Fall colors in Flagstaff, Arizona.

6 Best Fall Hikes In Arizona

Fall is a beautiful time of year, and one of the best states to hike is Arizona. The crisp air and warm-colored foliage make hiking even more remarkable. With a nickname like the Grand Canyon State, you wouldn't expect anything less. From views of golden aspen trees on the Aspen Nature Loop trail to stunning views from Bill Williams Mountain, Arizona has some of the most incredible hiking trails. If you are planning a visit there this fall, here are the hikes to put on your must-do list.

Aspen Nature Loop

Landscape photograph of fall colors on the Aspen Loop Trail in Arizona.
Fall colors on the Aspen Loop Trail in Arizona.

Aspen Nature Loop is an easy, family-friendly hike near Flagstaff. The hike is a 2.5-mile loop and takes around an hour to do. Sitting on the western slopes of the San Francisco peaks, the Aspen Nature Loop trail has beautiful vistas, taking hikers through sloping meadows and past forests with golden fall foliage. The San Francisco Peak is a particularly unique mountain range to hike through. The range is the remains of an extinct volcano, shattered by an explosion millions of years ago. The evidence for this is in the lush alpine environment on the trails.

The Aspen Nature Loop trail is full of aspens, spruce, and pine trees. Some of these trees are thousands of years old. In fall, the aspen tree's leaves change from green to a brilliant gold color, making for spectacular photos. Along the trail, hikers can enjoy spectacular views of unique natural phenomena, including the Grand Canyon to the north and the volcanic field to the west. There are also plenty of birds often spotted on the trail. A few common ones include flickers, jays, juncos, and warblers.

Kachina Trail

Colorful Arizona quaking aspen and pine forest in autumn along the Kachina Trail near Flagstaff. Looking straight up.
Colorful Arizona in autumn along the Kachina Trail near Flagstaff.

After hiking the Aspen Nature Loop, if you are itching for more, the Kachina Trail in the San Francisco Peaks is a great trail to extend your hike. While any trail in the San Francisco peaks will have stunning views, the Kachina Trail is a particularly popular one. This is because the trail shows off some of the best views of fall foliage. Near Flagstaff, the trail is 5 miles one way and leads hikers through golden aspen groves in fall. The trail is on the south face of the San Francisco Peaks and takes you through high forest and sloping meadows filled with aspens.

Looking around on the trail, you get a panoramic view of the nearby town of Flagstaff and open views of Fremont, Doyle, and Agassiz peaks. The hike starts off a short climb and gradually descends across the eastern slopes. Throughout the hike, you will cross several canyons, descend a high lava cliff, and see geological formations from lava. Most of the trail is entirely in Kachina Peaks Wilderness, an 18,616-acre wilderness area.

Inner Basin Trail

Aspen trees with golden yellow fall colors in the autumn mountains of Flagstaff, Arizona on the Inner Basin Trail
Aspen trees with golden yellow fall colors near Flagstaff, Arizona, on the Inner Basin Trail.

While in the San Francisco Peaks, don't forget to try the Inner Basin Trail. Beginning in Lockett Meadow, the trail leads into the center of where the ancient volcano of the San Francisco Peaks once was. Lockett Meadow is a field of lush grasses surrounded by stunning mountains. From there, the trail winds through a shady forest of aspens and pine, where it joins the Waterline Trail. The trail continues along a service road into the mountain's quiet inner basin, offering the serenity of undisturbed woods. This is a good spot to enjoy the golden aspen-covered slopes.

There are often animal sightings on this trail. Some of the most common animals to spot include porcupines and elk. Occasionally, black bears cross along the trail, so remember to practice good bear safety.

Baldwin Trail

Panorama view of Cathedral Rock in Sedona AZ from the upper Baldwin Loop Trail on the west side of the rock.
Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona, from the upper Baldwin Loop Trail.

