Fall hiking and biking trails you don’t want to miss in Coconino County

Fall hiking and biking trails you don't want to miss in Coconino County

Photo courtesy of Coconino National Forest, Arizona

By Teresa K. Traverse

October 19, 2023

Most of metro Phoenix heads up north for the cooler and refreshing temps in the summer, but fall is also a great time to visit northern Arizona. If you’re searching for foliage, this is where you’ll find it. Specifically, the sprawling 1.8-million-acre Coconino National Forest is an amazing place to look for leaves ablaze in red, yellow, and orange. The leaves typically peak in early October, but you can find gorgeous scenery throughout the month.

If you’re looking to time your visit just right, be sure to check out the LEAFometer before you hit the road. Below we’ve listed a smattering of trails that offer autumn leaves. If you’re looking for more hiking trails and places where you can admire the autumn scenery, check out the Forest Service’s list of recommendations.

Sedona’s West Fork

5765 AZ-89A, Sedona

Fall hiking and biking trails you don't want to miss in Coconino County

Photo courtesy of Coconino National Forest, Ariz

Sedona is home to plenty of iconic hiking trails, and West Fork is one of the most noteworthy of the bunch, running alongside Sedona’s main tributary, Oak Creek. In the fall, the trail lights up with bright fall foliage. You might spot red and gold leaves as you hike beside the towering red rock cliffs of the canyon. Be prepared to get a little wet as you cross Oak Creek. Most people will turn around at the 3-mile mark, as that is where the trail is no longer maintained, but it does continue on in all its rough-and-tumble glory for a total of 14 miles. If you attempt to hike beyond the 3-mile mark, know that it’s a strenuous trek that will require plenty of preparation and gear.

Of note: Try to get to the trailhead early, as this is a popular trail and the parking lot fills up by about 9:30 a.m. on a daily basis, according to the Forest Service.

Aspen Nature Loop Trail

9300 N. Snow Bowl Road, Flagstaff

Fall hiking and biking trails you don't want to miss in Coconino County

Photo courtesy of Coconino National Forest, Ariz

Located on Arizona Snowbowl, the Aspen Nature Loop Trail beckons with tall aspen, spruce, and pine trees decked out in seasonal colors. This trail also showcases stunning views of Flagstaff’s mountains. The moderately challenging 2.5-mile hike has a 300-foot change of elevation. As an added bonus, you might even see birds of all stripes including flickers, jays, juncos, and warblers.

Of note: This trail runs 9,295 feet above sea level. Be prepared for the higher elevation with sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water.

Lockett Meadow Inner Basin Loop

FR 552, Flagstaff

Fall hiking and biking trails you don't want to miss in Coconino County

Photo courtesy of Coconino National Forest, Ariz

Lockett Meadow Campground is one of the best places in Flagstaff to see fall foliage. Aspen trees—all aglow in yellow during the fall—surround this place and make this an idyllic spot to see in the autumn. One of the biggest challenges with the Inner Basin 3.5-mile loop trail? The road heading out to it is currently closed. If you want to reach it, you’ll have to hike 3 miles in—then out the same way. Your reward for this long trek is stunning fall scenery that includes views of the San Francisco Peaks.

Parsons Trail

FR 131, Clarkdale

Fall hiking and biking trails you don't want to miss in Coconino County

Photo courtesy of Coconino National Forest, Ariz

Part of the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness, the 4-mile one-way Parsons Trail winds through a red rock canyon and ends up in Parson Springs. Be prepared for multiple creek crossings. If the water is too high, it’s wise not to try to cross it. Look forward to seeing red sandstone canyons complemented by vibrant yellow leaves on the trees.

Snowbowl Road

9300 N. Snowbowl Road, Flagstaff

Consider biking up Snowbowl Road if you’re looking for a tough ride that also serves up plenty of fall foliage. This paved road winds up the mountain and ends at the parking lot. Be prepared for a steep and scenic hill climb. Here, you can catch the Snowbowl Scenic Gondola and travel up to the top of the mountain peak.

Rim Road

FR 300, Payson

If you’re searching for jaw-dropping views of the Mogollon (pronounced mug-e-yawn) Rim, driving along Rim Road is always a good idea. Rim Road, aka Forest Road 300, is a paved paradise located just off Arizona 87. You can drive along this road for a little over 20 miles. Stop along the way to admire the views, which should include foliage this time of year. You can also hike or bike along the paved sidewalk that runs along this must-see Arizona site. Best of all? This flat trail makes for an easy jaunt.

Bismarck Lake Trail

FR 151, Flagstaff

Fall hiking and biking trails you don't want to miss in Coconino County

Photo courtesy of Coconino National Forest, Ariz

As you might have guessed, Bismarck Lake Trail circles the lake it’s named after. The 1.5-mile trail ends at the Arizona National Scenic Trail and is located on the west flank of the San Francisco Peaks. This out-and-back trail is relatively flat and makes for an easy hike or bike ride. Look forward to views of the San Francisco Peaks and colorful leaves on the surrounding aspen, fir, and pine trees.

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Author

  • Teresa K. Traverse

    Teresa K. Traverse is a Phoenix, Arizona-based writer and editor. Her work also has appeared in national print outlets including Weight Watchers, Bust and Parenting magazines and on sites like Tripadvisor, Wine Enthusiast, SFGate, Brides, Rachael Ray Every Day, Bustle, Racked, ForRent.com, WeddingWire, Refinery29, The Daily Meal, Oxygenmag.com, USA Today and Fast Company. She's the managing editor of Sedona Monthly. In her spare time, she loves hiking, reading magazines and spending quality time with her long-haired Chihuahua, Rocket. Visit teresaktraverse.com to check out more of her work.

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