The fall months, with the last days of Indian summer, offer the hiker and other outdoor enthusiasts perfect weather conditions to view the changing colors of the leaves before the winter snows. In the northern tier of states, the fall foliage has already reached its peak with the rainbow of colors of the numerous species of deciduous trees. Obviously, Arizona, far to the south, is a bit later with its peak colors happening within the next two weeks.
Arizona has extreme elevation changes where the climate can vary from the alpine forest to the arid desert valleys. This can dictate the time frame when the peak colors of the limited leafy trees that exist within the state change colors and drop their leaves. Payson, at 5,000 feet elevation, and being in the area of the foothills of the Mogollon Rim, which can rise to 7,500, has a number of small canyons which harbor ash, maple, oak, aspen, sycamore and cottonwoods that can create brilliant color displays during this time of year.
In the northern region of the Tonto National Forest, the heavy ponderosa pine growth covers most of the hillsides and steeper canyons, but in the bottom, where there may be year-round water, is where the leafy trees thrive.
These heavy canopy areas have a variety of deciduous trees, which can create a surreal painting of the myriad of colors at this time of year.
These secluded areas can be well hidden because of the heavy timber of the pines on the slopes on both sides of the canyon. To the casual observer, it may be just another steep Arizona canyon, but a little exploring can reveal the true colors of the fall, which can produce a photographer’s dream.
This may be a bit of “trial and error” hiking, wandering along a canyon floor, observing the kinds of trees that are growing in the area. If this is a first-time adventure, I would highly recommend taking a friend as company and being prepared for hiking in the Arizona outdoors.
I have found a couple of these perfect canyons which have a variety of leafy trees that are visited annually at this time of year so that my family and friends can enjoy the bright fall colors.
For a short hike of a mile or two, a day pack that can carry a couple of bottles of water, snacks, a sweatshirt, first aid kit, and of course, a camera, can make the afternoon complete. A lightweight hiking shoe that can perform on uneven terrain or maybe a few boulder-hopping episodes will provide an extra measure of traction when traversing a creek bed on the canyon floor.
Be aware that in many places cell phone service is very sporadic, so make sure you tell someone where you are going, a little planning can go a long ways in safety and comfort.
Don’t miss out on the perfect fall weather and the array of colors that await you in many of the secluded canyons in the Rim Country.
This weekend, take a friend for a short hike and enjoy the great outdoors, God’s creation.