Fall Color in the Desert

It is generally assumed that the desert of the southwest has two colors: green and brown. The green would be the desert during the rainy season and brown would be the rest of the year. However, there are “islands” that rise above the desert floor that reach up into other climate zones by the nature of their altitude. One such island is the Chisos Mountains, located centrally within Big Bend National Park. This past weekend I went on a quest to photograph the magnificent fall foliage of the bigtooth maple trees, found mostly in upper Boot Canyon above Boot Spring at an elevation of just under 7000′. My timing was perfect, the maple leaves having just turned to their magnificent technicolor shades of red, orange and yellow.

The spires rising above the Pinnacles Trail, access to the high canyons of the Chisos Mountains.
Brilliant red berries of the Texas Madrone tree, along the Pinnacles Trail.
A small grove of bigtooth maples along the Pinnacles Trail at an elevation of about 6700′.
Just after crossing Boot Creek, entering upper Boot Canyon with its stand of bigtooth maples.
The trail follows the creek upwards through the maples.
One of the taller examples along the trail.
The trail is carpeted with a mosaic of reds, oranges and yellows, having been just recently blown down by an overnight wind.

So, if you thought you had to go to Maine, or the Smokey Mountains for fall color, look closer to home. You just might find what you seek out in the desert.

Published by texasflashdude

Photography and Travel, specifically adventure travel and backpacking in remote North America, give me an excuse to stay outside. If kayaks, bikes, backpacks, Jeeps, archeology, geology and wildlife can be included, all the better. Having spent my life working in the fashion and photography industries, I love the unusual, the spectacular, and the beautiful. God has given us a wonderful world in which to live, and I try to open others’ eyes to its wonders. I have shared nearly 50 years of this indescribable wonder with my wife, Jodie, and we go everywhere together. I hope you will share some of our journey with us.

4 thoughts on “Fall Color in the Desert

  1. I had no idea bigtooth maples grow there — or if I ever knew, I’d completely forgotten it. I’ve always assumed Lost Maples was the only spot to see their autumn glory — provided you can get in, of course. The last two times a friend and I tried to visit there to see fall color, it was going to be a two hour or more wait parked alongside the road even to get into the place. I have a feeling there weren’t quite as many people here. Your timing certainly was perfect, and every photo is a gem.

    1. This is one of those well-kept secrets of our state. It does require a rather difficult day hike to get to them…it’s a hike of 4.5 miles one-way with a climb of 1600 feet to get to Boot Canyon. You’re also climbing at an altitude of 7000′, so flat-landers have a little trouble with the altitude. That said, it’s certainly worth the hike. I was here three weeks ago and there was a beautiful black bear drinking from the creek that runs through Boot Canyon. I spoke to a young man in the canyon who had tried to get a campsite in Lost Maples Park several months ago, and it was already full. I’ve tried to hit the color change in this canyon for the past three or four years, and always seem to be a week early or a week late, so I really appreciate your comments about the images, Linda. It was a hoot.

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