Leaf Peeping Flagstaff Style

An open field surrounded by golden aspens with a mountain range in the background.

The answer to the question, “Are the trees turning in Flagstaff yet?” is an emphatic “Yes!” The combination of an end of summer, dropping temps and shorter days makes for great fall-foliage viewing from now until late October. The colors start changing first in the high country where right now the vibrant contrast of aspen trees crowned in flaming yellows set against the dark green of spruce and Ponderosa pine keeps your finger firmly glued to the shutter of your camera or smart phone. The color show continues when foliage at lower elevations turn later on during the month.

Leaf Peepers are heading to the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, where they can enjoy the dazzling transformation via a variety of modes: hiking, biking or driving. While enjoying the great outdoors, please remember to follow trail etiquette, mask-up and social distance as appropriate.  After their foliage adventure, they are relaxing and comparing field notes at a plethora of fun Flagstaff eateries or breweries. Want to join the fun? Here are a few suggestions of where and how to enjoy the autumn color show:


Hike or bike the Aspen Loop Trail from Snowbowl Ski Resort, located 14 miles from historic downtown Flagstaff. The 2.5-mile loop takes you through aspen, spruce and pine groves and delivers spectacular views of the forest and volcanic fields below. Want more? The loop trail meets the Arizona Trail 0.9 miles from the trailhead. Take the Arizona Trail north (right) about 2.5 miles to a sign indicating that Bismarck Lake is .02 mile to the west (left). Follow that spur trail to the small lake that is located in a large meadow at an elevation of 8500′. When not watching for foliage colors or the awesome views of the San Francisco Peaks, keep your eyes peeled for elk, deer or raptors.

From Flagstaff drive north on US 180 for 7 miles to Snowbowl Road. Drive 7.4 miles on this paved road to the lower parking lot (no. 9) of the Snowbowl facility. The Aspen Loop trailhead is located at the north end of the parking lot. Learn More

A family hiking through a field toward golden aspen trees in Flagstaff

© 2012 Kerrick James.


Road trippers will love scouting the colors from the windows of their vehicles. For an easy, Sunday-drive-type of experience, follow Snowbowl Road up the mountain to Aspen Corner. You’ll find parking and many local families taking photos for their holiday cards in front of backdrops of brilliant aspen trees. Afterwards, continue driving up the mountain to enjoy refreshments or a scenic gondola ride at Arizona Snowbowl Resort, open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through mid-October. Learn More

From Flagstaff drive north on US 180 for 7 miles to Snowbowl Road. Drive to sign reading “Aspen Corner” and parking area.

If you have four-wheel drive and are up for extra foliage adventure, circumnavigate the San Francisco Peaks byway of the backcountry. From Flagstaff drive north on US 180 for 9.8 miles to Forest Road 151 (Hart Prairie Road). Turn right onto the gravel road which wanders through aspen and pine stands around the west side of the San Francisco Peaks. Proceed to Forest Road 418 and go east (right). FR 418 will turn into Forest Road 420. Watch for a sign that directs you to US Highway 89. Turn south (right) onto US Highway 89 to go back to Flagstaff to complete the circle tour.

Après Leaf Peeping

After hiking, biking or driving, celebrate your autumn adventure by joining the others checking out Flagstaff’s notable restaurant and bar scene. Mask-up and social distance as necessary to enjoy many of these gathering places that are creating seasonal offerings.

1. Toast your leaf-tracking success with a Pumpkin Piehole Porter at Historic Brewing Company, a family-owned, locals hang-out.

2. Grab a bite to eat with your Comet IPA seasonal brew at award-winning Lumberyard Brewing Company located in a historic Flagstaff building. Comet is an earthy hop variety known for its “wild American” aroma.

3. Check out the all-new, upscale Silver Pine Restaurant at Little America Hotel where the pastry chef is offering a special pumpkin dessert every week through the end of October. 

4. Savor the flavors of the autumn treats at the Sweet Shoppe where owner, Jennifer Rolley, creates the latest seasonal fudge recipes and candy apple creations.

Unstoppable Stacey

A family of four and their dog hiking through the aspen trees in fall.

© 2012 Kerrick James.

About the Author

Stacey Wittig

Stacey Wittig

Stacey Wittig’s adventures have led her up the Inca Trail in Peru eating fried caterpillars, across the plains of Spain enjoying steamed barnacles, and through the vineyards of Cinque Terre sipping Chianti Classico. “The Grand Canyon State is a remarkable place to call home,” declares the wandering writer, who writes from her home in Flagstaff.

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