Posted by: Sandy Steinman | October 26, 2012

Arizona & New Mexico Fall Color 10/26/12

Arizona and New Mexico National Forests posted a new fall color report on October 26, 2012


Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest

  • There is still some color showing. Scenic drives would be Hwy 373 to the end of Greer (near Government Springs).  Another scenic drive would be Forest Road (FR) 249 between Alpine and Big Lake (to see William’s Valley) which is a gravel road.

Coconino National Forest

  • Mogollon Rim – The Maples have peaked and the Aspen and Oak are changing now.  Take Forest Road (FR) 95 from just north of the Mogollon Rim District office on Hwy 87 south to FR 96 to FR 321.
  • Oak Creek Canyon – The drive through Oak Creek Canyon is beautiful with lots of green, some yellows, and few reds.  Colors have not reached peak, but the transition from top to bottom is very interesting.  Looking at the canyon from the road headed up, there are some isolated spots of color, should be good for the weekend.  Maples showing red on the east side of Oak Creek Canyon visible from Oak Creek Vista.  Take Hwy 89A from Flagstaff south.  Stop at the Oak Creek Vista, then drive south through the canyon.  Another option would be to take Hwy 89A north from Sedona to the top of the rim.
  • For more information, contact the Coconino National Forest at (928) 527-3600.

Coronado National Forest

  • Colors are at 70%.  Color can be seen at elevations of 3500 feet and above.
  • Douglas Ranger District – Aspens, Sycamores, and maples are beginning to fade at all elevations in the Chiracahua Mountains near Douglas, AZ.
  • Safford Ranger District – Aspens in higher elevations above 8000 feet are beginning to fade.  However, some Aspens, Maples, and Dragon Foot have color at the lower elevations, around 6000-7000 feet.  Drive up the Swift Trail aka State Road 266, located in the Pinaleno Mountains near Safford, AZ.
  • Santa Catalina Ranger District – Aspens, Maples, Gamble oaks, and Alders all are showing color. Drive up the General Hitchcock Hwy aka Catalina Hwy aka Mt. Lemmon Hwy; the color appears around 7500’ elevation.  This includes the Marshall Gulch picnic area (7500’) and the Marshall Gulch hiking trail.  This district is located in the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson, AZ.
  • Nogales Ranger District – Some color in the Madera Canyon area, mostly Sycamore trees.  However, they are in varying degrees – some completed and some just beginning in the Santa Rita Mountains, approximately 30 miles southeast of Tucson.  Directions to get there; exit I-19 at the Continental Rd/Madera Canyon exit and drive approximately 13 miles to the entrance of the canyon.  The color can be seen along the road and beside the creek.
  • The colors seem to be fading away rapidly.
  • Estimated peak viewing is now and into the next two weeks.

Tonto National Forest

  • Cave Creek Ranger District – The leaf color in the Seven Springs area has changed a little.  Some of the leaves are light green and yellow.  About 15% color change.  Visitors might enjoy hiking Trail 4.  To get to Trail 4, travel on Cave Creek Rd which turns into Road 20.  The last six miles to the Seven Springs area are dirt road (total miles past the District office is around ten).  Continue past CCC Campground to access the Trail 4 parking lot.  A fee is not required there.  The Needle Rock area foliage has not changed yet.
  • Globe Ranger District – Colors in the Pinal Mountains are at 75% right now.  The best road to see the changes is Forest Road 651.  Recommended hiking routes in this area are Six Shooter Canyon Trail and Ice House Trail.
  • Mesa Ranger District – No color changes to report.
  • Payson Ranger District – Oaks, Aspens, and Sycamores in the 5000-6000 feet elevation range are slowly turning colors.  Horton Creek Trail is the best trail to view these colors.  Colder temperatures will bring on more color changes in the near future.
  • Pleasant Valley Ranger District – fall foliage is at thirty to thirty-five percent in this area.  Aspens are changing on Forest Road 33, the top of section Forest Road 512 at about 6800-700 feet elevation.  Locusts are turning yellow at this same elevation.  Aspens are also changing slowly at the Aztec Peak area.  None of the riparian areas are changing yet.  All trails in this area are good for viewing changes.
  • The estimated peak viewing period is late October and all of November.  Some areas will continue to change into December.

