Posted by: Sandy Steinman | October 13, 2012

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

Arizona and New Mexico National Forests have a new fall color update:


 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

  • The higher elevations of the San Francisco Peaks (north of Flagstaff), the colors are a little past their prime, but still worth the drive.
  • The lower elevations (FR 151, FR 794, and FR 418) are at their peak right now.  To get there; take Hwy 180 north out of Flagstaff.  FR 151 is about 10 miles up on the right.  FR 794 is a couple of miles further, and FR 418 is 3.5 miles further on the north entrance of FR 151.  Go 1.5 mile on FR 151 to FR 418.
  • Mogollon Rim – now is the best time for viewing the colors.  The suggested areas are north of the General Crook Trail (FR 300) in Dane Ridge, Buck Springs and East Bear Canyon.  From Payson, take Hwy 87 north through Pine, through Strawberry and up on top of the rim.  Make a right about 7 or 8 miles further on FR 300.  It’s about 10 miles to FR 300G (East Bear Canyon).

For more information, contact the Coconino National Forest at (928) 527-3600

 Kaibab National Forest

  • North Kaibab Ranger District – A pocket of aspen among the mixed conifer south of Jacob Lake.  Hwy 67 & forest service roads south of Jacob Lake. Peak for the North Kaibab is now until mid-October.
  • Williams Ranger District – Approximately 100% colors for the Bill Williams area.  To get to the Bill Williams Mtn., drive south on 4th St. in Williams (aka Rt. 73 S), 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 through October 15th.
  • 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. Take FR 302 east from Hwy 64/180, just south of the town of Tusayan.  Follow FR 302 for about 15 miles to its junction with FR 310.  Turn left onto FR 310 and the Grandview Lookout Tower will soon appear on your right.  If you continue following 310 north about 2 miles, it will reconnect with Hwy 64/180 back into GCNP near Grandview Point on Desert View Drive.  Plenty of color can be seen just along the road, but you also park at the Grandview Lookout Tower and follow Arizona Trail south thru the forest, where much color can be seen on the oak trees.  Peak is now till approximately October 21stor 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.  Color changes will be found in small isolated pockets throughout the forest.
  • 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. This area has peaked.
    • 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.  This area has peaked.
    • 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.  This area has peaked.

Tonto National Forest

  • The greatest amount of color is in the Seven Springs area.  There is scattered color change in the Needle Rock area.  Trail 4 is the recommended hiking route.
  • Sumacs in the Russell Gulch area along with Aspens and Maples in the Ferndall Spring area near Pinal Peak in the Pinal Mountains have begun to turn.  The best road to see the changes is FR 651.
  • Aspens are changing on FR 33, top of section FR 512 at about 6800-7000 feet elevation.  Locusts are turning yellow at this same elevation.  Aspens are also changing slowly at the Aztec Peak area.
  • The estimated peak viewing period is late October and all of November.  Some areas will continue to change into December.

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

Report updated: October 12, 2012

New Mexico  

  Carson National Forest

  • The area around Taos is past its peak.
  • 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.
  • Another area that is peaking this week is in the El Rito and Canjilon areas.  From Espanola, take US 84 north about 55 miles and turn on NM 115 which dead ends at Canjilon, beginning a dirt road that leads to Trout Lakes and Canjilon Lakes.  Another route to travel, north of Espanola on US 84 about 20 miles to NM 554 and turn east (right) to El Rito, a sleepy community with beautiful views.  If you continue to travel east on NM 554, it will dead end into NM 111, you can either turn right to access US 285 and back to Espanola, or turn left to travel northerly to the small community of Vallecitos.
  • The colors will be past their peak by October 17th.

Cibola National Forest

  • Sandia Ranger District – The lower to middle portion of Scenic Byway 536 still has some Scrub Oak with color.  The color will be gone by the end of this weekend.
  • Magdalena Ranger District – Colors should be visible for the next 2 weeks or so, dependent upon the weather.   Recommended viewing routes – Go west on Hwy 60 to FR 549 to FR 138 Grassy Lookout (Trail 43/Apache Kid Trail).
  • 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 is happening right now and should continue through the weekend.
  • Mt. Taylor Ranger District –  FR 453 to the towers are showing good color.  FR 193 has some nice groves of Aspen that have turned.  Post Office Flats and Diener Canyon in the Zuni Mountains are providing great colors.
  • Kiowa & Rita Blanca National Grasslands – Color is showing down in the bottom of Mills Canyon.  Go I-25 east to Wagon Mound, then east on State Hwy 120 to Roy, and north on State Hwy 39 to Mills.  The canyon entrance will be on the left.  It is 210 miles from Albuquerque.  It is recommended to have a high clearance vehicle if you choose to drive down into the canyon.  If it has rained recently, you will also need a 4-wheel drive.  Be aware that there is only one way in and one way out of the canyon, so please take necessary precautions in regards to weather and time of day.  Roy will be the last place you will be able to get food or gas until you return to Roy upon departure (or for 30 miles if you continue to Clayton or Springer).

Gila National Forest 

  • Reserve Ranger District – About 40-50% color change is showing in the higher elevations.  The lower elevation trees, like oak and cottonwood are changing slowly, they are about 30%.  So we have a lot of color happening from green- yellow – orange to bright red.
  • Wilderness Ranger District – The Aspen colors are amazing up on McKnight Mountain.  McKnight is reached from FR 152 (4wd required)) off State Hwy 35 in the Mimbres Valley. Color here should last another week or possibly two.  Also along Hwy 35, the cottonwoods and willows along the Mimbres River are just beginning to turn yellow.  This area will peak in the next few weeks.
  • Silver City Ranger District – Hikers off Hwy 152 toward Hillsboro Peak report oaks and Aspen above 9000 feet are yellow and starting toward orange.  Along the Gila River, sycamores, cottonwoods and willows are fading to yellow and should show lots more color in the latter part of October.
  • Glenwood Ranger District – Visitors to Mogollon Creek report cottonwoods there barely turning yellow.  Most trees are still summer green.

Lincoln National Forest

  • Smokey Bear Ranger District – Ski Run Road (Hwy 532) up to Windy Point (part way to Ski Apache).  Hwy 380 from Carrizozo, east to Hwy 37, south to Nogal, southwest on FR 400 to FR 108.  Then backtracking to Nogal. FR 108 is a rough road needing high clearance.  Also, the Cedar Creek area near the Smokey Bear Ranger Station is a recommended hiking route for viewing the colors.
  • Sacramento Ranger District – Most of the color can be seen at 7000 feet in elevation and above, scattered color in other areas.  From Cloudcroft south on Hwy 6563 (Sunspot Scenic Byway).  Eight and one-half miles down the Sunspot road, turn east on the Rio Penasco road (C17) to Hwy 130, then west and north back to Cloudcroft.  From High Rolls south east on Karr Canyon Road (FR 63) to the Sunspot Road, be sure to cross the road into the Upper Karr Recreation Area, park on the paved circle, get out and walk among the Aspens.  From Cloudcroft, east on Hwy 82 turn left onto Hwy 244, travel north and east to Lincoln National Forest Boundary.  A good recommendation for a scenic hike is the Rim Trail (T105) running south on the east side of the Sunspot Road.  Peak should be this weekend.

 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 now.
  • 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 is now.
  • 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.

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