4 fantastic northern Arizona hikes for fall colors

The temperatures are mild and the aspens are aglow, making October the perfect month for hiking.

Fall colors are peaking right now in northern Arizona, including the North Kaibab.

Photo/Kaibab National Forest

Fall colors are peaking right now in northern Arizona, including the North Kaibab.

Whether you're looking to enjoy a scenic hike near Grand Canyon Village or open to adventure a bit farther away, there are several fall hikes waiting to wow you.

From Grand Canyon National Park, you can head to your destination on foot for a day hike. Driving a few minutes — or a few hours — can open up new hiking opportunities waiting to be explored.

1: Grand Canyon - Hermit Trail to Santa Maria Spring

Distance: close

Difficulty: moderate

Length: 3.5 miles

Dog-friendly: no

How to get there: Take the Red Route shuttle bus (free) to Hermit's Rest, or drive there yourself after Dec. 1. The trailhead is located behind the gift shop. To get to the spring, head right at the Waldron Trail junction and follow signs about half a mile to the spring.

What you’ll see: The trail is steep and is not regularly maintained. Views include sweeping sights across the canyon and a refreshing oasis at Santa Maria Spring. Plant and animal fossils can be seen in the red and white rock layers. A variety of small wildlife, including rock squirrels and ringtail cats, are easily identifiable. The trail is secluded and doesn’t experience much traffic — it’s an excellent place to take sunrise or sunset photos.

What to bring:

  • Much of the trail is exposed to direct sun — hats, sunglasses and sunscreen are recommended.
  • Binoculars and/or camera.
  • Water or devices to treat water at the spring.
  • Food and salty snacks.
  • Rangers recommend dressing in light layers, as the rim can be chilly early and late in the day.

What to know before you go:

  • The trail is steep, rocky and is not regularly maintained – hiking poles are recommended.
  • Allow yourself twice as much time to ascend as you took to descend.
  • Water is available year-round at Santa Maria Spring, but it must be treated by either filter or chemical devices.

On the way:

  • Hermits Rest gift shop.

2: Kaibab National Forest - Red Butte Trail

Distance: nearby

Difficulty: moderate

Length: 2.5 miles

Dog-friendly: yes

How to get there: From Tusayan, take Highway 64 south for about 12 miles. Turn left on FR 320, a maintained dirt road. After 1.5 miles, turn left onto FR 340, then right onto a spur after about three-quarters of a mile. Travel about half a mile to the trailhead parking area.

What you’ll see: Red Butte is one of the most easily identifiable features rising above the Kaibab Plateau. The trail will take you to the summit of Red Butte, where you can overlook almost the entire Tusayan Ranger District as well as the south rim of the Grand Canyon in order to see a swath of fall color and other interesting topographic features. Red Butte trail is suitable for children and pets.

What to bring:

  • Dog leash and items to clean up after your pets if applicable.
  • Water for you and your dog.
  • Binoculars and/or camera.
  • Food and salty snacks.

What to know before you go:

  • There is plenty of parking space at the trailhead.
  • The trail is mostly forested, offering shade for most of the day.
  • The trail is a gentle ascent until that last mile, when the climb becomes more steep.
  • Red Butte is sacred to the Havasupai Tribe.
  • This trail is very remote — rangers recommend carrying a map. Do not rely on cell phone coverage or GPS systems.

On the way:

  • Town of Tusayan
  • Ten X Campground

3: Williams, Arizona - Sycamore Rim Trail

Distance: far

Difficulty: easy

Length: up to 15 miles

Dog-friendly: yes

How to get there: From Tusayan, head south on Highway 64 about 45 minutes to I-40. Head east on I-40 and take exit #167, Garland Prairie Road, south for about 2.5 miles until it becomes Forest Road 141. Follow FR 141 for 10 miles, keeping straight at the intersection. Turn left on FR 56 and travel about a quarter of a mile to the parking area.

What you’ll see: Sycamore Rim Trail offers an environment of ponds, streams, cliffs and deep canyons and beautiful reds and yellows in the fall with the changing of the leaves. The trail forms a 12-mile loop with five different access points along it, and is fairly level. Sycamore Falls, located on the southwestern portion of the loop, is about six miles from the trailhead.

What to bring:

  • Dog leash and items to clean up after your pets if applicable.
  • Water for you and your dog.
  • Binoculars and/or camera.
  • Food and salty snacks.

What to know before you go:

  • There is plenty of parking space at the trailhead.
  • The trail is rocky in some areas, so footwear with good traction is recommended.
  • The trail is fairly level, but the last portion of the loop, heading clockwise back to the trailhead, gains around 800 feet in elevation at KA Hill.
  • Sycamore Falls is likely to be at full capacity only during the spring or exceptionally rainy periods.

On the way:

  • Town of Williams
  • Town of Valle
  • Planes of Fame Air Museum

4: North Rim: North Canyon Trail

Distance: farthest

Difficulty: difficult

Length: 5 miles

Dog-friendly: no

How to get there: From Tusayan, head into the park and take the Highway 64 exit for Desert View/Cameron (60 miles). At Cameron, head north on Highway 89 (56 miles) and turn left onto Highway 89A at Bitter Springs. Follow 89A for 36 miles to turn left on Buffalo Ranch Rd (you'll see an information kiosk). Follow Buffalo Ranch Rd. for 17 miles to FR631. Turn left and go 3.5 miles to the trailhead.

What you’ll see: North Canyon Trail begins at the entrance to the northern part of the Saddle Mountain Wilderness. The trail descends through mixed conifer and oak thickets into North Canyon, leading back and forth across a small stream as it follows the canyon down. There is a perennial stream in the upper reaches of the canyon, and birds, flowers and plants exist here that are seen nowhere else on the Kaibab Plateau. Fall colors are on full display right now.

What to bring:

  • Water for you and your dog.
  • Binoculars and/or camera.
  • Food and salty snacks.
  • Rangers recommend dressing in light layers, as the rim can be chilly early and late in the day.

What to know before you go:

  • This trail is very remote - rangers recommend carrying a map. Do not rely on cell phone coverage or GPS systems.
  • Native American petroglyphs are visible in an alcove that is the first major landmark on the trail.

On the way:

  • Desert View Watchtower
  • Town of Cameron
  • Town of Bitter Springs
  • Marble Canyon
  • Colorado River

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