Fall colors are done for the season on the following Arizona National Forests:  Kaibab and Prescott.


New Mexico  

Cibola National Forest

  • Sandia Ranger District – The color is done for the season.
  • Magdalena Ranger District – Colors have maybe another week. For the San Mateo Mountains go west on Hwy 60 to Forest Road (FR) 549 to FR 138 to the Grassy Lookout (Trail 43/Apache Kid Trail). For the Magdalena Mountains go west on Hwy 60 to FR 235 (past Water Canyon camp ground) and head towards Langmuir Lab.
  • Mountainair Ranger District – The color is done for the season.
  • Mt. Taylor Ranger District –   The color is done for the season.
  • 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). There should be color until the first part of November.

Gila National Forest 

  • Black Range Ranger District – Travel along State Hwy 152 from Hillsboro over Emory Pass for a nice display of fall color.
  • Reserve Ranger District – Reports of a lot of color for hikers at higher elevations.  At lower elevations about 50% of the trees are turning so expect peak color next week or the week after.  Roads throughout the district offer visitors a pleasant drive and a chance to view the colors.
  • Wilderness Ranger District –  State Hwy 15 north of Hwy 35 has patches of color and nice views from several overlooks.  Down along the river near Gila Center, cottonwoods are showing yellow.
  • 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 peak next week or the week after.  State Hwy 154 between Pinos Altos and Signal Peak is showing red Sumac, Virginia Creeper and the golden yellow of Cottonwood trees on a background of green mixed conifers.
  • Glenwood Ranger District –  The Bursum Road, State Hwy 159, from Alma to just beyond Mogollon, provides an opportunity for visitors to see aspen and other trees in their foliage.  This area near the Redstone Trailhead (trail currently closed) is especially nice.
  • The Gila National Forest is expecting cooler temperatures by this weekend, so be aware the weather is changing.  Colors will deepen quickly as nighttime temps cool off, so plan your color outings for the next few weeks to see the best color.

Lincoln National Forest

  • Smokey Bear Ranger District –  there is still some color.  Hondo Valley along Hwy 70 east of Ruidoso and Ski Run Road (Hwy 532) off of Hwy 37 north of Ruidoso have the greatest amount of color at this time.  A recommended viewing route is on Ski Run Road (Hwy 532) up to Windy Point (part way to Ski Apache).  Hwy 380 from Carrizozo, east on Hwy 37, south to Nogal, southwest on Forest Road (FR) 400 to FR 108.  Then backtracking to Nogal.  FR 108 is a rough road needing high clearance.  The Cedar Creek area near the Smokey Bear Ranger Station is a great place to hike and view the colors. Because of the Little Bear Fire, the area around Bonito Lake and into the White Mountain Wilderness is off limits to everyone.  Please refer to our website for a map showing that
  • Sacramento Ranger District –   The whole district, and especially the High Country, has excellent color.  Recommended viewing routes:  From Cloudcroft, south on Hwy 6563 (Sunspot Scenic Byway).  Eight and one-half miles down the Sunspot road turn east on to the Rio Penasco road (C17) to Hwy 130, then west and north back to Cloudcroft.  Another viewing route; from Cloudcroft south to Hwy 6563 (Sunspot Scenic Byway) 20 miles to the Sacramento Peak Observatory (elevation 9200 feet).  Also, from High Rolls south and east on Karr Canyon Road (Forest Road 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 all the aspens.  From Cloudcroft east on Hwy 82 turn left onto Hwy 244 travel north and east to the Lincoln National Forest boundary.  Peak is now.
  • Guadalupe Ranger District – The cooler temperatures this week should bring about more color change.

  Fall colors are done for the season on the following New Mexico National Forests:   Carson, Santa Fe

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