Change Color in the Fall?