Fall in Arizona unfolds in four acts. The prelude is under way in the San Francisco Peaks and the countryside around Flagstaff. Soon fall will make its debut in Oak Creek, then the White Mountains, ending with a grand finale at Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Superior.
"Unless a storm comes through and blows all the leaves off, it’s shaping up to be a good one," says Steve Yoder, vice president of the Arboretum at Flagstaff. Thanks to a rainy winter, the reds, yellows and oranges will be intense and just as vibrant as the fall colors in New England.
"There are places in this state where you can see colors just as glorious as if you flew away to Vermont," says Paul Wolterbeek, a transplanted New Englander and the volunteer coordinator for Boyce Thompson Arboretum.
"People should make sure they get out and see it a couple times. It’s really a great excuse to get out and explore the state." Don’t leaf anything to chance Autumn colors are not predictable, so call the National Fall Color Hotline at (800) 354-4595 for updates or visit www.fs.fed.us. The hotline is active from mid-September through November.
ACT I: San Francisco Peaks and Flagstaff area
What you’ll see: Golden aspens, amber oaks, box elders and red maples.
Elevation: 8,000 feet and higher
Peak time: Through mid-October
Scenic drive: Schultz Pass Road. Drive north from Flagstaff about two miles on U.S. 180. Just past the Museum of Northern Arizona, turn east on Forest Road 420. Follow this route up and over Schultz Pass to U.S. 89 and turn right toward Flagstaff. The drive is 26 miles on gravel roads suitable for passenger cars.
Scenic hike: The Arboretum at Flagstaff has miles of trails to explore. The arboretum is at 4001 S. Woody Mountain Road. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Oct. 16. $5 adults, $2 children 6 to 17. (928) 774-1442 or
Information: Peaks Ranger Station, 5075 N. Highway 89, Flagstaff. (928) 526-0866.
ACT II: White Mountains
What you’ll see: Aspen
Elevation: 8,100 feet and higher
Peak time: To mid-October
Scenic drive: Springerville to Alpine on the Coronado Trail (U.S. 191). Now a national scenic byway, this paved drive winds through yellow aspens on the way to Alpine.
Scenic hike: Williams Valley has five miles of marked trails that are relatively easy. To get there, drive 1 1 /2 miles northwest of Alpine on U.S. 191 and turn west on Forest Road 249. Go 4 1 /2 miles to Williams Valley. There are two parking lots available. Locals say the best — albeit the most strenuous — trail is the one up Escudilla Mountain, the third largest in the state. Drive 5 1 /2 miles north from Alpine on U.S. 191. Turn right on Forest Road 56 and follow it 3.6 miles to Terry Flat. Take the left fork past Tool Box Draw half a mile to the trailhead.
Alpine Ranger District. (928) 339-4384 or
ACT III: Oak Creek Canyon
What you’ll see: Maples and sumacs
Elevation: 4,300 to 5,400 feet
Peak time: Mid-October through November
Scenic drive: Highway 89A through Oak Creek Canyon. From Sedona, take Highway 89A north. The road ascends into a series of dramatic switchbacks overlooking Oak Creek Canyon.
Scenic hike: West Fork Oak Creek No. 108. This three-mile hike is an easy stroll through streams and maple groves. The trailhead is at the Call of the Canyon Recreation Area, which is 11 miles north of Sedona on Highway 89A. $7 parking fee. Information: Red Rock Ranger District, (928) 282-4119 or
ACT IV: Boyce Thompson Arboretum
What you’ll see: Aspens, maples, Chinese pistachio trees.
Elevation: 2,400 feet
Peak time: Mid-November to early December
Scenic drive: U.S. 60 east to Globe winds through the Tonto National Forest on its way to the arboretum.
Scenic hike: There are two miles of walking trails through the arboretum.
Information: 37615 U.S. 60, near Superior. (520) 689-2811 or
$7.50 adults, $3 ages 5 to 12.