Posted by: Sandy Steinman | October 23, 2014

Arizona and New Mexico Fall Colors 10/23/14

Southwestern Region National Forests have the following new Fall Color Reports for 10/23/14


Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest

On the Black Mesa Ranger District the Mogollon Rim has peaked for fall colorregarding the aspen trees and they are starting to lose their leaves. The aspen trees at the lower elevations still have beautiful color and are perfect for photo opportunities.  The oak and willow trees also offer a splendid variety for fall color.Recommended viewing routes are located on Hwy. 260 between Heber-Overgaard and Payson at mile post 282. Turn north toward Woods Canyon Lake onto Forest Road (FR) 300. To see willow and oak trees travel down scenic FR 86 from Heber to Black Canyon Lake. Be sure to check out the Mogollon Rim Visitor’s center for a majestic view onto the Tonto National Forest.

Be sure to bring a camera to capture the scenic views. Remember to dress appropriately to weather conditions and to wear proper footgear if planning a hike. Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated! Schedule viewing on clear days during optimal sunlight from 8am-4pm and make sure to stay on the trail. If you pack it in, pack it out!

Coconino National Forest

This report for the Coconino is from 10/16/2014.Fall colors are at their peak in the high country around Flagstaff and along the Mogollon Rim.

Suggested sites near Flagstaff:

Hart Prairie (Accessed via Hwy. 180 and Forest Road (FR) 151 and/or FR 418, which also loops around the north end of the Peaks for a pretty view)

Lockett Meadow (Hwy. 89 north approx. 12 miles north of Flagstaff to FR 418/420 junction, then FR 552) The Inner Basin Trail is a good hike from here.

Kendrick Park Watchable Wildlife Trail/Kendrick Mountain Wilderness (via Hwy. 180 north of Flagstaff.

Suggested Drives on the Mogollon Rim District (north of Pine and Strawberry near Blue Ridge):

FR 321 aka “Dane Ridge” (Hwy. 87 to FR 95 next to the Mogollon Rim Ranger Station, right on FR 96, right on FR 321)

FR 300 aka “Rim Road” or “General Crook Trail” (Hwy. 87 or Hwy. 260 to FR 300, 2.5 miles east of Hwy. 260, 10 miles north of Strawberry)

Not too much has changed yet in the lower elevations around Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona. Their fall colors tend to trail a week or two behind.

For more information click on the Coconino National Forest link above.

Coronado National Forest

This report for the Coronado is from 10/16/2014.On the Santa Catalina Ranger District the drive up Mt. Lemmon out of Tucson has plenty of fall color to offer. The road to Mt. Bigelow at mile marker 19.5 is also showing colors. Nice hikes include Sunset Trail, Aspen Trail, Aspen Draw Trail, and Marshall Gulch Trail.

On the Safford Ranger District the leaves are now changing but heavy rains last week may have affected the number of leaves on the trees. The best color can be found on Mt. Graham above 9,500 feet in elevation.

On the Douglas Ranger District a few aspens changing in the South Fork Area.  It was noted by an employee that from Monte Vista Peak Lookout, little color was showing. In 1-2 more weeks maybe some fall colors will be more evident. At that time try the Crest Trail by Fly’s Peak. Some roads in the area are still closed due to recent storm damage. Please call the Douglas Ranger District before going. 520-364-3468

Kaibab National Forest

Fall colors are peaking on all three of the Kaibab National Forest ranger districts. On the North Kaibab Ranger District many of the trees have already peaked.  On the Tusayan Ranger District,approximately 100% of the trees have changed color. Color changesare expected to continue until around October 31. On the Williams Ranger District, fall colors continue to peak.On the east side of the North Kaibab Ranger District, Forest Road (FR) 612 and FR 610 are good spots to observe fall colors. Approximately 15 miles northwest of FR 22 and FR 610, visitors may also observe fall colors within the vicinity of Three Lakes and Mile-and-a-Half Lake near FR 217 and FR 811. Other roads with significant color change on the North Kaibab Ranger District include: FR 22, FR 462, FR 641, FR 758, FR 759, FR 760, and Arizona Highway 67.

The North Kaibab Ranger District’s Rainbow Rim Trail offers some spectacular views of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. There are five vista points from which to view the North Rim from within the Forest boundaries and all are accessible to Forest visitors.