A beginner-friendly Arizona hike that offers stunning views is the Baldwin Trail. Located in the charming Sedona, the Baldwin Trail is a quick 3-mile round trip showcasing mountains and desert scenery that looks dreamy in the fall. The trail starts on the south side of the Red Rock Crossing parking area. It then heads east and passes Oak Creek. There are many side trails with accessible swim spots on Oak Creek. Aside from Oak Creek, the trail takes you through alluring mountain views and offers a unique view of Cathedral Rock. The landmark is a famous sandstone butte, one of Arizona's most fascinating attractions. The mix of gorgeous desert landscapes, filled with red rocks, cacti, juniper, and oak trees along the stunning Oak Creek, make this trail a must-hike in fall.

Bill Williams Mountain Trail

Bill Williams Mountain in northern Arizona viewed from its west side off of the Bill Williams Loop Road. Taken near sundown.
Bill Williams Mountain in northern Arizona.

Slightly longer, Bill Williams Mountain trail is a 7.9-mile round-trip hike. The trail takes hikers through Bill Williams Mountain. The mountain is around 30 miles west of Flagstaff. At the base of the mountain is the town of Williams, a gateway to the Grand Canyon and the perfect place to stop after your hike. Bill Williams Mountain Trail starts just 1 mile west of the town of Williams, at the Williams Ranger District office. The trail was originally built in 1902 and was a toll trail for horses. When it fell out of service, the Forest Services still used the trail to reach the fire lookout on Bill Williams Mountain.

Hiking on the trail, you get stunning views of Bill Williams Mountain and the town of Williams. The trail is on the north-facing side of the mountain, surrounded by lush forests. In fall, foliage takes a spotlight on this trail. In the lower elevation area of the trail, the forests are full of alligator juniper, pinyon pine, and Gambel oak. There are also occasional ponderosa pines. The Oak trees are the star of fall here. Their leaves changed to gorgeous amber, golden hues. As you hike into higher elevations, the lush forests fill with fir, towering aspens, and underbrush plants. After the 2-mile point, the trail climbs to the summit, where you can assess the fire lookout where you can get a 360 view of the area. In fall, the view from the top is breathtaking with the colorful foliage. The mountain trail may be long, but the views are worth the hike.

West Fork Trail

Scenic Sedona West Fork Trail and the Oak Creek Canyon during autumn, hiking trail.
Scenic Sedona West Fork Trail and the Oak Creek Canyon during autumn.

The West Fork Trail hike features some of the prettiest landscapes in Arizona, with the warm hues of the red rock canyon against fall foliage. The trail is a relatively easy 3.2-mile stroll one way. You will understand what makes West Fork one of the most popular trails in Arizona when you witness the trail's whimsical scenery. From canyons filled with stunning fall foliage to dazzling creek crossings and a bridge, the trail is full of spectacular fall scenery.

Tips For Arizona Hiking

Arizona is a beautiful state with amazing hiking options. From lush forests to deserts, there are endless hiking options in Arizona. To make sure you enjoy hiking in Arizona, it's important to follow a few rules. Firstly, always remember sun protection. Even in the fall, sun protection is a good idea in Arizona. Similarly, hydration is important. Not all trails have water stations, so prepare to bring enough water.

Another tip is to start hiking early. Hiking in the afternoon on hot days can be punishing, so the earlier you start, the better. For longer hikes, giving yourself enough time to get home before dark is always a good idea. Along with planning your time, planning your path is important. While these trails are well marked, bringing a map as backup is always a good idea, just in case you take a wrong turn.

Lastly, before you go hiking, make sure you know are familiar with the wildlife in the area. Snakes, spiders, and scorpions all have their own threat. Make sure you know how to identify these dangerous critters and treat bites and stings. Bringing a first aid kit is a must when hiking in Arizona. When out enjoying Arizona wilderness, preparation is key to a happy hike. Knowing you are well-prepared for your hiking adventure can help you feel more relaxed. This way, you can enjoy the stunning fall views these hikes offer worry-free.


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