Peaking foliage is worth a peek

From the aspens on the North Rim to the cottonwoods along Oak Creek, leaf-viewing opportunities are peaking at the higher elevations and moving into the lower elevations through the end of the month.

Along with the yellow of aspens and cottonwoods, Northern Arizona's colorful species include maples, oaks, elm, ash, poplar and willow. Closer to the ground are an abundance of wildflowers and bright red sumacs and ivies.

Though described as "turning," leaves in the autumn are really showing their true colors, no longer masked by green chlorophyll which trees stop producing as the days get shorter and cooler.

Some of the most spectacular color shows ongoing are in the San Francisco Peaks around Flagstaff and on the North Rim where, according to ranger Jennie Albrinck, colors are at their peak.

Those who want to visit the North Rim should keep in mind, however, that as the height of the fall season passes, staff there are preparing to close down visitor services for the winter. The park itself remains open until snow closes Highway 67, usually some time in November.

The North Rim Visitor Center closes at noon on Monday, Oct. 16, with the last regular ranger program being offered the day before. Entrance and campground fees will also be collected through the end of the day on Oct. 15.

Advance reservations for the North Rim Campground will no longer be taken, but a limited number of campsites with rudimentary services, such as portable toilets, will be available on a first-come, first-served basis until snow closes highway access to the park.

Hikers and cross-country skiers may use the park's group campsites in the winter with a backcountry permit, available at the South Rim Backcountry Office Monday-Friday from 1-5 p.m. or at the Visitor Center desk at Pipe Springs National Monument.

Grand Canyon Lodge, the service station and related visitor services will close before noon on Oct. 16, with the last meal being breakfast.

The final day for mule rides on the North Rim is Friday, Oct. 13. The Kaibab Lodge, four miles from the park boundary, closes after breakfast on Nov. 16 at 10 a.m., weather permitting, and the Country Store, located outside of the park boundary, remains open until early November,

As of Sunday, the Kaibab Plateau Visitor Center at Jacob Lake is open on weekends only.

Arizona Department of Transportation officials have assured the park staff that Highway 67 into the North Rim will remain open to public travel through Nov. 15, but cautioned that after that, the road could close for the season on short notice due to major storms and heavy snowfall. After Nov. 15, contact NPS at 638-7870 in advance to check on the status of Highway 67.

During daytime visitation, from Oct. 16 until final closure of State Highway 67, only emergency services will be provided by the NPS.

Gas and diesel fuel are available five miles north of the park at the Country Store through early November. Jacob Lake Inn, restaurant and gas station, 44 miles from the park, remains open year-round.

For information, call the park at 638-7888.


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