The autumn season prepares you to break out those boots, have you trying all pumpkin-flavored drinks and desserts, finding your next Halloween costume, binge on scary movies, and bring you the excitement of the leaves’ colors changing. If you’re visiting or living in Arizona, you probably know just how the majority of the state has a desert landscape. You might think that it’s impossible to find those nostalgic feelings of autumn, especially since you can’t find some of those colored leaves. Luckily, up north in Flagstaff, you can be blessed to discover pine trees and colored leaves there. One way to experience it is Aspen Corner, a crisp elevated park connecting you to trails to see the beautiful aspen trees, adding grand touches to autumn.
What are aspen trees?
Aspen trees are known to grow 20 to 80 feet in height and they do not live for more than 150 years as that’s the average maximum length they grow. They grow from cold places with cool summers and cannot thrive in shade. Their bark color ranges from white, green-white, yellow-white, and gray and they’re relatively a lot thinner than conifer trees. They stand out from the conifer trees that can be found surrounding them. They’re also referred to sometimes as Quaking Aspen and Trembling Aspen.
Aspen Corner is located in the San Francisco Peaks, the largest range of mountains in the state of Arizona. It’s also included in the Coconino National Forest. Getting here requires a drive through a mountain of paved roads where it’s mostly dominated by views of trees but every now and then, you can get a peek of the alpine scenery below and mountains from across on the drive (like Humphrey’s Peak, Agassiz Peak, Kendrick Peak, to name a few). It is right by the Snow Bowl Road, the skiing and snowboarding resort (yes, you can ski and snowboard in Arizona!).
When arriving, you might find many people getting their photographs taken as it’s very popular for photography and seeing the scenery here in the fall, we can see why. It’s also great for mountain bikers, runners, and of course, hikers. Aspen Corner is used a lot for altitude training since the elevation is about 8900 to 9000 ft. If you are coming from sea level, the change may be drastic for you and you can experience altitude sickness as you take a walk around, so the best thing to do is probably stay the day before around Flagstaff to get acclimated to it and stay hydrated.
But, during the fall/autumn season, visiting Aspen Corner is delightful. Usually, from late September to early October, the golden aspen leaves bloom from the aspen trees. The ferns around the park also change into a golden color. If you want to discover wildflowers, they also grow there but during the summertime.
Hiking Aspen Corner
As I mentioned before about the high altitudes found in the San Francisco Peaks, gentle hiking can be easily spotted on Aspen Corner. The thorough hike from beginning to end is 7 miles long but you do not have to do that. There are many connecting trails that split in different routes and you have the option to turn back around if you do not want to keep walking.
For me, I mainly wanted to walk around the different splitting routes to get close up glimpses of all these aspen trees since I had never seen them up close before, only from afar. They’re really beautiful and add that in with the other plants to be seen by them. Considered as one of the beautiful hikes in Flagstaff and making a great alternative to the Inner Basin Trail, which was actually the Flagstaff trail of my original hiking plan but at the time, it was completely closed off upon driving there and it is a 45 minutes drive from Aspen Corner! Definitely was a waste of time. I googled where else I can find Aspen trees and I discovered Aspen Corner.
So, here’s another tip: If a trail you want to hike is closed, google a trail that looks similar around the area! You’ll be surprised that maybe there will be an alternative and you won’t be disappointed driving so far to hike.