On the Tusayan Ranger District, the Arizona Trail along the Coconino Rim, which begins at the Grandview Lookout Tower on FR 310, as well as Tusayan Bike Trail #4 are the best areas to view color change in the oaks. Visitors can also view plenty of oak trees changing colors along FR 310 (high-clearance vehicles are recommended, but not necessary). Also the Arizona Trail (which begins 1.5 miles south of Desert View Drive at the Grandview Fire Lookout Tower) offers forest visitors with great views of the changing oaks.

On the Williams Ranger District, the aspens on Bill Williams Mountain are peaking.

For more information click on the Kaibab National Forest link above.

Prescott National Forest

  • There are currently no fall colors to report

Tonto National Forest

Peak viewing at higher elevations of the Payson, Pleasant Valley, and Globe Ranger Districts is late October to mid-November.So far we are seeing the most color along riparian areas on the Payson and Pleasant Valley Ranger Districts. The cottonwoods, sycamores, and willows are turning yellow along the East Verde River, Tonto Creek and Christopher Creek, color change is estimated at 80 percent.

Recommended drives and hikes on the Payson Ranger District:

The East Verde River: take Hwy. 87 north through Payson, turn right on Forest Road (FR) 199 (Houston Mesa Rd). After seven miles the road begins to follow the river. Turn left on Control Rd (FR64), then turn right on FR 32. After two miles the road begins to follow the river again, continue on FR 32 to the Washington Park Trailhead.

Tonto Creek: from Payson go east on Hwy. 260 for 16 miles. Just past mile marker 269 turn left on FR 289. This road follows Tonto Creek for four miles and ends at the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery.

Christopher Creek: from Payson go east on Hwy. 260 for 19 miles, turn left on FR 284 and follow it to See Canyon Trailhead.

Recommended hiking routes include: The Col. Devin Trail #290 from the Washington Park Trailhead, Horton Creek Trail #285 from the Horton Trailhead on Tonto Creek Rd. (FR 289), and See Canyon Trail #184 from the See Canyon trailhead.

Recommended drives on the Pleasant Valley Ranger District:

Oak trees are turning color along State Route (SR) 288, (FR 512) from Hwy. 260 south to Young, AZ.

Cottonwood, willow, and alder trees are turning color along Canyon Creek in the northeast corner of the forest. Color change is estimated at 80 percent. From Payson go east on Hwy. 260 for approximately 33 miles, turn south on FR 512 for approximately 3 miles, turn left on FR 33, and travel 4.5 miles to the Airplane Flat Campground.

Sycamore trees along Workman Creek, Rose Creek, and Reynolds Creek on the south end of the district are starting to turn. Color change is estimated at 50 percent. These riparian areas can be accessed off State Route 288 (FR 512) south of Young, AZ.

For views in the Roosevelt Lake area go north on State Route 288 at its junction with Hwy. 188 for approximately 22 miles.

From Payson go east on Hwy. 260 for approximately 33 miles, turn south on FR 512 for approximately 50 miles to the Workman Creek/Rose Creek area.

Recommended drives and hikes on the Globe Ranger District:

Pinal Mountains: oaks and small pockets of aspens are beginning to turn color in the Signal Peak area. Maples are just starting to turn red in the upper reaches of Icehouse and Sixshooter Canyons. These areas can be accessed from FR 651 adjacent to Pinal and Upper Pinal Campgrounds. From Globe follow Jess Hayes Road to the junction of Icehouse Canyon Road (FR 112) and Sixshooter Canyon Road (FR 222). Continue on FR 112 for 2 ¼ miles to the junction of FR 55 and FR 112. Take the right fork and continue for 2 ¼ miles on FR 55 then turn left on FR 651. Proceed 10 miles on FR 651 to the Pinal Campground area.

Recommended hiking routes include: Icehouse Canyon Trail #198 from FR 651 adjacent to the Pinal Campground, and the Sixshooter Canyon Trail #192 from FR 651 adjacent to the Upper Pinal Campground.

