Posted by: Sandy Steinman | October 6, 2012

Arizona & New Mexico Nat. Forest Fall Colors 10/5/12

Arizona and New Mexico National Forest Fall Color Report  from the National Forest Service for  10/5/12:


 Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest

  • Colors are at about 30% now and are changing quickly.  The best scenic routes for the Apache side of the Forest would be Hwy 191 or Hwy 273 to Hwy 261 loop.  For the Sitgreaves side of the Forest, it would be Forest Road 300.

Coconino National Forest

  • Aspens around Snowbowl Ski runs are just starting to change.  Lower stuff is not consistent yet (Aspen Loop/Arizona Trail).  Remember, there are area closures in the ski area to provide safety during construction (all 7 days a week) – Respect boundary/closure ropes.  Ski ride is good for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  Humphreys, Kachina, and Aspen Loop trails are the only access from Arizona Snowbowl.
  • Colors are good at Lockett Meadow right now.  Many large patches are changing on the north and northwest sides of the Peaks at the 9000’ level and above (Bearjaw/Abineau & North AZT).  Still sparse on the south side (Kachina Trail).  East side of Elden is going strong.
  • Mogollon Rim – the fall colors have just barely begun to change.  Once temps drop and days get shorter, they should start turning quickly.
  • As for the Hart Prairie (FR151) area, people visiting the prairie will find that most of the colors they’ll see right now are on the slopes of the mountains, as opposed to the in the trees of the prairie itself; only a few tree have changed so far.  Access Hart Prairie (FR151) by going north from Flagstaff on HWY 180 about 9 miles from Downtown Flagstaff.  FR151 will be on your right.  Please note that the Hart Prairie Road will be under construction beginning Oct. 1.  Construction crews and heavy equipment will be working on the road Monday through Thursday.  The road will be open to thru-traffic, however, temporary delays of up to a couple hours are possible.  Travelers with high clearance vehicles can use FR 794 as an alternate route between FR 151 and Hwy 180.
  • For more information, contact the Coconino National Forest at (928) 527-3600.

 Kaibab National Forest

  • Most of the color will be seen at 7000 feet and above.
  • North Kaibab Ranger District – A pocket of aspen among the mixed conifer south of Jacob Lake has the greatest amount of color right now.  Hwy 67 & forest service roads south of Jacob Lake continuing toward higher elevation along the national park boundary.  Peak for the North Kaibab is now until mid-October.
  • Williams Ranger District – A recommended viewing route is Bill Williams Mountain.  Drive south on 4th Street in Williams (aka Rt. 73), drive approximately 4 miles to FR 111 and turn right following the road marked Bill Williams Lookout going about another 3-4 miles to the top.  Peak is now until mid-October.
  • Tusayan Ranger District –  A lot of oak has already started to turn brown but the biggest color change is yet to come.  The Arizona Trail along the Coconino Rim (which begins at the Grandview Lookout Tower on FR 310). Or Tusayan Bike Trail #4 (which connects Tusayan to the Grandview Lookout Tower) is the best areas to find color change in the oaks.  This is a good year for the pinon pine nut crop up around the S. Rim of the Grand Canyon and on the Tusayan Ranger District. Peak will probably be beginning in a week or so.
  • Contacts for more information: Williams RD: (928) 635-5600.  Tusayan RD: (928) 638-2443.  North Kaibab RD: (928) 643-7395.

Prescott National Forest

  • Elevations of 3500 feet and above are showing some fall color, scattered color in other areas.  The Prescott National Forest is predominately juniper and pinon (evergreens) so we do not receive a lot of color changes.
  • Recommended viewing routes include:
    • Palace Station area – East on Mount Vernon from downtown Prescott.  Mount Vernon will turn into Senator Hwy (County Road #56 after the town of Groom Creek the road becomes unpaved.  Approx. 15 miles out Senator Hwy, Palace Station is located on the right side of the road.  Virginia Creeper is turning red.  Road is rough so high clearance and four wheel drive is recommended.
    • Thumb Butte Road – From downtown Prescott, go west on Gurley Street for approx. 5 miles.  Gurley Street will eventually turn into Thumb Butte Road.  Color is mainly fall grasses and flowers at this time.
    • Bradshaw City – From downtown Prescott, take Mount Vernon south (turns into Senator Hwy – County Rd. 56).  Senator Highway becomes unpaved after the town of Groom Creek.  Bradshaw City is approx. 34 miles from Prescott and approx. 4 miles before reaching Crown King.  This road is rough so four wheel drive and high clearance vehicles are recommended.
    • Mt. Union area – From downtown Prescott take Mount Vernon south (turns into Senator Hwy (County Rd #56).  Senator Hwy becomes unpaved after the town of Groom Creek.  Go approximately 18 miles and turn east onto FR261.  This road is rough so 4-wheel drive and high clearance vehicles are recommended.
    • Hassayampa area – From downtown Prescott, take Mount Vernon south (turns into Senator Hwy (County Rd #56).  Senator Hwy becomes unpaved after the town of Groom Creek.  This is an approx. 20 mile (one way) trip.  This road is rough so 4-wheel drive and high clearance vehicles are recommended.
    • Mingus Mountain area – From either Prescott or Clarkdale you may take the 89A across Mingus Mountain.  This will take you through the town of Jerome.  89A is a windy road so please drive with caution.

