Scenic Fall Drives in Arizona


by: Lorraine Campos

For Arizonans, especially Valley residents, fall spells one thing: RELIEF. We can finally experience a break from 110 degree temperatures. The evenings are finally cool enough for a light sweater or jacket. While we don’t really get to feel the magic of seasons changing the way other states do, experiencing the seasons is only a quick drive away.

Perfect weather conditions mean putting that sleek convertible you bought when you moved here to good use. What better way way to celebrate the best time of the year in the Grand Canyon State, than with a trip through the state’s beautiful scenery to a destination where the colors of fall have started to blossom?

Cancel those weekend plans at the office, pack a small suitcase, fill up your tank with gas, put the top down and drive to one of these picture perfect destinations.

Destination: Phoenix to Cottonwood

Take the Black Canyon Highway from Phoenix to the I-17 Freeway going North for 78.4 miles. Take Exit 287 towards AZ 89A/Cottonwood/Payson.

The road from Phoenix to Cottonwood is a peaceful one. Cottonwood is about 103 miles from city life and nestled in the heart of Verde Valley. Cottonwood has nearby attractions such as Cliff Castle Casino, which is joined by a hotel and restaurant.

Cottonwood is also the home of the Blazin M Ranch Wild West Adventure, which offers tourists wagon rides, shooting galleries and a mechanical bull ride — a glimpse into life in the wild west. While staying in Cottonwood or nearby Clarkdale, you can also jump on the Verde Valley Railway. This offers Phoenicians and tourists the opportunity to visit a ghost ranch in Perkinsville, and learn about the history of the area as passengers are delighted with views of multicolored leaves throughout “the other Grand Canyon.”

While you’re in Cottonwood, visit to Alcantara Vineyards. These vineyards were the first winery on the Verde River and to this day, Alcantara Vineyards are one of the largest vineyards in Arizona. Treat your taste buds to a glass of
wine while you listen to the sound of the nearby river and the rustle of the jewel toned leaves in the wind. Bring your own picnic basket, and you’ll definitely appreciate the fall weather and the serenity of this peaceful getaway. Alcantara Vineyards is perfect for a girls trip, or a romantic getaway with your significant other.

For more information on Verde Valley tourist attractions, visit:, and for information on Alcantara
Vineyards, visit:

Destination: Cottonwood to Sedona

From Cottonwood, take AZ-89 North for 16.7 miles.

Sedona is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Cottonwood. You will feel temperatures dip slightly as you drive up the Interstate into the higher elevations in Red Rock country. You’ll know you’re entering Sedona because your surroundings dramatically change: the mountains are a magnificent shade of reddish-orange and the trees are every shade of emerald, amber, and ruby.

Sedona draws tourists from all over the world. Some seek the healing powers of the vortexes found throughout the red mountains and creeks, others are active yogis, mountain bikers, hikers travelers and nature enthusiasts.

With many landmarks to visit in the area like Oak Creek, Slide Rock, Tlaquepaque and the downtown shops, consider making this an over night stay.

Our pick is the L’Auberge Resort and Spa. Nestled in the center of Sedona, this resort offers guests patios with a spectacular view of the mountains. It includes all the amenities of a luxury hotel amid the serene ambiance of nature.

For more information about Sedona, or any of the tourist attractions mentioned, visit and to make
reservations at L’Auberge Sedona, visit: or or follow them on Twitter at

Destination: Sedona to Flagstaff

From Sedona, take the AZ-89 highway North for 24.7 miles until you get to Flagstaff.

There are many twists and turns on the way to Flagstaff from Sedona. But like any place worth going, the ride might not always be smooth.

You might want to bundle-up or at the very least, zip up a hoodie or sleek leather jacket with the hood down for this drive. Flagstaff gets the occasional sprinkle of snow on the ground as early as October, so it can get a little chilly.

Home of the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks and popular snowboarding and ski destination Snowbowl, Falgstaff is a charming city with a small town feel.

Breathe in the aroma of the pines and the clean, crisp mountain air. See wildlife, that sometimes even walking around near your hotel or resort or alongside the road. If you spend the night in Flagstaff on Saturday night, you can wake up in the morning on Sunday and enjoy the Flagstaff Farmer’s Market, which is held every Sunday in the fall. Visitors and locals alike enjoy the fresh fruits (grown locally and regionally) vegetables, honey, fresh flowers, and other delicious homemade treats. Located in the Flagstaff City Hall Parking Lot, you can pick up all your fresh organic produce and take a part of Flagstaff home with you to enjoy during the week.

While you’re in Flagstaff in Autumn, it’s also a perfect time to appreciate the great outdoors, such as nature trails in the Aspen
Nature Loop, located near the San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountain peaks in Arizona. Flagstaff affords tourists and locals the opportunity to snap some pretty amazing photos!

For more information, visit

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