Aravaipa East is just past peak for fall color this week with one or two more weeks of “OK” color. Bonita Creek is just at peak color and the Gila Box looks to peak in a week with this cold front. Still some fall along the Gila River below San Carlos Lake. This should be the last few weeks for Arizona autumn except for some Lower Colorado River cottonwoods that last into next year.

Gila Box

Bonita Creek


Sycamore Canyon wilderness

It has been a strange autumn in Arizona this year with locations starting to show color early and then suffering brown outs. The Sycamore Canyon Wilderness is no exception with some trees turning color while the rest are still green, brown, or a grey (when the leaves turn grey-green and just dry up and drop).

Still, the Parsons trail on the southern end of Sycamore Canyon has some color.  Most of the rim country is now past peak and the cottonwoods and sycamore are showing in the deserts.

Sycamore Canyon pool

Red maple leaf in the West Fork of Oak Creek, Sedona, Arizona

“Floating”: A red maple leaf floats along the West Fork of Oak Creek, Sedona, Arizona

Sedona:  Hands down, the best color in the Sedona area falls in the iconic West Fork of Oak Creek canyon.  The maples are screaming with vivacious reds (best are about a half-mile stroll along the trail), and the willows, boxelders, and ash are showing golden hues.  A few windy days have blown some leaves off the trees, creating a carpet of color on the ground as well.  But arrive early!   The parking lot was full and a line of cars were waiting to get by 10 am!  In addition, spots along the creek north of the West Fork trail head offer similar photo ops along Oak Creek without the crowds.  As you drive south of the trail head on 89A, however, you’ll notice the color hasn’t quite developed to it’s peak potential yet.  We’re likely a a few days away from areas like Grasshopper Point and Red Rock Crossing peaking…some of these areas are looking a little browned out, so it’s possible we won’t see rich color in these spots this year.

Cottonwood/Camp Verde area:  The cottonwoods and sycamore trees along the Verde River from Camp Verde up to Cottonwood and Clarkdale need a little more time to develop, easily another week or two.  Though a few trees are currently recognizing it’s autumn here in Arizona and showing spotty vibrant colors, much of the river bed is still lime green or yellowy-green.

Prescott:  Surprisingly, the cottonwood trees at Watson Lake and the Watson Woods Riparian Area appear to be peaking.  Walk less than half a mile on the Peavine Trail in the morning or evening to capture golden yellows.  A visit to the Watson Lake Park in the morning will reveal showy cottonwood trees adding a splash of contrasting color to the granite jumbo rocks.  Head up to the overlook for a more aerial view or spend time at the boat launch to capture images along the shoreline.

Autumn at Watson Lake

“Autumn at Watson Lake:” Cottonwood trees add a splash of gold to the granite jumbo rocks at Watson Lake, Prescott, Arizona

Autumn on the Rim

View of the Grand Canyon near the Ken Patrick Trail, North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Wow, what a difference a year makes! Some of you might recall last year’s report from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon:  patchy and late. (See original blog post:

Not this year!

With the perfect mix of rain, sun, and cooler temperatures, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and surrounding Kaibab Plateau trees are showing off a brilliant palette of color and right on time.   Get your cameras out for a spectacular mix of yellow, orange, and red aspen, rusty Gambel oak, red maples, yellow New Mexican locust, red holly, and red wild geranium all peaking together!

But things are moving fast.  Like “limey-green-leaves-on-Monday-turn-a-rich-golden-yellow-by-Wednesday” and “Rich-golden-leaves-on-Monday-fall-to-the-ground-by-Wednesday” fast, thanks to below-freezing overnight temperatures in the meadows and valleys.  The show should last another week, but probably not much longer, especially if the high country sees any high winds in the days to come. (Continues below photo.)

Spotlight on aspen tree in South Canyon, Kaibab Plateau, Arizona

Spotlight on aspen tree in South Canyon, Kaibab Plateau, Arizona

You’ll start to see color as you drive along Highway 67 from Jacobs Lake to the park entrance.  A spin down any dirt road on the Kaibab Plateau will reveal seemingly endless photographic opportunities.  Early this week, we specifically explored FR610 to Saddle Mountain, which showed crazy good color along the road, particularly as we drove closer to the trail head.

Colorful leaves of autumn

Colorful leaves of autumn on FR610 on the Kaibab Plateau, Arizona

Inside the park, many of the previously burned areas have smaller aspens growing in between burned snags.  The hardest part is finding a safe pull-out (look for paved or previously used gravel spots and walk).  The “Y” turnoff for Point Imperial and Cape Royal along the North Rim Scenic Drive and numerous trails, including the Trancept, the Widforss, and Ken Patrick (towards Point Imperial), offer the best color right now.

Flagstaff – which I drove past en route to the Canyon – appears to be peaking at the higher elevations on the San Francisco Peaks.  The lower elevations were about 50% green on Monday, but made much progress before I drove through again on Wednesday (estimate ~10-20% green) so places like Lockett Meadow and the Bearjaw Trail are likely starting to peak right now.

The Verde Valley area is still green as expected for this time of year, but start looking for color around Montezuma’s Well, Beaver Creek, and even Sedona in the next two weeks or so.

