Autumn arrives to the West Fork of Oak Creek in previous years.

Following a long closure after the devastating Slide Fire this summer, the Oak Creek Canyon, including the famed West Fork (north of Sedona) reopens today! Just in time for autumn!

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/story/travel/road-trips/2014/09/30/oak-creek-canyon-sedona-open-slide-fire/16473799/.

The trees in this area typically start donning their fall coat in mid-October, with the peak right around Halloween and lingering into early November (depending on the weather).  Although fire crews made a concerted effort to protect this riparian area, it’s unknown how that will affect (if at all) the changing of the leaves on the trees that remain.  Best thing to do?  Grab your camera and check it out!

Happy shooting!

Autumn arrives to the West Fork of Oak Creek in previous years.

 

 

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


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!

-Colleen

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