Arizona fall foliage features brilliant hues and spectacular scenery. The changing colors of leaves in autumn is one of nature’s most beloved rites of passage -- and makes for one of the most popular and inexpensive getaways for families. As part of LeafQuest -- a MapQuest series helping leaf peepers across North America find easy and rewarding destinations -- here are three recommended spots for viewing Arizona fall foliage. — Nick Romano
Rim Road 300
What better place to enjoy Southwestern-style foliage than the land that inspired Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage? Arizona’s Rim Road 300 (aka the Mogollon Rim 300, due to the fact that this forest route runs along the dramatic Mogollon Rim escarpment) contrasts the red shades of the dramatic canyon with the fall colors of the changing leaves. In 1990, the area fell victim to what was named the “Dude Fire,” which scorched the surrounding area and killed six firefighters. Visitors will be able to see some of the damage along Rim Road 300, as well as the autumnal hues in the plant life that emerged from the remnants. Start your trip in Payson, home of the Northern Gila County Historical Society.
700 S. Green Valley Parkway, Payson, AZ 85541 | Get Directions
Oak Creek Canyon
With the Grand Canyon looming so large, Arizona's Oak Creek Canyon is always the bridesmaid. But a trip through the canyon on Highway 89A -- between Flagstaff and Sedona -- is breathtaking, particularly toward the end of the year, when the trees are ablaze with the splendor of fall. The air is tinted with ripe apples, a legacy of the many orchards that once stood in the area. The canyon itself is contained within the Coconino National Forest, which offers a gorgeous variety of hues and scenery in its aspens, sumacs and maples. And make sure to stop at Red Rock Crossing, just south of Sedona, to photograph Oak Creek, where you catch fiery fall colors reflecting on the waters with a backdrop of the eye-popping Cathedral Rock.
331 Forest Road, Sedona, AZ 86336 | Get Directions
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
The cooler temperatures of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim allow its lush forest and plant life to flourish in the Arizona weather. The “North Rim is THE place to be for a radiant display of fall colors put on by the area’s deciduous trees," notes GrandCanyon.com. Leaf lovers will enjoy the Uncle Jim, Widforss and North Kaibab trails, all of which take hikers through alpine forests dotted with quaking aspen and maples to breathtaking views of the canyon.
Highway 67, North Rim, AZ 86052 | Get Directions
Slideshow of images from an Arizona autumn.
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Want other great fall-foliage destinations? Check out more LeafQuest.