Arizona Fall Foliage Report: Slow change in colors for the Sky Islands

First, a hat tip to the folks who sent in their foliage photos! As mentioned earlier today, Bryan snapped his shot in the White Mountains over the weekend. Meanwhile, Karen captured some of the shimmering golds of the aspens atop Mount Lemmon.

AZ Fall Colors 101315

Thanks to a warm start to October, the change in foliage is running about a week behind in the southern Arizona mountains. That said, you’ll still find some colors in the Catalinas & Mount Graham. Best foliage in the Sky Islands is a bit of a drive: Hannagan Meadow in the White Mountains. Judging from Bryan’s photo, it’s certainly worth the trip if you’re looking to leaf peep.

As far as the rest of the state, the High Country is at peak for the next week. Here’s a detailed report from the US Forest Service:

Flagstaff Ranger District Fall Color Update: October 9, 2015

The upper reaches of Mt. Elden were reaching their peak the beginning of October, and color is currently creeping down the eastern face, but has faded on top. On the Peaks, Lockett Meadow, Inner Basin, and the north side of the Peaks color continues as some trees drop their leaves as others are just reaching their peak. Kendrick Peak also has a lot of color on it. Many areas around the San Francisco Peaks area are at their peak, and overall 60% to 70% of the trees have turned significantly, and around 15% to 20% have peaked and dropped their leaves. This weekend and possibly into next week the area should continue to be in full color.

Weather: Temperatures are expect to be in the low to mid 70°Fs for Flagstaff for the next week, with an outside chance of rain over the weekend. Temperatures in the upper reaches of the Peaks (Inner Basin, Abineau-Bear Jaw, and the Snowbowl) may be around 10°F to 15°F cooler than Flagstaff, so be sure to dress a little warmer than you would for the lower elevations. The storm that passed through early in the week of October 4 brought snow to the highest reaches of the Peaks. Snow may continue to be visible on the northern side of the Peaks above the tree line through the weekend.

Mountain weather can change quickly and unpredictably, and blue skies can quickly become a downpour. Dress in warm layers, and be sure to take rain gear early in the week. Thunderstorms are forecast through Wednesday, October 7. Such storms may bring lightning and hail, especially at the higher elevations in the Peaks and surrounding hills, where trails lead to high, open areas over 9,000 feet. Rain can make Forest roads slippery and muddy.

Watch the National Weather Service forecast closely. The weather forecast may change unexpectedly:

Keep an eye on this page and @CoconinoNF on Twitter for updates through the fall season.

The next week and through the weekend is a good time to:

San Francisco Peaks

  • Around the Peaks Loop Scenic Drive: Great views of the northern flanks of the Peaks turning. Aspens have turned and may be dropping leaves western end of 418 and along Hart Prairie Road.
  • Snowbowl Road and the area around the Arizona Snowbowl are turning, with around 60% of the trees turning.
  • Snowbowl Scenic Chairlift: Trees are turning along the chairlift, which is a beautiful ride any time of year!
  • The trees are turning around Hart Prarie, including along Bismark Lake, Aspen Loop, and Arizona trails.
  • Lockett Meadow: A lot of the aspens are turning throughout the meadow, while many have reached their peak and have dropped their leaves.
  • Inner Basin Trail: There are large patches of strong color up the trail and in the Inner Basin. Many trees have reached their peak and are dropping leaves, while many are still turning, especially right along the switchbacks leading up to Waterline Trail. The weekend should be continue to be a rewarding hike into the Inner Basin.
  • Abineau-Bear Jaw Loop: Many of the aspens along this very strenuous loop are turning, with trees just turning at the trailhead and the lower parts of these trails, peaking along the mid-sections and upper ends of the trails. At the top of Bear Jaw and along Waterline, trees are peaking or dropping leaves, and some of the aspen groves have leaves turning orange and red in addition to gold.

North Kaibab Ranger District

  • Viewing routes for driving: Approximately 15 miles northwest of the Forest Road 22 and 610, visitors within the vicinity of Three Lakes and Mile-and-a-Half Lake near Forest Road 217 and 811 can see changing colors. Other Forest Roads include 22, 462, 610, 612, 641, 758, 759, 760 and AZ Highway 67.
  • Area with greatest color: Change has started throughout this area with about 75% progress on the transitions of color.
  • Recommended hiking routesRainbow Rim Trail offers spectacular views of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim.
  • Estimated peak viewing period: October 1 – 14. Windy days make this viewing period shorter than normal.
  • Go to the North Kaibab Ranger Station for maps & more information.

Tusayan Ranger District

  • Viewing routes for driving: Oak trees along Forest Road 310 (high clearance vehicles are recommended, but not necessary).
  • Area with greatest color: Minimal color change has started with limited area of leaf color.
  • Recommended hiking routes: The Arizona Trail beginning at the Grandview Lookout Tower. Also Tusayan Bike Trail #4 has color change in the oaks.
  • Estimated peak viewing period: October 15-30.
  • Go to the Tusayan Ranger Station for maps & more information.

Williams Ranger District

  • Viewing routes: For the Bill Williams Trailhead go west from downtown Williams on Railroad Avenue one mile. Turn left (south) at the sign marking “Williams District Ranger Station” aka west Route 66. Follow along the frontage road to Clover Road and turn left towards Williams Ranger District office and park at the trailhead parking lot. Fall colors are scattered along the trail.
  • Area with greatest color: Colors have begun with 75% progress on the transitions. Another beautiful spot to check out is the Sycamore Falls off of the Sycamore Rim Trail.
  • Recommended hiking routes: The Benham Trail and the Kendrick Mountain Trail.
  • Estimated peak viewing period: October 15 – 31. Windy days make this viewing period shorter than normal. Aspen trees have turned yellow, but the Oaks haven’t turned full color yet.
  • Go to the Williams Ranger Station for maps & more information.

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