Last Friday Ryan and I both had a day off together so we took a drive up north to the Mogollon Rim to visit a little creek we had heard much about recently, but have never been to before — Canyon Creek. What we found was a pleasant surprise that we had never expected. Fall has arrived in Arizona!
I mean come on, Arizona doesn’t have season changes, right. At least not like most other parts of the United States. Fall in Arizona is just a hoax isn’t it?
In the Valley of the Sun that may be true, temperatures don’t often change dramatically or quickly enough, and lets face it, we just don’t grow the right kind of trees to see the leaves change color. If the leaves start changing color on your palm tree or saguaro, you have much bigger problems.
That being said, many parts of Arizona do experience season changes and fall color displays can be quite impressive. These are most pronounced in mountain areas and along rivers and creek beds where you’ll find trees like aspen, sycamore, cottonwood, oak, and big-tooth maple that put on a spectacular display of yellow, orange and red hues to welcome autumn to Arizona.
We were lucky enough to witness it first hand on this little adventure, and were surprised to see it starting so early in the season. Bright oranges, reds and yellows were welcoming us to the canyon as we started to head downhill towards the creek. Trees, shrubs and ground cover continued to show off their fall fashion in and around the creek as we hiked.
This area is a hot spot for trout fishing, probably because it is so close to the fish hatchery. We saw a lot of trout swimming around in the pools along the creek, but no fishermen. Actually, I take that back. Ryan did manage to catch one with his bare hands, but it wiggled away when he tried to pull it out of the water.
You will find well-traveled trails that skirt the side of the creek. We went North along the creek approximately 1/2 to 3/4 miles for a nice little out and back nature walk, and to let the pups play in the water. If you are looking for a longer hike, you can go south along the creek for approximately 5 miles before reaching the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.
While you are in the area, you can also stop in at the Canyon Creek Fish Hatchery for a self guided tour. We didn’t get to visit the hatchery this time around as they were closed. The sign said they are open from 8am to 3pm and we were there later in the afternoon.
How to get there: From Mesa, take Highway 89 North to Payson. Turn right on Highway 260 and continue through Star Valley towards Heber/Overgaard. Once you get up onto the Mogollon Rim you’ll see the Mogollon Rim Visitor Center on the right at Old Rim Road. Continue on Highway 260 for approximately 2.4 miles and turn right on Forest Road 512/ Young Road. This is a well graded dirt road. Follow Young Rd for approximately 3.4 miles then turn left on FR 33. Follow FR 33 to Canyon Creek. You will see the Airplane Flat camp ground just before the creek, and just past the creek is the Canyon Creek Fish Hatchery.
Advisory: As of the time of this writing, fire fighters and forest workers are currently battling the Fulton Fire which is burning near this area. Expect traffic delays and road closures. Also, be cautious when on the trails and watch for signs of smoke and fire.