When you think of changing leaves producing vibrant landscapes of fall colors, you probably picture the small towns of New England or the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest. However, you can find fall color much closer to home in Arizona with several destinations just a few hours from home.
While Sierra Vista is considered high desert and doesn’t showcase many changing leaves during the fall season, it is a short trip from destinations in Central and Northern Arizona where you will be transported to the iconic scenery of autumn. Below, you can see where to travel to get a glimpse of those bright yellows, vibrant reds, and deep browns that mark the definitive end of summer.
Sedona is most famous for the color in its red rocks, but it also features some of the most diverse and vibrant fall color in the state, thanks to a huge diversity of trees and wildlife. Oak Creek Canyon is a particularly beautiful drive near Sedona, and it can be accessed via State Route 89A, which runs between Sedona and Flagstaff.
The drive to Sedona clocks in at just about 5 hours, and there are many lodging options in this popular tourist destination.
If you’ve never been to Northern Arizona, Flagstaff may feel like it’s in a completely different state. This cozy mountain town is situated in the San Francisco Peaks, where there is no shortage of fall color to take in—and plenty of opportunities for skiing in the winter. Any forest road near Flagstaff will showcase a wealth of fall color, as aspen trees thrive in the alpine forest here. Snowbowl Road is a good place to start your journey, as it is an easy, paved drive leading to the upper reaches of the peaks.
Lodging in Flagstaff is abundant, so you might make a weekend trip to fully enjoy the fall color and crisp mountain air.
If you’ve been an Arizona resident for a while, you may know the White Mountains as a cool oasis to escape from the summer heat, thanks to its high elevation. However, the area transforms in the fall to showcase a beautiful array of colors thanks to the pine, spruce, and aspen trees that cover the peaks. Greens Peak in particular is a popular area for fall visitors, and it can be accessed by State Route 273. This road also leads to Big Lake, which provides some amazing photo opportunities thanks to the reflective surface of the water.
The White Mountains makes for an easy day trip, just 5 hours and 30 minutes from Sierra Vista via US-191 N. However, the Sunrise Park Resort offers an easy lodging opportunity in this quiet Eastern Arizona destination.
Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park
If a shorter trip is ideal, then the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park is the perfect destination. Just an hour outside of Phoenix near Superior, AZ you will find this park brimming with cottonwood, Arizona sycamore, and walnut trees. The park celebrates its Fall Foliage Finale in late-November, so it is a great stop to sneak in one last peek of fall color before the leaves shed. It is also much closer than the other destinations on this list, at just 173 miles, or about 3 hours, from Sierra Vista.
Planning Your Fall Road Trip
If you are planning to take a journey through Arizona for a fall expedition, there are a few tips to keep in mind. First, remember that you may encounter snow on your trip, especially in areas of higher elevation surrounding Flagstaff and the White Mountains. Therefore, it’s ideal to check the weather for your trip before you go and carry snow chains should storms roll through.
Additionally, outside of cities in Northern and Eastern Arizona, cell phone reception can be spotty. So, you may want to download maps or print them before leaving home, so that you can easily stay on track. Finally, if you are planning to make an overnight stay of your fall color sighting, be sure to book your accommodations ahead of time. Though the fall season doesn’t attract as many visitors to the above areas as winter skiing, hotels and resorts can still fill up fast.
Living in Sierra Vista, you will never be short on opportunities for fantastic day trips to the amazing destinations that Arizona has to offer. If you are looking for a new home in Sierra Vista or Fort Huachuca, connect with Castle & Cooke to learn about our neighborhoods in Southern Arizona. You can reach us online or by phone at (520) 378-5110.