Explore: 3 Favorite Arizona Fall Color Hikes
Every year I take it in, the yellow-gold-orange hues, the sounds of the leaves under my feet. Crunch, crunch, crunch. I close my eyes and listen to the wind blowing through the leaves, tiny yellow hands waving quickly, back and forth, back and forth, cards being shuffled, streamers on a bike. The boys are laughing, it's echoing through the trees like an empty hallway. I am smiling, and for a tiny moment I can imagine that if I believed in heaven, this is what it would be. A pocket of happiness in this big world. A little space carved out just for us here in this never ending moment, crisp Fall air biting at our cheeks, as we walk down the golden path and look up and around in disbelief that all of this could possibly be real. Happy faces and thankful hearts surrounded by all of the best colors- the most beautiful day.
Yes, right?! It's Fall! It's here! I'm so excited. Not only is it getting colder and darker earlier, it's also becoming the most beautiful season of the year to get outside with your family. Each year I look forward to this time, to soak up the gorgeous Aspen trees, yellow lined meadows, and the crunch of leaves under my boots. And so I wanted to share some of our favorite spots with you, along with some words and photos from over the many years we've gone up a little farther north to soak up the seasonal changes that make me the happiest.
If you want to go, I would go up in the first two weeks of October. I have a few fun things planned for our family- I’m actually headed to Flagstaff with my best girlfriends early October and we’ll be doing the Inner Basin, and Hank and I have a couple awesome family hikes planned too. I can’t WAIT- and definitely make some plans of your own- you won't want to miss it! And side note- if you head up check out some of our favorite Flag restaurants- Pizzicletta, Sosoba (see our Sosoba review here), Diablo Burger…I could go on! Ask me for recs if you’d like some. More restaurant reviews coming soon.
1. Aspen Corner/ARIZONA TRAIL
To get here, simply head up to Flagstaff, then go up Snowbowl Rd. Keep driving almost all the way up to the ski area and you'll see an area to your left with parking along the wooden fence. Park there, and enter at the trail markings. It's very clear, so you shouldn't have a problem at all. The drive alone is gorgeous, but if you park and get out and even just walk around a bit, you'll be immersed in so much beauty. This is a must-go/must-see spot and a great place for those who are unable to hike too! And then once you get to Aspen Corner, you'll be able to connect to the Arizona Trail, which will take you through Aspen groves and into a beautiful field with the option to go on and on, or simply stop and take it all in. It's a gorgeous trail and appropriate for all ages. Look for the sign for that first turn, and you can continue on this path for 7 miles. You'll wind through meadows and forests, and you'll get a little bit of everything- it's a really wonderful hike.
2. KACHINA Trail
Kachina Trail is one of Flagstaff’s most popular trails- especially in the Fall. With that said, we suggest heading up on a weekday or on an early morning. It’s stunning during any season, but during Autumn bright gold is a beautiful treat as you walk through the surrounding aspen groves. This trail skirts the south face of the San Francisco Peaks and runs almost entirely within Kachina Peaks Wilderness. From the National Forest website- “From end to end, the trail covers five miles and descends 700 feet from its upper end here at 9,500 feet to its terminus in the mouth of Weatherford Canyon at 8,800 feet. The rolling course takes you through high forest and broad, sloping meadows affording panoramic views over Flagstaff.” To access this trail, we drive to the top of Snowbowl and turn right before entering the ski area. We drive to the end of the parking area and park there- you’ll see a trailhead sign directly ahead. You will love this one!
3. Inner Basin
Drive northeast of Flagstaff on US 89 for 12 miles to the Forest Road directly across from the Sunset Crater turnoff. Turn left (west) for about 1/2 mile, turn right (north) on Forest Road 552. Turn right at the Lockett Meadow sign and continue up the very very windy road. You'll know when you get there, because you'll begin to see cars lined up. There's a clearly marked one way loop that runs around the camping area, and you'll be able to find a space if you keep driving. There's a $5 day use fee and you can camp there too, if you'd like. Also, the signs on the drive up specify that the road there is not maintained for passenger cars, and I would have to agree. We sometimes see some smaller cars there, but for the most part it's all 4WD vehicles like ours.
If you go, head out early in the day so you'll have time to make it all the way into the Inner Basin. There and back is about 8 miles, but you can also pick up other trails and go much further. Pack clothing for cold weather- you'll get up to 10,000 feet so it's really chilly and a jacket and hoodie is necessary for our Fall weather. You'll also need to bring hiking basics- a backpack full of snacks and/or a lunch, sunscreen, plenty of water, and I also suggest a small blanket to lay on once you arrive at the Inner Basin. Enjoy!
Happy hiking- and tag me in any photos so I can see too!