Fall colors in Flagstaff along the Aspen Loop Trail

7 Great Places To Enjoy Autumn In Arizona

Autumn in Arizona is one of the best times to enjoy be outdoors in the state, from the low and high deserts to the aspen-filled mountains, and everywhere in between.

In the desert, temperatures drop and vegetation comes back to life, making it perfect for an outing. On the other hand, at higher elevations, where Arizona has deciduous trees, this is the time to see their gorgeous fall colors.

Given that no matter where you are, you can experience the best of Arizona this time of the year, the place to explore is only a matter of preference.

Since moving in Arizona about 30 years ago, autumn has become my favorite season. And not only for the same reasons it would be in other parts of the world.

In Central and Southern Arizona, at least, it feels like the whole state wakes up from the summer slumber, when it was hard to even think of walking outside. On the other hand, the mountains around Flagstaff and others at higher elevations, burst with color this time of the year.

Though you can go anywhere in the state to enjoy fall, the following are some of my favorite places to visit during autumn in Arizona.

This aspen colony in Flagstaff is one of the best places to enjoy autumn in Arizona.
Fall colors on the Aspen Nature Trail in Flagstaff

1. Flagstaff and the surrounding mountains

If fall foliage is what you are looking for, the best place to enjoy autumn in Arizona is in and around Flagstaff, where the aspen colonies put on a colorful show.

I can’t think of anything more beautiful than the Flagstaff landscape in autumn, especially around Kachina Peaks and the Arizona Snowball. This is the place that over time became our family’s yearly October pilgrimage site.

We go to Flagstaff every October, sometimes several times, and we always drive up to this area at least once. Even the drive is filled with groves of aspen, with their neon-bright leaves. You’ll find several spots to stop for a short hike along the road.

One of our favorite trails is the Aspen Loop Nature Trail, though during the peak is locals’ favorite, as well, so it gets crowded, especially on October weekends. Still, it is long enough to find some quiet spots, and the spectacle of aspens glowing in their brightest colors is always worth the hike.

Midgley Bridge, Sedona, AZ
Midgley Bridge in Sedona over Oak Creek…

2. Sedona And Oak Creek Canyon

The autumn colors of Oak Creek Canyon might not get as bright as the aspen leaves in Flagstaff, but offer more of a variety. Surrounded by different deciduous trees, you’ll find fall colors ranging from deep crimson reds to oranges and golden yellows. You’ll find plenty of trails in the area to enjoy the autumn foliage.

But even if you’d rather not hike, you can still enjoy stunning autumn colors if you just drive through Oak Creek Canyon in mid-October.

As of Sedona, it offers more than colorful foliage in autumn. The drop in temperature makes this time of the year one of the best times to hike among the town’s gorgeous red rocks. Several trails near Cathedral Rock for example, showcase both fall foliage and views of the famous rock formations.

Mogollon Rim
The predominant trees on the Mogollon Rim are Ponderosa pines… in autumn you can enjoy hikes among them.

3. The Mogollon Rim

Although most trees you see on the Mogollon Rim are evergreens – Ponderosa pines – , you can find several patches of deciduous trees here, too. These are perfect places to enjoy their colorful autumn foliage.

One of the best places to enjoy this autumn palette in the area is along the edge of the Rim, around Forest Road 300.

Besides the gorgeous views from the road, several hiking trails offer the opportunity to immerse yourself in these colors. Besides the autumn leaves, you might also see wildflowers in October here, adding to the burst of color, thanks to Arizona’s unique weather.

Temperatures are also much nicer during the day on the Mogollon Rim during early autumn. It is our favorite time of the year to hike in the area, either near a lake, in deep forests surrounded by Ponderosa pines, or surrounded by more traditional fall colors, and flowers blooming in autumn.

Grand Canyon NP
Fall is one of the best times to visit the Grand Canyon

4. Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park is also better experienced in autumn; in fact it is my favorite time to visit this famous park. Not so much for the deciduous foliage, which is rare here, but more for the pleasant weather, and the views of this wonder of the world.

This wonder of the world is a must-visit sight in Arizona, no matter the season, butfall is my favorite time to visit it. Daytime temperatures are perfect for hikes along the rim, and even onto the canyon.

However, weather is only part of the reason I prefer a visit this time of the year. With the summer crowd gone, autumn brings fewer visitors to the world-famous site (still too crowded, to be fair, but now you can find a few quieter spots).

Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior
Early autumn in the Boyce Thompson Arboretum … later in the fall the deciduous trees along the trail turn vivid yellows and golds

5. Boyce Thompson Arboretum In Superior

Boyce Thompson Arboretumin Superior, Arizona, offers the best of both traditional fall foliage and unique desert environments in a rugged desert landscape.

The arboretum is Arizona’s oldest and largest botanical garden, celebrating its centennial anniversary in 2023. It features collections of desert plants from all over the world, from Australia through South America to the local Sonoran Desert.

Though a bit too hot to explore it in the summer, fall brings pleasant temperatures to the area, perfect for hiking. The short Main Trail, most of it paved and accessible, is perfect for a quick look into the desert flora and fauna. However, this time of the year is pleasant enough to hike all the side trails and enjoy autumn in Arizona.

Trails in the Phoenix Desert.
Autumn is a great time to enjoy the desert environment in and around Phoenix

6. Phoenix and the surrounding desert

In Arizona’s desert environment autumn means pleasant hiking weather and greener vegetation. We even see some cactus varieties in bloom this time of the year.

