Love seeing the leaves turn shades of orange, red and brown? You’re in luck. The Southwest is home to a variety of wonderful locations that are perfect for seeing the leaves change. Here are some of the best.
With 73 percent of the land in the Montrose, Colo. area dedicated as public space, this is a great place to watch the leaves change. Even better, hop on a bike and see it from two wheels. Montrose offers both road biking and mountain biking options and a plethora of local roads and trails that are perfect for seeing the sights. Not sure where to start? Drop by the Montrose Visitors Center at 1519 E. Main St. and pick up a map of the local biking trails. Need gear? Try Cascade Bicycles, 21 N. Cascade Ave., where you can rent everything from bicycles to gear. Popular routes include Town Loop, Black Canyon Out and Back, the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, the Lower Spring Creek Trail and Montrose Bike Park.
Lost Maples State Natural Area, Texas
Located in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, Lost Maples State Natural Area is revered as one of the best places in the state to view the change of seasons. Each fall, thousands of visitors make the pilgrimage to the park to see the maple, oak and walnut trees change color. Want to camp? Be sure to reserve a spot for your family early, because campsites are frequently at capacity in October, when the leaves are at their most colorful. On your way out of town, drop by the nearby Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, where a hike to the top of the famous granite dome will give you workout and the views of the state’s surrounding Hill Country will take your breath away.
Coconino National Forest, Arizona
The leaves in Coconino National Forest change as early as mid-September, so if you want to get a jump on your fall foliage viewing, this is a great place to start. Expect to see sumacs turn red, maples turn fuchsia and aspens turn a brilliant shade of gold. The season peaks here the second week of October, but colors can last as late as mid-November. In addition to being a beautiful place to take in the leaves, this national forest is also perfect for adventure seekers who are looking to spend a fun weekend in the great outdoors.
Cedar City, Utah
Rated one of the “eight great and unusual fall foliage destinations” by Peter Greenberg, travel editor of NBC’s Today Show, Cedar City, Utah, impresses with its incredible colors. Expect to find dramatic displays of color in places such as the Cedar Breaks National Monument, Alpine Ponds Trail, Kolob Canyon and Utah 148. While you’re there, enjoy the small town charm of Cedar City, which will instantly transport you to the days of yore with its laidback vibe, quaint shops, friendly people and down-home restaurants.
Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico
If you make an annual fall visit to Santa Fe, Taos or Albuquerque, you’ll want to be sure to include the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in your visit, as the foliage here is among the best in the state. If you visit in September or October and head toward the Santa Fe Ski Area, expect to find aspens in orange, gold, yellow and browns. You can even take the ski area’s lifts to the top of the mountains and hike back down for a better view. This is an adventure into nature you won’t want to miss.
Great Basin National Park, Nevada
With the summer scorch giving way to cool breezes, autumn is a wonderful time to visit Nevada. And if you do, you’ve got to include a visit to Great Basin National Park, where the aspen trees transform into gorgeous golden wonders come September and October. Make an excursion up Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive for the ultimate viewing experience.