Tonto National Forest

  • Colors are beginning to show in the Ferndell Spring and Russell Gulch area around Globe.  Peak in that area should be around mid-October.
  • Pleasant Valley Ranger District – Sumac and sycamores are changing colors around the Reynolds Creek Hiking Trail.  The greatest amounts of color changes are seen in elevations of 5000 ft.

There has been no color change reported for the following forest: Coronado.

New Mexico  

  Carson National Forest

  • The High Road to Taos is especially beautiful this time of year.  From Santa Fe, take US 84/285 north into Espanola.  In the heart of Espanola, turn on NM 76 east.  Stay on that highway into a small rural high mountain community called Truchas, where the highway takes a northerly direction.  The highway will go through the small communities of Ojo Sarco and Las Trampas and dead ends at NM 75.  Turn right on NM 75, headed in an easterly direction.  Stay on NM 75, going through communities of Penasco and Vadito.  NM 75 ends at NM 518, turn left.  NM 518 connects with US 68 in Rancho de Taos, after about 15 miles.  However, upper elevations, about 9000 feet, the aspen are past peak.
  • Several cold snaps have sent temperatures plummeting into the mid to upper 20s overnight resulting in several hard frosts.  Some of the aspens have lost their leaves at the top of the trees, but the color is still spectacular.  Some high mountain elevations, above 10,000 feet, have snow on the peaks.
  • The aspens are quickly changing to vibrant gold.  Gamble oak is also turning to its rusty red color.  This year some of the aspens are also turning red, an uncharacteristic trait of some of aspens, but it makes for incredible views.  The gooseberry and willows are also spectacular along the lower lying drainages.
  • The colors are at their peak right now until about October 10th.

Cibola National Forest

  • Sandia Ranger District – everything is peaking at The Peak.  Colors are peaking in lower elevations as well.  Lots of color, including at Nine Mile Picnic area.  See the colors out there as soon as you can!
  • Magdalena Ranger District – Color showing at elevations of 9000 feet and above.  Recommended viewing routes – Go west on Hwy 60 to FR 549 to FR 138 Grassy Lookout (Trail 43/Apache Kid Trail).  Some aspen and oak turning along FR 138 headed south towards the lookout.
  • Mountainair Ranger District – FR 55 Loop off of HWY 55 out of the village of Tajique/Torreon is best for viewing.  The road conditions beyond 4th of July Campground is very primitive and high clearance vehicles are recommended.  Peak viewing will be the week of October 8th if they haven’t hit the ground already.
  • Mt. Taylor Ranger District –  The Mt. Taylor side is showing color and in some places the leaves are already falling off.  Reports from the Zuni side are that colors are starting to change.  Some areas are changing, but most of them are still green.

Gila National Forest 

  • Mountains are starting to show some color at higher elevations.  Most areas are 10% or less.
  • Hwy 15 and Hwy 35 travel through pine and juniper forests and offer travelers little in the way of fall color particularly at this time.  Hikers off Hwy 152 toward Hillsboro Peak report oaks and aspen above 9000 feet starting to turn yellow.
  • Fall has not yet reached the Southern portion of the Gila National Forest.  Afternoon temperature in the mid 80’s are more reminiscent of summer than fall.
  • Peak viewing for the southern portion of the Gila is traditionally late October.

Santa Fe National Forest

  • Espanola Ranger District – Most of the color is 9000 feet and above.
  • Hyde Park road SR 475 and from HWY 599 are the best viewing routes right now.
  • Aspen Vista Trail, Borrego Bear Wallow, and Windsor trail are some recommended hiking routes.
  • Estimated peak period is in the next two weeks.
  • Cuba Ranger District – Oak is changing rapidly.  Elevations of 8000 feet and above are showing fall colors, scattered colors in other areas.  Vibrant colors area along State Hwy 126.
  • State Hwy 126 from Cuba to Jemez is recommended for best viewing of the colors right now.  FR 98 and FR 103 off of State Hwy 126 are also recommended.
  • Estimated peak viewing period will be mid-October.
  • Coyote Ranger District – San Pedro Parks Wilderness west of FR 76 and the cottonwoods on the Rio Chama area off of FR 151 have good color right now.
  • Recommended viewing routes for driving:  Off of State Hwy 84, turn on the FR 151 and travel along the Rio Chama.  This is a winding narrow road and should be traveled slowly.  Hwy 96 from Youngsville to Gallina, the colors are starting to change, a variety of oak, aspen, and some cottonwood offer a variety of colors, against the background of the red cliffs offer a spectacular view.
  • On FR 100 approximately 5 miles in you can begin to see the color changes on the Aspen.  FR 100 at the junction of FR 99 also offers beautiful colors with the views to the north overlooking the Cerro Pedernal.  FR 93, 1 mile in you can start to view the color changes up to the end of the end of the graveled road and beyond if you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle also on FR 77 looking over to the south toward the San Pedro Parks Wilderness you can start to see the changing colors.
  • Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District – Most of the color is 8000 feet and above.
  • North on Hwy 63 to Jack’s Creek, FR 86 and FR 92 to Osha Canyon, or take Hwy 65 from Las Vegas to FR 156 to Johnson Mesa is the recommended for the best color viewing.
  • Recommended hiking routes – Windsor Loop, Hamilton Mesa, Round Mountain, Pecos Baldy Lake, and Mora Flats area.
  • Some areas are showing peak color already and our lower elevations may be in the next week.

There has been no color change reported for the following forest: Lincoln


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