We don’t need to have orange, red and yellow leaves to make a fall weekend in the woods magnificent.
They do contribute, to be sure, but our lush green pines and the dignified trunks and branches of trees that have already dropped their leaves combine to create a landscape of transition, an environment that’s morphing between the abundance of summer and the tenacious survival through winter.
The forest continues to pulse with energy as wildlife migrates or digs in, vegetation conserves its energy and water flows and sustains it all.
Our Prescott forests enchant us throughout the year, attracting hordes of “forest bathers,” but here are some of the spots where the gravitational pull of fall is especially captivating.
Lynx Lake Recreation Trail — This easy 2-mile loop, half of it paved and wheelchair-accessible, lets everyone get in on the joy of seeing its aspens turn to gold, forming a bright line between the limpid lake and the ponderosas towering above them. It’s easy to get to as well, just 2.5 miles down Walker Road from state Highway 69.
Spruce Mountain — Farther south on Walker Road near Groom Creek, this peak’s huge stands of Gambel oak ensure lots of gorgeous fall color and a more challenging hike, with two superb trails leading you toward the summit. The 9-mile Groom Creek Loop No. 307 is the most-used and has a few more “luxuries,” while the 3-mile (one way) Smith Ravine Trail No. 297 is reachable from the Lynx Lake Recreation Area and passes through even more oaks. Use unpaved Spruce Mountain Road at the east end of the trail for the last 1.4 miles to reach the summit.
Goldwater Lake — This beloved alpine lake off of Senator Highway, 4 miles south of Prescott, has fishing docks and is stocked with rainbow trout, largemouth bass, sunfish, channel catfish and crayfish, along with amenities like a picnic area, playground and boat ramp. Kayaks, canoes and boats with electric motors are allowed.
Willow and Watson lakes — These are more known for the color of their granite boulders than their fall color, but they both have wooded areas along their shoreline, breathtaking vistas and are stocked with rainbow trout, largemouth bass, sunfish, channel catfish, crayfish and crappie.
White Spar Campground — Options narrow after Oct. 31, when Prescott National Forest closes large campgrounds at Lynx Lake and Groom Creek for the winter and scales back services to others, but those that remain open can be invigorating portals to autumnal woodlands. White Spar’s location in a forest of pines, oaks, manzanitas and more at the gateway to state Highway 89’s hairpin drive down to Wilhoit makes it an ideal base for autumnal adventures that’ll leave you with tons of photos and even more vivid memories.