A monoecious tree varying from 6–20m tall, d.b.h. up to 70cm when mature. Older trees have an open, candelabriform crown with an overall columnar shape with branches along most of the length of the trunk. Bark thick, peeling horizontally in small, curled strips, outer bark light grey or yellowish grey.
Adult leaves short and broadly ovate, 3.8–6.5 × 1.5–2.5 (–3)mm, appressed, densely overlapping, with a blunt rounded apex; stomata on lower surface of adult leaves proximal only
Female seed-cones terminal on very short branches, ovoid, 3 × 2.5cm, densely covered with recurved, acute bracts, tips up to 6mm long, maturing from January. Male pollen-cones up to 5.5cm long, terminal, borne in the upper part of the tree, appear mid July to August.
Leaves on the penultimate branches shorter than the foliage leaves and so reduced that they are shorter than or only just exceed the diameter of their attachment bases; this is also found in A. bernieri and A. biramulata. From both these species, and from A. humboldtensis, A. scopulorum can be distinguished by its 4-faced (not 3-faced) adult and juvenile leaves, and the male cones always orientated in line with the subtending branch (not initially erect, then pendulous).