Happy shooting!

Orange-tipped aspen in South Canyon, Kaibab Plateau, Arizona

Orange-tipped aspen in South Canyon, Kaibab Plateau, Arizona

Can you feel the crisp in the air?  Though we’re still feeling the heat in the desert (daytime temperatures continue to hover around 100 degrees F in Phoenix), that welcomed chill in the morning and evenings means autumn has announced its arrival to Arizona – right on time!  The higher elevations across the state have been experiencing the requisite combo of warm, sunny days and cool nights to trigger , which And this means, the higher elevations across the state are seeing

WeatherPixAspensMtGraham400Though Paul and I begin our intense fall color shooting schedules this week, we’ve received a number of useful tips from other “color chasers” about what’s happening around the state right now.   Our friend, Paul Wolterbeek from the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park caught of glimpse of aspens near the summit of Mount Graham near Safford beginning their colorful transition on September 6.  In fact, the Arizona Republic newspaper recently featured one of his photos from that trip – congrats Paul W.! (See clip on the right).

In an email from Paul W. just this past Thursday, he also suggested: “We camped up near Three Forks between Greer and Hannagan Meadow (9300 feet) last week and saw aspens just barely beginning to turn.  Peak color up there looked 2-3 weeks ahead.”

In addition, numerous shutterbugs are reporting the aspens on the upper reaches on the eastern flanks of the San Francisco Peaks are nearing peak.  The lower elevations like Inner Basin, Bearjaw-Abineau Trail,  and Hart Prairie around Flagstaff are also beginning to turn, but are patchy and aren’t quite as far along in the process.  Read more from other observers in the most recent report from the Coconino National Forest website.  For more information, you might also call their Fall Color Hotline toll-free at 800-354-4595.

While we’ll be posting updates based on our travels in the weeks to come, leave us a comment to let us know what you’ve been seeing out there!

Happy fall everyone!

Aravaipa Canyon mist

Aravaipa Canyon is now past peak on the East entrance. Some rust sycamore and frozen green cottonwoods left but for the most part this remote area’s color is now frozen off.

Aravaipa Canyon waterway

Reflections in Palm Lake

Cottonwood leaf

Cottonwood leaf

For many people in northern latitudes, the month of December often rings of snow storms, shopping, and celebrations.  While the latest storm left parts of Arizona covered in that unfamiliar white stuff and the day-time high temperatures have dropped to a <sarcasm> frigid </sarcasm> 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the deciduous trees in southern Arizona are still saying it’s fall in this part of the country.

A day-long visit to the Hassyampa River Preserve outside of Wickenburg revealed a painterly palette of golds along the Hassyampa River Bed.  Peak color likely occurred a mere couple days ago, but with the recent storm leaving traces of snow behind on the high desert, the browning leaves will quickly find their way to the ground within a week or so.

A short hike up the steep Lyke’s Lookout trail showcases a more aerial view of the curvy waterway.  A stroll along the easy Palm Lake Loop and Willow Walkway provide excellent photographic opportunities to capture reflecting trees and leaves in the small man-made, but now spring-fed, pond.

View of the cotton-wood and willow-lined Hassyampa River bed

During the winter, the preserve is open Wednesday through Sunday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (trails close at 4:30).  An entrance fee is required.  For more information, visit the Hassyampa River Preserve.

Golden cottonwood trees reflect in Palm Lake

Color is showing well now on the lower Verde River from Needle Rock to the Salt River. Box Bar Area is Peak now.

Verde River sunset

Need a Tonto Pass.

W. Clear Creek fall cascade

The Verde Valley is showing fall color now.

WEST CLEAR CREEK at Bull Pen is at peak now and should be good for the next week. FR618 to FR 215, high clearance is a good idea.

Beaver Creek

WET BEAVER CREEK on the Bell Trail is still a week away from good color but the lower picnic area across from the campground is showing some color. Paved 179 east off of I17

Montezuma Well sycamore

MONTEZUMA WELL & CASTLE are near peak and should be good for at least 1 more week.

Montezuma Castle

DEAD HORSE STATE PARK is not looking good lots of brown on the ground with green cottonwood/sycamore, only about 1/3 color last week could get better?


Dead Horse S.P. lake


There are few places in Arizona where aspen and maples grow together, the Pinal Mountains just southwest of Globe is one of them. Probably the closest aspens to Phoenix, it’s the long winding dirt FR 651 that makes it seem farther. There are two great locations on top of the mountain, the photographs here were taken on Nov. 2nd unfortunately a large wind/snow storm hit the area on Friday night and I can’t promise any of this is left. ICEHOUSE TRAIL  A steep drop into aspen and maples that run for about a mile is the first trail, this area has the best aspen and parking is just south of the trailhead. SIXSHOOTER TRAIL drive towards the peak and turn left at the Ferndale split then drop down to the trailhead parking area. This is a great location with 4 trailheads all are great for aspen, maple, walnut, oak and other ground color.

Arizona Autumn 2011
By Paul Gill
© 2011 Wild in Arizona/Analemma Press, L. L. C. Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha