Fall foliage in Arizona along the Arizona Trail is pretty spectacular.  Warning: This post has lots of photos because it was really hard to choose from all that we took! Enjoy!

We hadn’t yet seen any this year so we took our Sunday to head up north and take in the Fall colors and all the wonderful scents that go along with it.  I seriously could not get enough of the beautiful Aspen Tree-scents in.  I was wishing there was a way to replicate it without the fake “we tried to replicate this into a candle, but it still smells fake” smell.

AZ Trail by Snowbowl

Our hike this particular day took us along a portion of the Arizona Trail. (Though, the original plan was to do the Kachina Trail.  The source we were using told us 6.6 miles from the turnoff and by our speedometer, 6.6 lands you at the Arizona Trail.  We discovered by accident after our hike that the Kachina Trail is further along by about a 1/2 mile and it’s well-marked.)

If you aren’t familiar with the Arizona Trail, it is a continuous trail that stretches over 800 miles from the Mexico border to Utah and connects deserts, mountains, and canyons, across Arizona.  You can start at a trailhead for it at many points throughout Arizona (or even spend days/weeks/months going from one border to the next and backpacking/camping along the way if you prepare properly enough).

So, 6.6 miles from the 180 turnoff onto Snowbowl Road gets you to an unmarked trailhead.  If you park and then take the trailhead, you can either go straight or veer to the left.  We opted to veer to the left.  I’m so happy that we did because we’ve been wanting to complete the Arizona Trail piece-by-piece.  This wound up being the first piece of it for us and wow was it a gorgeous sight to see during fall foliage!  There were a ton of people taking family photos, senior portraits, and probably selfies for social media.
AZ Trail by Snowbowl

AZ Trail by Snowbowl

While the red and orange-colored leaves are my favorites, the yellow is still pretty amazing.  The yellow was overflowing, bursting with color,  and really just made for such a special hike that we couldn’t get enough of.

This part of the trail was fairly flat (slight elevation gains) and the trail itself had little turbulence, though it was a single track trail.  Hikers, runners, bikers, and horses are all allowed. And, we certainly saw them all– including those riding horses.  This does appear to be a very popular mountain biking trail.  We also saw a lot of hikers that had their dogs with them as it is a dog friendly trail.  I would say a good 40% of hikers had their dogs with them (a majority were off leash).

We ran into a very nice couple that let us know if we went far enough, we’d come across Bismarck Lake and if we went even further, we’d come across some neat rock formations.  We pretty much hiked to the what we believed to be the rock formations, turned around to head back, and then found a beautiful rock to sit on and have a snack.  When we stop to snack or rest and just take in the beauty of nature, my husband calls it watching TV. So, we sat there a few moments and “watched TV.”

We watched clouds roll in and lurk over the mountain while gradually getting darker.  I suspect a storm was building but we never got caught in it. Perhaps we left before it let loose.

AZ Trail by Snowbowl

Aspens on AZ Trail by Snowbowl


It was so peaceful.  A storm was lurking somewhere and we could hear thunder in the distance.  Clouds began to formulate and encircle the peak of the mountain which made for such a serene and picturesque view as we sat there munching on our snacks.

On the way back, we decided to also veer off to add another trail in called the Aspen Loop. Out and back including the Aspen Loop, our hike totaled 8.91 miles according to my Garmin vivoactive.  Considering we stopped and took a TON of photos on the way in, our time wasn’t too shabby.  We did this hike in 3:37 (sans the 15 minutes for a snack).  Here’s the hike profile that my Garmin captured:
AZ Trail by Snowbowl

AZ Trail by Snowbowl

The Aspen Loop provided just what it sounds like…a loop hike through a whole lot of aspen trees.  Considering aspen’s are my favorite tree, I still could not get enough of them. I love how they flutter in the wind, change colors, and produce a strong, fresh, beautiful smell.  In reality, how can you NOT love aspens?

AZ Trail by Snowbowl

Aspens in AZ

Once we finished our hike, we headed up towards Snowbowl (about another 1.7 miles or so) and had a beer at the Agassiz Lodge.  This was pure people-watching-entertainment because (as snowboarders) we found it funny that all these people in line to take the lift and see the fall foliage would not walk up to catch the next chair after a chair had carted folks away.  In skiing/snowboarding, you start going to the pick-up spot as soon as the people in front of sit down on the chair.  Surely, these folks (without snow gear on and no snow on the ground) could more easily do the same?  We saw ONE couple do this.  Every one else watched folks get carried away on a chair, let the next chair pass them empty, and then headed to catch a chair.  No wonder the line was so freaking long.  Every other chair was left empty.  Hmm.  Like I said, good people watching.

We finished our beers and headed down the hill to get some food before heading down the big hill back to Phoenix.  We really couldn’t help but reminisce about what a beautiful hike this had been and what a wonderful day.  The weather was perfect, people were friendly, and we got in a great hike of over 8 miles.

AZ Trail by Snowbowl

AZ Trail by Snowbowl

If you get up there in the next week or so, you’ll likely be able to catch the vibrant colors that are in full effect.  Don’t wait too long or you’ll likely miss out and this is not something you want to miss.

If you aren’t necessarily located in Arizona and won’t be visiting anytime soon, I recommend checking out a lengthy trail like this one in your vicinity.  The longer trails that stretch across an entire state or region are awesome because you often get to see so many different views of the region you’re hiking.  Bootbomb.com has a fantastic list of 50 lengthy trails in the USA that will give you some great ideas for a backpacking adventure such as this!  Click here to access the Bootbomb.com’s Top 50 Long Distance Hiking Trails in the USA!  Enjoy!


Have a great weekend, friends!

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