Best Fall Colors? Head To The Desert Southwest

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

Aspens thrive in the high desert along the rim of the Grand Canyon, especially on the North Rim’s Kaibab Plateau. The scenic roads heading to the Grand Canyon alone are worth the trip. But hiking through golden aspens and watching the sun set over the canyon is an unforgettable experience. More info here.

If you go: Head to the North Rim where the aspen groves are abundant. The first two miles of the Bright Angel Trail offer excellent colors of aspen and scrub oak. Be aware the lodge closes October 15th each fall. grand-canyon

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

This gem is one of Edward Abbey’s favorite Southwest landscapes. The soaring canyon walls of Escalante’s canyon network are streaked with desert varnish and are beautiful in their own right. Pair the canyon walls with the snakelike seams of trees as they change color and you have something truly special.

If you go: Park at the Egypt Bench off Hole-in-the-Rock Road and hike into Escalante Canyon, where there are lots of changing cottonwood trees. From here you can also hike into the incredible Neon Canyon, a slot canyon that holds The Golden Cathedral. Info here.

Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona

Just outside of Sedona lies one of Arizona’s treasures, Oak Creek Canyon. Idyllic reflecting pools, gurgling cascades, and subway-like overhangs make this one of Arizona’s most beautiful canyons. The golden sandstone walls of this canyon make a perfect backdrop to the magnificent color that turns up every fall.

West-Fork-of-Oak-Creek-Canyon

If you go: Park along Highway 89A north of Sedona between mile marker 384 and 385. The trail to “West Fork of Oak Creek” starts here, where you will be immediately immersed in beauty. Info here.

Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

This Martian landscape holds sweeping views from close to 10,000 feet to the desert below. The abundant swaths of aspen that grow in the high country here make this often-overlooked destination a place worth putting on your bucket list.

If you go: Park at Rattlesnake Trailhead, just north of the Cedar Breaks Amphitheater, and hike down into Ashdown Gorge. Start at over 10,000 feet, hiking through Aspen groves and descend 3,500 feet into canyon country. It’s a full spectrum of Utah in one hike. Info here.

–Eric Hanson is a photographer, writer, and adventurer who just returned from seven months of trekking in South America. Find him on Instagram @ericrhanson.