If you’re interested in photographing autumn colors in Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona, I’d recommend you immediately stop reading this blog, grab your cameras, and hit the road NOW! The colors in the upper canyon are past peak, so this week will likely offer one of the last chances of this year to photograph in one of Arizona’s most scenic canyons!
The sycamores, maples, cottonwoods, and Arizona grape are still showing some color along 89A starting at the renowned West Fork of the Oak Creek Trail (about 11.5 miles north of downtown Sedona) and north up to Pumphouse Wash (about 13.5 miles north of downtown Sedona). Even though peak appears to have occurred last week – leaf drop is significant and browning out fast – there are still fantastic opportunities to record autumnal hues on these two canyon hikes.
The West Fork of Oak Creek Trail allows for an easy-going, meandering hike along a tranquil creek. Even a short stroll along the path offers fantastic photographic opportunities (we often joke that you could point your camera in any direction here and capture a great image!). Bring wide-angle, macro, and telephoto lenses to match the broad subject matter you’ll encounter. Pack a polarizing filter to enhance or eliminate the reflections in the creek. And don’t forget an extra lens cloth, water shoes, and a tripod to stabilize your camera during long exposures if you plan to get in the water. Keep an eye out for poison ivy, which will appear red this time of year. For additional information about the West Fork of Oak Creek, visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino/recreation/red_rock/westfork-tr.shtml.
A hike through Pumphouse Wash offers a more strenuous outing, but you’ll likely be one of few people in the canyon, making it an excellent spot for those seeking solitude. There are no formal parking areas, but two dirt pullouts exist – one south and one north of the signed Pumphouse Wash bridge – on the west side of the road. The wash runs under this bridge. It’s a bit of a scramble to drop into the canyon from the north pullout, but the definitive social path shows the safest way down. Once in the canyon, head eastward. A trail does not exist. Instead, you’ll be rock hopping on volcanic and sandstone boulders of all sizes almost the entire route. Plan on a little extra time for the extra effort you’ll put in. The best color currently appears within the first 45 minutes of your trek. Because the scenery can look busy and visually overwhelming along the wash, try a normal or telephoto lens to help isolate your subjects here. A polarizer will help bring out the colors left in the leaves.
Areas like Grasshopper Point and Slide Rock State Park displayed patchy color, trending towards browning out. Mother Nature may decide these areas won’t see a lot of color this year, but there are chances to photograph the occasional tree showing a vibrant branch or leaves gracing the ground with a macro lens. For more information about these two areas, visit:
All for now, happy shooting!