So, naturally, the best places to enjoy the perfect autumn weather in and around Phoenix are hiking trails in the Sonoran Desert in and around the city. This is the time we get to enjoy the beauty of the desert, the reason we live here.

We have several nature preserves in the Greater Phoenix area showcasing the best of this unique environment, filled with trails for hikers of all abilities. Short, easy trails in Papago Park to the strenuous hike up Camelback Mountain offer hiking opportunities for anyone.

Some trails in South Mountain Preserve for example, also offer a close-up view of petroglyph sites. Others, in the Dreamy Draw area and in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve showcase desert wilderness areas crisscrossed by hiking trails of all levels of difficulty.

Trails in the Sonoran Desert Preserve in North Phoenix and in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve of Scottsdale also showcase some of the greenest areas of the Sonoran Desert.

Saguaro National Park, AZ
Saguaro National Park also offers a great experience in autumn

7. Tucson and Saguaro National Park

Autumn also makes a visit to Saguaro National Park more pleasant. Although you won’t see the saguaros in bloom, if summer brought a good monsoon, they will be healthy, with thick arms and a pleasant green color. Besides, the surrounding desert is also greener this time of the year, and you might even see some cholla varieties in bloom.

But the best part of visiting Saguaro National Park in autumn is the perfect weather, fit for hiking and spending time outdoors. You can find scenic hikes in either Saguaro East or Saguaro West districts. They each offer something unique, but what they both offer pleasant walks among the desert giants.

Tucson, the home city of the park, is also a great place to experience this time of the year. You have opportunities to stroll around the city, enjoy its murals, and walking trails.

Other Places To Enjoy Autumn In Arizona

The Agate Bridge is an ancient petrified log
Petrified Forest offers good hiking weather in autumn

Petrified Forest National Park

While summer is the time to avoid Petrified Forest National Park, autumn brings pleasant weather in this area, too. So, you can spend time exploring the ancient forest, and its colorful petrified tree trunks, enjoy the colors of the painted Desert, and explore the ancient sites in the area. You can even camp there this time of the year.

Montezuma Castle - photo by Győző Egyed
Montezuma Castle in early autumn. photo credit: Győző Egyed

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Autumn is also the perfect time to visitMontezuma Castle National Monument, one of the most spectacular cliff dwellings in Arizona. Besides a look at the ancient village, you can also enjoy the changing colors of the sycamore trees along the trail.

Montezuma Well, part of the National Monument, and only 10 miles away, is also best experienced in autumn. The desert oasis resulting from a natural sinkhole fed by an underground stream is home to a variety of wildlife, and several giant sycamore trees.

Prescott and Vicinity

Prescott and the surrounding area also offer a great fall getaway. The town itself is a popular destination year round, for its old-world charm, but in fall you’ll find traditional autumn colors here.

Look for them in downtown Prescott, along the Greenway Trail Systems, along Granite and Miller Creek, and in the Historic Courthouse Plaza. Or, in a more spectacular setting, walk along one of the lakes in town, surrounded by deciduous trees, showcasing their bright orange and gold colors.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Hiking the trails, among columnar cacti and other desert plants, is a joy as temperatures drop in the fall in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

On the border with Mexico — so close, we can see our southern neighbor country from its trails – , the park is an International Biosphere Reserve. As such, it showcases a unique community of plants and animals. Hiking and camping in the park in the fall offers a pleasant way to experience a thriving, green desert.

Autumn Is One Of The Best Times To Be In Arizona

No matter what you are looking for, fall leaves or gorgeous desert scenery, autumn is one of the best times to visit Arizona, especially if you enjoy the outdoors.

You will find hikes in the desert, where not only you’ll see greener scenery, but you might even see some desert plants in bloom. You are also likely to see desert animals, reptiles, and birds this time of the year.

On the other hand, in the higher elevations, autumn also brings the gorgeous fall colors we are used to, from the bright yellow of aspens, to the reds of maple, oranges, and browns of other deciduous trees.

Autumn is the time most of Arizona is at its best, no wonder it is also the time everyone starts traveling to the state. Still, as crowded as some of the best-known places get this time of the year, the state still offers plenty of off-the-beaten-track destinations to enjoy autumn in Arizona.


If you don’t live in Arizona, you probably need to fly to Phoenix, then rent a car. The following are my recommendations of how to plan this trip, from airfare to car rental and accommodations.

Affiliate Disclosure: The links below are affiliate links. This means that if you make purchases or bookings through my affiliate links I may get a small commission with no additional cost to you. This would help me offset the costs associated with running this site. Please read ourdisclosure policyfor more information. Thank you!


When flying anywhere, I usually check several different sites to find the best deals. Unless I know what airline I use (and have a credit card with points from that airline), I check



for best deals.

Car Rental

To compare prices of different car rental companies, use

Discover Cars.



Since autumn is too cold to camp, even in the desert, you need to find accommodations for your overnight stays, while in Arizona. Use

Trivagoto compare deals on hotels and alternative accommodations. Or, book a place throughBooking.com


Of course, you can also use

TripAdvisorto find the best places to stay, and best things to do, or book hotels through the site.

About the Author

Emese has been a resident of Phoenix, Arizona, for the past 30+ years. An avid traveler and explorer, she explored not only Arizona, but all of the Southwest with her family on multiple road trips during this time. Besides local insights to Phoenix, her articles about the state and the Southwest reflect an intimate knowledge of the area based on first-hand experiences. A published travel writer with bylines in publications like Lonely Planet and several others, she is also a language instructor in Phoenix.

Scroll to Top