Top 5 Places for Fall Color in New Mexico

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Photo credit: See The Southwest Illustration

New Mexico, with the glorious southern Rocky Mountains, offers plenty of places to view the leaves changing. To find out where the fall colors are in New Mexico during the season, you can access the National Forest Service toll-free fall color hotline beginning in September at (800) 354-4595. Here are SeeTheSouthwest’s top 5 pick for places to see the gorgeous scenery and fall colors in New Mexico.

Santa Fe – Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Santa Fe is a great starting point for lots of beautiful drives, but in particular, a trip into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is magical. Spanning two hundred miles from their origin in southern Colorado, to their ending point in Santa Fe, New Mexico, these mountains offer high peaks, traditional pueblos, peaceful meadows, alpine lakes, aspen forests and more. Especially during the fall, the mountains blaze with colors. The leaves begin changing around the third or fourth week of September, especially in the high valleys.

Jemez Mountains

Take Route 4 into the Jemez Mountains for magical color late in September. This region is particularly beautiful during the fall when the intense golds and oranges of the changing leave complement the soaring red rock cliffs. The nearby locations of Bandelier National Monument, Painted Cave and Puye Cliff Dwelling can turn this drive into a full day or even full weekend adventure.

Enchanted Loop Scenic Byway

The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway is a loop that connects Taos, Angel Fire, Eagle Nest, Red River and Questa and circles most of the tallest mountains in New Mexico, including Wheeler Peak, the highest point in the state. Along the way, there are dozens of things to see and do, both summer and winter. The area contains three major ski resorts, a couple of old gold camps, Eagle Nest Lake, the Merino Valley, Palo Flechado and Bobcat Passes. The leaves begin to change around the third week in September in the high mountains.

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

The San Juan Mountains are an extremely rugged and picturesque range in western Colorado, considered by many to have some of the best, most varied scenery anywhere in the world. Spanning the continental divide, the San Juans haves numerous jagged volcanic summits, 13 of which rise to over 14,000 feet, as well as many lakes, waterfalls and streams. The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is a fantastic way to catch the fall foliage, but book early because these tours are very popular.

Sandia Peak Tramway

What better way to view the fall colors that high above the ground aboard the Sandia Peak Tramway? The aerial tramway transports you above deep canyons and breathtaking terrain for a distance of 2.7 miles — the world’s longest passenger aerial tramway. From the observation deck atop Sandia Peak (elevation 10,378 feet) you will overlook Cibola National Forest and 11,000 square miles of the Rio Grande Valley, also known as the Land of Enchantment. In the fall, this is a fantastic way to view the leaves as they change color.