Where to Find the Most Beautiful Fall Colors in New Mexico
If you haven’t gotten out to view the fall colors in New Mexico, yet, you’ll want to do it soon! The leaves start changing color in September and reach their peak by mid-October. Of course, the fall colors in New Mexico will continue into November, and the lower elevations won’t peak until later this month. Still, your chance to see the full glory of the fall season is quickly passing.
While you’re making plans for October, be sure to include a hike, road trip, or train ride to see the awe inspiring views that are unique to New Mexico in fall. Where should you go? We’re glad you asked!
The Best Fall Colors in New Mexico in the Carson National Forest
The Carson National Forest is home to the famed Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, a loop of over 80 miles, focused around the highest peak in New Mexico, Wheeler Peak. The loop starts and ends in Taos, which has a reputation for being one of the most beautiful locations for fall colors in New Mexico. It was named as New Mexico’s Best Fall Foliage Small Town by Country Living Magazine.
For an enchanted scenic drive, travel North from Taos on Highway 522 to Questa. Then, head East on Highway 38, through Red River and Elizabethtown, until you reach Eagle’s Nest. This is where you get to start the best part of the drive, going South on Highway 64, through Angel Fire, and right back to Taos. The trip is 85 miles and can take three to six hours, depending on whether you take your time to experience the spectacular views.
If you plan your trip for the end of October, you could even be in Taos for the Taos Mountain Balloon Rally from October 27th to 29th. Much smaller than the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, this event includes roughly 35 hot air balloons. That makes it possible to viewers to get much closer to the action. While in Taos, you can enjoy your stay at the best bed and breakfast in the whole state.
Another exciting option for viewing the fall colors of the Carson National Forest is to book a ride on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. This ride starts in Chama, New Mexico, travels through the Carson National Forest, and ends up in Antonito, Colorado. You want to book early to get a seat, but even if you’re too late to enjoy this unique experience this year, you can prepare for next year.
Incredible Fall Colors in New Mexico in the Gila National Forest
The Gila National Forest in Silver City is one of the wilderness treasures of New Mexico. The Gila Wilderness was America’s first designated wilderness, a place undisturbed and untroubled by technology.
This area is incredible for many reasons, including the variety of campgrounds and trails. In fact, the Gila National Forest is home to one of New Mexico’s most popular locations, the Cosmic Campground. This is an International Dark Sky Sanctuary with some of the darkest starry skies in the US.
More popular in the fall are the scenic byways with a view of the Gila National Forest. These include the Geronimo National Scenic Byway and the Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway.
Magical Fall Colors in New Mexico in the Santa Fe National Forest
The Santa Fe National Forest is a wonderful place to view magical fall colors in New Mexico with ease. This is a particularly popular option because the gorgeous gold color of the aspen and the many overlooks , scenic vistas, and panoramic views from the Santa Fe National Forest Scenic Byway.
This scenic byway takes you from Santa Fe’s historic downtown plaza, through a route between the Jemez Mountains and the Sangre de Cristos, and all the way back to the Santa Fe Ski Basin. Those who wish to take a quick trip to see the fall foliage can head right to the Ski Basin for a glorious view. The Vista Grande Overlook is among the most breathtaking of views that you’re going to experience along the way.
It’s also a good idea to visit the Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge, while you’re in the area. You can experience the fall colors in New Mexico and the wildlife of the area too. October is actually one of the best times to visit if you want to see a variety of migrating birds along with the beautiful fall foliage.
The Santa Fe National Forest is also a great place for horseback riding through the four different designated wilderness areas. Yet, many will enjoy the unique experience of viewing the fall colors in New Mexico from the comfort of an outdoor hot spring near Jemez Springs. In this area, the red wild rose and Virginia creeper blend perfectly with the yellow cottonwoods in fall.
Unique Fall Colors in New Mexico in the Cibola National Forest
The Cibola National Forest is yet another beautiful place to enjoy the fall colors in New Mexico. If you haven’t seen the views from the Fourth of July Canyon, South of Albuquerque, then you’ll be stunned by your first experience of the unique autumn color combination. This is where you can see the orange, red, and purple hues from the Rock Mountain maples and Bigtooth maples.
A scenic drive is a great way to enjoy the fall colors in New Mexico in the Cibola National Forest. But, one of the best ways to make the most of your autumn experience is to travel above the canyons to the Sandia Peak observation deck. You can do this by booking a ride on the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway, an aerial transport that overlooks the forest, the Manzano Mountains, and the Rio Grande Valley.
Let us know if you’ve enjoyed the fall colors in New Mexico from any of these locations. What other places do you recommend for an autumn excursion in New Mexico?