Autumn is a great time to enjoy the beauty of the American Southwest. The desert heat has mellowed, the crowds have thinned, and the seasonal change puts nature’s beauty on full display. So pack up your tent and sleeping bag. It’s time to explore.
Pick Your Location
Whether you crave a mountain retreat, a high desert escape, or a riverside hangout, you have plenty of options. Mid to late fall is just after peak season, so you won’t have as much trouble snagging a spot, but the further in advance you can make your plans, the better.
Consider the Weather
By mid-fall, you’ll have missed the better part of the monsoon season, leaving you with good odds for perfect crisp fall weather. But autumn can also bring strong winds and occasional atmospheric unpredictability. At higher elevations, snow is a possibility, especially late in the season.
Your gear needs to be weather-ready and properly set up in order to keep you comfortable. Consider a mummy bag to keep you snug during those dry, chilly desert nights. For a buffer against the cold, hard ground, a foam sleeping pad offers better insulation than an air mattress. Make sure your tent is properly staked, driving the stakes in at a slight angle.
In windy areas, avoid setting up near objects that could turn into projectiles during strong gusts, and position your tent so that the wind flows around you, rather than coming at you full-force and head on.
Prepare for the variable weather by dressing in layers: a base layer keeps you dry and snug, an insulating layer to keep the chill off, and a shell layer for weather protection.
If you plan to be physically active during your adventure, keep the layers light and moveable. You want to maintain a full range of motion and to remove layers quickly and easily to suit your temperature-regulation needs.
Celebrate the Season with Some Outdoor Exploration
Fall is a festive time, and in the Southwest especially, the world comes to life after that hot, punishing summer. It’s the perfect time of year for a hike. From iconic Sedona to lesser-known but still beloved climbs and hikes in Utah, you’ll find the unique qualities of the Southwest fall. The reawakening color, the stunning geological formations, the frosty mornings and bright, clear days.
Observe Plants and Animals
Earl fall is a good time for wildlife viewing in the deserts as animals make their winter preparations. Many species are nocturnal, but others, like eagles and hawks, chipmunks, snakes, and lizards do maintain a diurnal schedule.
Fall is a great time for birding, as migratory patterns bring colorful flocks to the region.
But of course, as autumn rolls around, the real star of the show is the riot of fall leaves. If you think New England is only place to enjoy this transition, think again. Perhaps one of the best surprises in the Southwest is its amazing fall color.