Recommended drives on the Cave Creek Ranger District:

Seven Springs Area: sycamore, cottonwood, and willow trees in this riparian area are estimated at 40 percent color change. From Scottsdale go north on Pima Road and turn right on Cave Creek Road, which turns into FR 24. Continue north on FR 24 for 18 miles to the Seven Springs Area.

Please contact the ranger district of the area you plan to visit for current road conditions and other updates.  Visit the Tonto National Forest Website for contact information.

Cave Creek Ranger District, 40202 N. Cave Creek Rd., Scottsdale, AZ 85262, 480-595-3300

Globe Ranger District, 7680 S. Six Shooter Canyon Rd., Globe, Arizona 85501, 928-402-6200

Payson Ranger District, 1009 E. Hwy 260, Payson, Arizona 85541, 928-474-7900

Pleasant Valley Ranger District, P.O. Box 450, FR 63, Young, Arizona 85554, 928-462-4300

   New Mexico

Carson National Forest

Fall colors are done for the season on the Carson National Forest.

Cibola National Forest

On the Sandia Ranger District the best viewing is at LasHuertas and in the Pine Flats area. Go east on I-40 to theTijeras exit (exit 175). Veer left and go north on Hwy. 14 about 8 miles and turn left on Hwy. 536 (the Crest Highway). At the Balsam Glade picnic area, turn right on 165 and drive to the LasHuertas picnic area. To get to Pine Flats take I-40 toTijeras and go straight through the traffic light and head south on Hwy. 337 about 7 miles.On the Magdalena Ranger District most of the aspens are changing. The oaks seem to be changing from green to brown with not much color.

Viewing routes on the Magdalena district include:

From Socorro take Hwy. 60 West to Forest Road (FR) 235 (Water Canyon) in the Magdalena Mountains, then up to the Langmuir Observatory. Another drive off Hwy. 60 west of Magdalena is south on State Road 168 to FR 549 and then on FR 138.

From NM Hwy. 60 between Magdalena and Socorro go on FR 235 to  Water Canyon. Then go up FR 235 to timber peak area along the crest (Timber Peak Ridge), 9,000-10,000 ft. Please note that FR 235 is extremely rough due to wash out and heavy equipment on the road; there is little turn around space. If viewing from this road, please take great caution.

Another good route is Kelly Road just west of the Magdalena Ranger Station where you head south toward Kelly Mine and Hop Canyon. Trail 25 and 25A are nice hikes in Hop Canyon.

For a good hike, take trail #70 from Water Canyon and go up the mountain toward the observatory in Magdalena Mountains.

On the Mt. Taylor Ranger District, the colors are at their peak now and this may be the last weekend to see the color change. On Mt. Taylor, take FR 547 to FR 239, and then FR 453 to get to America Canyon. In the Zuni’s take FR 480 through Zuni Canyon to Ojo Redondo and PO Flats.

On the Kiowa & Rita Blanca National Grasslands peak colors are expected in late October and early November in Mills Canyon. Take I-25 north to Wagon Mound, then east on Hwy. 120 to Roy, and north on Hwy 39 to Mills. The canyon entrance will be on the left, 210 miles from Albuquerque. High clearance vehicles are recommended and four-wheel drive will be necessary if it has rained recently. 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 that 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.

Fall colors are done for the season on the Mountainair Ranger District.

Gila National Forest

This report for the Gila is from 10/16/2014.The leaves are starting to change on the Gila National Forest in the higher elevations with peak viewing expected the 3rd or 4th week of October for most of the Forest.

In the Glenwood Ranger District aspens and oaks are in full color at the highest elevations and an abundance of wildflowers are blooming at lower elevations so some hillsides are currently a bright yellow color and are visible along U.S. Highway 180. The trees along the San Francisco River are just starting to turn; those will peak later in the month.

Panoramic views can be seen from U.S. Highway 180 at the Aldo Leopold Vista and from pull-offs and campsites located at various points along the highway. Continuing north, turn right onto New Mexico Highway 12 to the Reserve Ranger District. This intimate state highway, winds around Largo Canyon and the San Francisco River, leading visitors up and into the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

Golden colors are beginning along the Mimbres Valley and along State Highway 35. The Gila River area around Forks and Grapevine campgrounds are also experiencing vivid colors. State Highway 15, accessed only from Silver City, New Mexico or from the east on New State Highway 35, offers spectacular views of the Gila Wilderness and ends at the Gila Cliff Dwellings Visitor Center.

