Fall colors and mountain biking in Northern Arizona

Fall is arguably the best season in Flagstaff — although it is often too brief. Winds tend to be light, daytime temperatures are warm, it rarely rains or snows, and the sky is almost always a deep, rich blue. Add to that the changing colors of the leaves of the aspen trees and a mountain bike trip and it becomes a great day.

Mountain biking through the fallen aspen leaves on the Arizona Trail.
Mountain biking through the fallen aspen leaves on the Arizona Trail.
Hillside of color found along Forest Road 418.
Hillside of color found along Forest Road 418.

 

A few days ago, we biked our favorite section of the Arizona Trail between Forest Road 418 and Snowbowl Road. This is a gradual uphill climb between 8000 and 9000 feet and moves through ponderosa pine, aspen forests, and open meadows. There are even a few bristlecone pines to be found here. Many aspen leaves had already fallen leaving a carpet of color on the forest floor and the trail.

Mountain biking along the Waterline Road.
Mountain biking along the Waterline Road.

 

Having left the bikes behind it's time to walk through the forest.
Having left the bikes behind it’s time to walk through the forest.
The pumphouse located in the Inner Basin of the San Francisco Peaks.
The pump house located in the Inner Basin of the San Francisco Peaks.
Descending the switchbacks through the aspens on the Inner Basin Trail.
Descending the switchbacks through the aspens on the Inner Basin Trail.

 

A week earlier we found ourselves biking the Inner Basin Trail that leads up from Lockett Meadows on the east side of the San Francisco Peaks. The aspen along the Waterline Road were already in full color at this elevation. This section of Waterline Road was spared in the Schultz Fire that burned much of the eastern slopes of the San Francisco Peaks in June 2010. Once in the Inner Basin, we stashed the bikes and hiked up the old roads through many aspen groves.