FLAGSTAFF, AZ (April Bucket List in Arizona) — It’s autumn, all of you! Or so they say. These cacti don’t really change color. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find amazing fall foliage here in Arizona.
I’ve been through the high country in northern and eastern Arizona a few times over the fall, and it’s beautiful. But I always wanted to go to leaf voyeur heaven Lockett Meadow, so I decided this week to finally check this one out on my Arizona wishlist.
My photographer, Rick, our Arizona family drone operator, Hector, and I headed to the backside of the San Francisco Peaks. The exit is directly across from the US 89 exit from Sunset Crater. From there you head down a dirt road for a few miles up the mountain. We were warned that this road was difficult, and it was not a lie. This very bumpy, unpaved one-lane road is incredibly winding with no guardrails. We had planned to go up earlier in the morning, but worried about the black ice from the recent storm, so we decided to wait until the afternoon. I’m glad we did, but the ride still had me saying prayers in a low voice. Four-wheel drive is recommended.
We arrived at the parking lot and found one of the last remaining spaces. Parking is free, but only 100 cars are allowed. On weekends, this lot fills up very early.
the Track itself is a 3 mile loop. You can go further with other connecting trails. You start in the pines but gradually see the aspens fill the landscape with their golden hue as you climb a little higher. The trail is not very steep, but you will find yourself gasping thanks to the elevation of 8,600-10,500 feet. Most of the trail is shaded at the start, so if you plan on going up in the next few days, expect a few more inches of snow on the ground from the recent storm.
Peering at the leaves in northern Arizona
First snow of the season in Flagstaff!
Eventually, the path takes you along the rim of the inner basin, revealing a canopy of greens, golds, and reds. The stunning fall colors against the blue sky and snow capped peaks in the background made us double check that we were still in Arizona.
Mid-October is high season here. Falling temperatures and shorter days turn aspens into solid gold. This year many leaves were torn off by the windy weather earlier this week. There was still plenty of fall color and beauty, but I wish we had gotten there a week earlier.
Although it is just a little past the summit in the higher elevations, the The National Forest Service has a few other recommendations which are at lower elevations for more color and less crowds.
Be sure to check the weather before hitting the road.
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