State Highway 15 from Silver City can be very narrow at certain points and is not recommended for trailers over 20 feet in length. These visitors may take an alternate route on State Highway 35 that intersects with State Highway 15 leading up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. Given the shear drop-offs along the way, it is well worth the ride for breathtaking views of the oldest, most celebrated Wilderness in the country.

Due to the extensive flood damage along State Highway 152, fall color viewing is not possible in the Black Range Ranger District.

Lincoln National Forest

Fall colors on the Sacramento Ranger District have peaked. Only very isolated pockets of color still exist.On the Smokey Bear Ranger District the color is peaking now and will soon be done! This week is probably the last week to catch the gold up high!  You may also see the trees change color in town down Paradise Canyon from Sudderth, Carrizo Canyon Road off Sudderth heading to the Inn of the Mountain Gods from Ruidoso, and some off Mechem Drive, but they are peaking now and starting to lose leaves. The Highway 70 corridor from Tularosa heading east towards Roswell is beginning to change to gold. This drive from Bent/Mescalero through the Hondo Valley should be beautiful with golden cottonwoods for the next 2 weeks.

For a good drive head to the Ski Apache Area. From Ruidoso, take Highway 48 north up the mountain, turn left at Highway 532 (the road to Ski Apache), and drive up to Windy Poin.t Park there for the best view of the aspen turning gold.

If you want a nice hike, the Crest Trail #25 is a rim trail and has some wonderful views.  The trail is actually over 21 miles long and begins near Monjeau Lookout, goes by Ski Apache, and ends in Nogal Canyon.  From Highway 532, take a right at FR17, and drive up to the Crest Trailhead or catch the trail near Ski Apache or from Nogal Canyon.

At the lower elevation and warmer climate of the Guadalupe District, fall colors are beginning to emerge. The best viewing period will be end of October and into mid-to-late November.

Most of the colors can be seen off of FR 69A, as it winds to the Dark Canyon lookout tower.  At this point, a look towards Black River Canyon will offer color bursts across the landscape.

Colors will soon be peaking in the area off of FR 3008, up to Trail 45, looking towards South McKittrick Canyon.

Travel less than one mile along Forest Service Road 69 (from the east) for more viewing of fall colors.

Some roads may not be passable due to damage that occurred from recent flooding.  Please assess road conditions at all times and make every effort to ensure that your trip/visit will be a safe one!

Santa Fe National Forest

The leaves arepast their peak in the higher elevations, but there is still some color in the lower elevations on much of the forest.On the Espanola Ranger District the aspens have fully shown. With the cooler weather, the majority of leaves in the higher elevations have gone gray and lost their leaves while the trees in lower elevations still have color. One of the best viewing locations in the Santa Fe area is along State Route (SR) 475, the highway to the Santa Fe Ski Area. This highway starts at the edge of Santa Fe, at the Bishop’s Lodge Road/Artist Road Junction. State Route 475 ends at the Santa Fe Ski Area. One can drive back the way they came, or take FR 102 down Pacheco Canyon to Tesuque and then back to Santa Fe.

On the Cuba Ranger District the leaves have changed and are starting to drop off. This may be the last week to view any color changes. From Highway 550 in Cuba, take Highway 126 going east. Along SR 126 the colors are beautiful for the next 15 miles from Cuba. You can also take the drive on FR 103 off 126 all the way to the Coyote boundary on FR 315. Before taking the drive, it might be good to check with the Cuba Ranger District at (575) 289-3264 for color reports.

Although we are well past our peak colors in Pecos Canyon, there are still some very pretty patches of aspens that can be viewed from Winsor Road, Jack’s Creek Road, and at the Jack’s Creek Campground/Trailhead. For those willing to hike, we recommend Beatty’s Trail #25 out of the Jack’s Creek Trailhead. This trail does not go through groves of aspens, but there are some pretty viewing spots for fall colors along the way. Once you get to the 25/257 junction (about three miles from the trailhead), you can look down the Pecos River drainage, which is still very colorful. Hiking to the top of the next hill, about another 0.5 mile, gets you to some very colorful groves of aspens and pretty views with lots of color.



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