you're planning to hunt for fall colors this year and haven't
thought of Arizona, you may want to think again. Although it may
be best known for its tall Saguaro cactus and Sonoran Desert,
the Grand Canyon State is also home to mountains, pine forests
and trees and shrubs that display a range of fall colors that
usually peak late September to mid-October.
While scouting for fall colors, keep in
mind that the best red color will be found in bigtooth maple trees,
scarlet sumac, squawbush shrubs and the Virginia creeper vine.
Plus, you'll see plenty of gold in the apsen trees in the state's
Incidentally, it's not frost that makes
the leaves change color. Cooler temperatures coupled with the
decrease in light as the days shorten cause the green leaf pigment
to break down and the lovely fall colors to appear.
In Flagstaff, a best bet for seeing fall
color is at the Arboretum at Flagstaff. In the Courtyard Garden,
guests can enjoy the red hues of the sumac and the bigtooth maple
and the yellow tones of the willow. An October stroll through
the Mixed Conifer habitat rewards visitors with the golden colors
of the quaking aspen and the redish-orange shades of the curranl
bush. The Arboretum's Herb Garden boasts a beautiful display of
Virginia creeper that changes to rich shades of brilliant red
during the fall season.
Visitors also will find fall color in the
Groundcover Demonstration Garden. The amur maple found there turns
a pleasant red and the low-growing ice plant, not traditionally
known for its fall color display, turns an orange-red color as
well. For information, call the Arboretum at (520) 774- 1 442.
Snowbowl ski area is one of Flagstaff's best locations for yellow
and gold aspen. Consider enjoying the colors from the ski area's
chairlift ride, which operates on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays
during the fall color season. For information, call Arizona Snowbowl
at (520) 779- 1 95 1
In the White Mountains, reds, oranges and
yellows usually peak in mid-October. The small communities of
Greer and Alpine afford great viewing. Pinetop-Lakeside celebrates
the changing of the season with the 23rd annual Pinetop-Lakeside
Fall Festival in late September.
Near Payson, at the north edge of town,
take state highway 87 to Houston Mesa Road or take state highway
260 northeast towards Kohl's Ranch or Whispering Pines. For views
from atop the Mogollon Rim, take state highway 87 beyond Pine
and Strawberry to the General Crook Trail, which is now paved
state highway 260.
Sedona's Oak Creek Canyon along highway
89A north of town offers especially scenic fall colors with the
reds, oranges and golds of oak, sycamore and aspen. The pink color
of sugar maples also is found in the red-rock region.
Rock State Park in Sedona will be hosting "Canyon Colors,"
a series of ranger-led walks in the canyons adjacent to the park
in October. For information, call (520)282-3034.
Not far from Tucson, Madera Canyon, the
village of Summerhaven and Mount Lemmon in the Santa Catalina
Mountains usually provide their fall color displays in early October.
Early October changes are also found in the Patagonia area (Mount
Wrightson, for instance) south on state highway 83 offlnterstate
In the Chiricahua Mountains (located about
120 miles east of Tucson near Willcox), autumn leaf hunters will
usually catch oak, ash, maple and aspen changing in early October.
It's also a good place to search for the vermilion of Virginia
creepers. The area's canyons -- Miller, Ramsey and Carr -- are
also good spots to glimpse crimson.
Another way to experience fall in southeastern
Arizona is to see towering cottonwoods that turn golden in early
autumn along riparian areas. One way to enjoy the landscape is
aboard the San Pedro and Southwestern Railroad, which offers four-hour,
round-trip excursions departing from Benson. In October, the train
runs Thursday through Saturday. For information about times and
rates, call (520) 586-2266.
a free packet of Arizona travel information, call the Arizona
Office of Tourism toll-free at 1-888-520-3444 ot visit the state's
tourism website at www.arizonaguide.com. Photos
by Erika Koerber.