After months of sweltering heat, autumn grants respite to the beautiful landscape of red rock formations and to the turquoise water of the Colorado River. While other states might close their attractions in the fall, that is when Arizona's tourist season peaks. The changing leaves of Prescott National Forest and the ever-lasting red Grand Canyon or the emerald-green water inside the Emerald Cave make Arizona an unforgettable fall destination. These are seven of the best places that are definitely worth a visit come autumn. So, top up your car and prepare for some fall adventures in Arizona!
Escaping the Phoenix heat, one can take a two-hour road trip through the Tonto National Forest via the AZ-87 to beautiful Strawberry, one of the best fall destinations in Arizona. While on your way, a stop at the Tonto National Forest provides unique landscapes, including Sonoran Desert cactus and flat lands that slowly mesh to the highlands of the Mogollon Rim and a multitude of trails. The Tonto Natural Bridge is accessible by a gorgeous trail and is one of the largest natural bridges in the world!
While much of the Strawberry area is covered in pine trees, this hike grants plenty of trees with color-changing leaves that fade into a palette of oranges, yellows, and reds at the end of October. Besides exploring the nearby nature, you can also learn about Arizona history at the Pine-Strawberry Museum or the Strawberry Schoolhouse. Strawberry makes for a terrific day trip, but if one seeks a more extended stay, the Strawberry Inn is a comfortable boutique hotel suitable for a family vacation or a romantic getaway.
The Horseshoe Bend is a splendid example of an entrenched meander created over five million years ago. For a long time, Horseshoe Bend was mostly popular with nearby residents, but the yearly visitor count sharply increased with exposure through social media and currently attracts more than 2 million visitors a year. Fall grants a respite from the summer heat and perfect weather for the exploration of this amazing natural wonder. The famed, winding Colorado River, together with the striated Navajo Sandstone cliffs, form the majesty of Horseshoe Bend. October, with its cooler weather, the calmer, clearer water of the Colorado River, and fewer people around, is the best time to take a kayak for a spin. While many destinations have trees that turn orange in the fall, this location is orange by nature, with its exposed eroded iron-rich rock formations.
When visiting Page, many people choose to go on a tour or rent a car and go on a road trip from Las Vegas to the Antelope Canyon. The canyon is home to the Pronghorn Antelopes, whose own progenitors grazed in the area for as long as the Navajo natives have lived in the area. Jaw-dropping natural formations surround Page, including Antelope Canyon, Owl Canyon, Rattlesnake Canyon, Secret Canyon, Waterholes Canyon, and Canyon X.
This canyon complex was opened to the public in 1997 and is regulated and guided by the Navajo people as it lies on their land. Antelope is a naturally formed slot canyon formed over hundreds of thousands of years due to constant erosion by ancient underground water currents. Its stunning landscape, united with the mild weather of autumn, has continued to grow in popularity and brings more and more visitors to Page each year, especially in fall. This increase in fame has boosted Page's growth, which also meant new amenities and hotels have popped up in the area. Combined with the nearby Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam, these natural wonders have made Page an increasingly popular destination.
Grand Canyon National Park
Fall is one of the best times of year to visit the iconic Grand Canyon National Park, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. While temperatures in the Grand Canyon are sweltering during the summer, fall brings a reprieve from the heat, allowing adventurous visitors to tackle the canyon's inner trails. The Grand Canyon is an unbelievable spectacle of nature, a huge slash in the surface of the Earth — 217 miles long, 4 to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep. The Colorado River is once again to thank for this majestic creation, eroding Earth's crust with its turbulence millions of years ago. The Havasupai Indians have lived for hundreds of years in one of these spectacularly beautiful canyons, admiring one of the Havasu Falls that is even higher than Niagara Falls! If you feel like not going away from this stunning beauty, feel free to stay overnight in Phantom Ranch along the side of the river with waterfalls and shimmering pools of turquoise water.
Along the Colorado River and below the Hoover Dam in the Lake Mead Recreation Area, the Emerald Cave is a natural attraction that draws many visitors each year. With autumn bringing cooler temperatures and less aggressive sunlight, fall is the perfect time to take a peak inside the Emerald Cave with a kayak or boat. The beaming green water is a spectacular sight, and it is easy to see why people from all over come here to see Emerald Cove. Even though the cove is small, it's a beautiful sight, and it is part of the greater Black Canyon that is also freely explorable. The cave itself can be found 2 miles from the marina. After arriving, you will get to paddle inside and marvel at its sparkling emerald-green waters. But the journey to the Emerald Cave is almost as beautiful as the cave itself!
As the golden hues of fall embrace the Arizona landscape, Sedona transforms into a blend of breathtaking vistas and overwhelming nature. To see a glimpse of that, try The Verde Canyon Railroad Adventure, which will take you through the beautiful Southwest desert and provide beautiful vistas of the landscapes of this area. If you are intrigued by the mystical aspects of this land, Sedona vortexes are believed to emit powerful and healing energies. Besides, these locations make for some stunning views amidst Sedona's red rock formations. Sitting atop the high red rocks, The Chapel of the Holy Cross proudly stands with its peculiar design; it is definitely worth the short trip. Hiking through the Soldier Pass Cave or the Birthing Cave are other must-do activities that take full advantage of Sedona's ample outdoor opportunities.
Known for its historic downtown, art galleries, and outdoor activities, Prescott is the perfect getaway for those looking to relax and unwind. Prescott is a charming western town encompassing Watson Lake and the Willow Creek Reservoir. The Smoki Museum exhibits artifacts from indigenous peoples of the Southwest, while The Sharlot Hall Museum documents the region's pioneer-era history. If you stay in Downtown Prescott on Whiskey Row, you will be within walking of the street, which was the site of several saloons during the Gold Rush era. Thanks to Prescott's sweeping lakes, you can enjoy other fun things to do in Prescott, like kayaking or paddle boarding on a sunny fall day without worrying about sweat or a cold, thanks to the mild fall weather. If fall foliage is your prerogative, just a short drive away, the Prescott National Forest grants a vibrant display of yellow, orange, and red leaves.
While Arizona is famous for its warm summers, fall is the best time to visit the state. These seven destinations in Arizona provide a display of gorgeous landscapes and colorful foliage. From the Antelope Canyon complex near Page to the winding Colorado River around the Horseshoe Bend or the massive Tonto Natural Bridge near Strawberry, Arizona promises a fall trip you will not forget!