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Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Taos, Northern New Mexico Fall Foliage and Colors Tours

Things to do / Travel Guide

Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado Fall Foliage Tours and Routes

If you are in the northern New Mexico and southern Colorado region in mid-September through early October, don't miss a short trip to the southern Colorado Rockies for colorful fall foliage. The foliage experience in the Rockies is characterized by the golden colors of the aspen trees, mixed with the greens of the evergreen trees, and possibly some snow-capped mountain tops. Maples, oaks, elms, cottonwoods, and other trees participate in the display to a lesser extent, in various locations.
Far away from the major population centers, these areas are not at all crowded, even during peak foliage season and even on weekends. The views are at least as spectacular as those in the areas further north.

In New Mexico, the national forests along with the wilderness area near Santa Fe and Taos offer several routes. Some are short jaunts into the mountains, while others require travel on back roads deep into the forest districts.

Peak viewing time is typically during the second half of September and the first week of October.

Southern Colorado Fall Foliage Tours, Train Rides and Excursions

There are several excellent spots for viewing the fall colors only a few miles from the New Mexico border. Immediately off I-25, approximately 10 miles into Colorado is Trinidad Lake State Park.

37 miles further north on I-25, Lathrop State Park, at an elevation of 6,400 feet, is nestled in a pinon-juniper forest. Lathrop also has plains cottonwoods, and various willows, elms, mountain mahogany, and some gamble oak.

The highest point, at 9,941 feet on the road north of Trinidad Lake State Park and south of Lathrop State Park, is Cuchara Pass. The pass offers great views of the aspen, fir, and spruce forests.

Further west, America's highest and longest narrow gauge railroad, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, offers a unique fall foliage experience. The full day (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) train ride can be taken either from Antonito or Chama, with a return by bus. The trains run every day until mid-October. Built in the 1880's and little changed since, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic (C&TS) Railroad is a 64-mile, fully-operational steam railroad. The route is recognized around the world for its spectacular scenery and unspoiled vistas, as well as the historic rolling stock and railroad structures that are preserved on the line. Many of the buildings and railroad equipment date to the turn of the twentieth century or earlier, making the C&TS the best-preserved steam-era railroad in North America.

Trinidad and Southern Colorado Fall Foliage Tours and Routes

The following two compact routes start a few miles from the New Mexico border:
  • Immediately off I-25 in the eastern part of the region, the Highway of Legends (SR12) connects the towns of Walsenburg and Trinidad. Start in Walsenburg for the best views. As the road climbs, the pinon pine and juniper trees give way to the aspens, the star of the fall show. Views are of the Spanish Peaks and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The 82-mile highway connects two state parks with hiking, boating, fishing, and camping facilities - Lathrop State Park and Trinidad Lake State Park. Cuchara Pass, the high point of the road at 9,941 feet, offers excellent views.
  • Further west, Scenic Road 17 from Antonito, Colorado to Chama, New Mexico is about 100 miles north of Santa Fe via U.S. Highway 84. This 48-mile drive includes some of the best fall foliage viewing in Colorado. The area near the La Manga Pass is known for large aspens.

Albuquerque and Northern New Mexico Fall Foliage Tours and Guide

  • The Sangre De Cristo Mountains reach almost to the Santa Fe city limits. Thirty minutes from Santa Fe gets you to the Santa Fe ski area, with its ski lifts running in the fall for hikers and leaf-peepers. Enjoy the foliage on the road there, on the lift to the top, and on the lift or hiking down.
  • Sandia Peak - Ride the tram from Northeast Albuquerque to the 10,378 foot summit.
  • Coyote Creek State Park - southeast of Taos.
  • Hiking into the backcountry areas of the Carson National Forest
  • Canoeing down the Rio Chama. Outfitters run special fall trips combining hiking and rafting to take advantage of the foliage. This area has been described in many way, the most common citing the “Georgia O'Keeffe vistas.” Single and multi-day trips are available.

Taos and Northern New Mexico Fall Foliage Tours and Routes

Three sample fall foliage viewing routes link popular tourist areas in Northern New Mexico:
  • The Enchanted Circle Loop from Taos is an 84-mile scenic loop. Along the way, pass Questa, Red River, Eagle Nest, and Angel Fire.
  • 27 miles northwest of Taos, follow U.S. Highway 64 from Tres Piedras to Tierra Amarilla. Beyond Tierra Amarilla by 14 miles is the town of Chama, the departure point for the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.
  • Take State Road 68 along the Rio Grande from Taos to Espanola.
  • The Jemez Mountain Trail is a 132-mile driving loop west of Santa Fe, near Los Alamos, requiring at least a half-day. State Road 4 connects to U.S. Highway 550 at San Ysidro, which continues to Cuba. At Cuba, turn off onto State Road 126 and continue on less-developed forest roads east through Carson National Forest. This takes you back to State Road 4. This same route can be picked up at San Ysidro, 21 miles north of Albuquerque.

Fall Foliage Spots in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Taos, Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado

Sort By: Rating | Name
Coyote Creek State Park
Cuchara Pass
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
Enchanted Circle Loop (Taos - Taos )
Highway of Legends (SR12; Walsenburg - Trinidad)
Jemez Mountain Trail (San Ysidro - San Ysidro)
Lathrop State Park
Rio Chama
Sandia Peak Areial Tramway
Santa Fe Ski Area
SR17 (Chama - Antonito)
SR68 (Taos - Espanola)
Trinidad Lake State Park
US64 (Tres Piedras - Tierra Amarilla)