A Relaxing, Colorful Fall Stroll Along the Aspen Nature Loop
The Aspen Nature Loop is one of 3 hiking trails, all varying in intensity and scenery, located at the Flagstaff Arizona Snowbowl, a popular winter skiing and summertime hiking destination. Each year, around mid to late October, Snowbowl’s trails liven up with the vibrant yellow hues of the Northern Arizona fall season.
The Aspen Nature Loop, in particular, is the perfect choice due to the many groves of aspens lining the trail. Because the trail is so short (approximately 1.8 miles round-trip) and easy in intensity (just one tiny steep section and the rest is completely flat), you can easily plan several hikes here over the course of the season, experiencing the dramatic change in color as the aspens transform from bright green to a beautiful golden hue.
Hiking the Aspen Nature Loop in autumn
The beginning and end of the trail features the best leaf peeping opportunities due to the dense aspen groves. In addition to the fall foliage, the mountain and meadow views are also spectacular. The aspens surrounding the mountains makes for some really great fall photos – so be sure to bring your camera!
The middle of the trail takes you through ponderosa pines, not as exciting as the fall colors, although the views are still beautiful. Flagstaff is located within the largest continuous ponderosa pine forest in the world. The ponderosa grows at elevations of 6000-8000 feet, making Flagstaff the ideal setting for these pretty trees. The Coconino County National Forest, which surrounds Flagstaff and Sedona, is home to many wonderful trails.
Beautiful mountain scenery…
What are aspen trees?
Aspen trees are known for their characteristic white bark, the beautiful golden hue that their leaves turn during the fall season, and the soft fluttering “quaking” sound that they make in the wind. You can find these beautiful trees throughout the country, although in the West they reside in areas with an elevation of 5000-10000 feet.
Fall in Flagstaff
This time of the year in Flagstaff, you can expect cooler temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s. The temperature is usually at least 10 degrees cooler at Snowbowl than in town, due to the high elevation (over 8000 ft). Be sure to dress in layers (it can feel cold at the start – although you might warm up quickly as you get moving). Also take it easy due to the high elevation.
Flagstaff is known for having the nicest fall season in Arizona, complete with cool temperatures, plenty of outdoor recreational opportunities, and the most beautiful fall colors found in the state (which can be found both throughout town and on the various trails). For Arizona and Southwest residents, Flagstaff is about as good as it gets in terms of fantastic fall getaways, and the Aspen Nature Loop trail is definitely a hike to add to your fall itinerary.
The drive up Snowbowl Road is quite scenic in itself. You will see a lovely mix of both pines and aspens, and the contrast between the green and yellow is quite dramatic. It’s a slow drive uphill, but the picturesque views make the drive almost as exciting as the hike itself!
Best time to hike
Generally the Aspen Loop does not see too many crowds. You will see a good number of people here on fall weekends due to the beautiful fall foliage (a real rarity in Arizona), however, it is never too crowded that you miss out on a peaceful hiking experience. Even better, if you visit on a weekday, you will feel as if you have the entire trail to yourself. For a truly peaceful nature experience, get out here on a weekday morning! Also avoid holiday weekends at all costs!
Directions and Information
The Aspen Nature Loop is located north of Flagstaff on US 180 seven miles and seven miles up Snowbowl Road. There is a large parking lot with no fee to park. Portable toilets are available. Picnic tables are also on site.
Best time for fall colors: Typically mid-late October. Check the Flagstaff Leaf O Meter for seasonal updates.