Autumn in New England is a stunning experience to behold. But fall RVing in the Southwest is an equally impressive leaf-peeping journey. If you haven’t experienced the change of seasons in Nevada, Arizona or New Mexico, it’s not too late.
Fall in Love with Southwest Leaf-Peeping
I had no idea what fall is supposed to look like until I went RVing to New England in the fall. As a child growing up among the evergreen landscapes of Southern California, the only way I knew when seasons were changing was by paying attention to department store displays. Years later, I figured out how to tell it was fall when my husband and I took a leaf-peeping excursion to Maine. Until then, I had never personally experienced the joy of fall colors painting my surroundings. That breathtaking East Coast experience left me yearning for another fall experience, but with better weather and taller mountains. When we took a fall RVing trip to the Southwest, I finally found that and so much more.
Discover a Rainbow of Autumn Hues in New Mexico
The state that pledges allegiance to the chili pepper has a wide variety of terrain There’s a lot more to see than the flat moonscape comprising the Chihuahuan Desert of southern New Mexico. With over 88 different mountain ranges towering above the state’s iconic sandstone cliffs and canyons, you’ll have plenty of high-altitude locations to embrace the season. One of my favorites is in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Just park your home on wheels at any Santa Fe RV park. They’re all great and so close to town. Then take a driving tour along the Santa Fe National Forest Scenic Byway. It’s one of the most scenic destinations in New Mexico any time of year, but especially in fall. Originating at the historic downtown Santa Fe Plaza, this 15-mile curvy mountain driving experience quickly ferries you up and out of the city. You’ll find yourself in a brilliantly colored landscape of golden quaking aspens, trickling waterfalls and meandering hiking trails that take you deep into the heart of fall.
Nevada’s Best Fall Destination
One of the best-kept fall secrets in Nevada is a long journey that’s always worth the drive. Located at 7,000-feet elevation, Great Basin National Park is a remote RVing destination in Nevada that’s an oasis in the desert any time of year. Upon your approach, you’re greeted by the 13,063-foot summit of Wheeler Peak. It towers above the park like a sentinel, ready to feed your fall foliage desires. In stark contrast to the state’s familiar flatlands, all of Great Basin campgrounds give you easy access to high desert hiking trails and scenery.
Take a gentle stroll through tall aspen groves exploding in blazing autumn hues of red, gold and orange. Or go underground and explore the stunning Lehman Caves. And you can’t leave without seeing the ancient Great Basin Bristlecone pine, one of the oldest trees on earth, estimated between 4,700-5,000 years old. Camping inside the park is rustic and geared toward smaller RVs, but larger rigs can find full-hookups just beyond the park entrance in the town of Baker.
Fall in Arizona Is the Best Time of Year
For those who like it hot but not too hot, fall in Arizona is a perfect choice. Escape from the warmer flatlands of the Sonoran Desert into the higher reaches of the Verde Valley. Here, cooler fall temperatures greet eager visitors ready for pumpkin spice lattes and hot apple cider. The change of season is easy to spot along Oak Creek Canyon, a meandering scenic drive between Flagstaff and Sedona. Along this route, you can explore trails like the West Fork of Oak Creek. It’s a showcase of wildlife and leaf-peeping hotspots that strut their stuff well into November. The Verde Valley makes a great base camp, where nearly a dozen Good Sam Parks offer front-door access to Arizona’s coolest autumn experience.
New England in the fall is something everybody should experience at least once. But when you can’t make the drive, a showcase of fall foliage and mild temperatures combine for an unforgettable autumnal escape into the stunning high altitude deserts of New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona.