Thursday, September 14, 2017
By Karl Moffatt
New Mexico’s long, hot summer is finally over and abundant monsoon rains have created a lush landscape for us to play in this fall.
Many would argue that autumn is the best time of year to get outdoors and enjoy all that the state has to offer.
The days are pleasantly warm and sunny while nights are crisp and cool. Gone are the summer’s tourist crowds and it is a time locals savor.
And with the drought officially over for the first time in 18 years many of the region’s lakes, rivers and streams are primed for outdoor recreational pursuits.
So whether it’s hiking, camping, fishing or sightseeing there’s plenty of great places to visit and enjoy during northern New Mexico’s most spectacular season.
One great fall destination that provides all of the above in a remote, backcountry setting is Lagunitas campgrounds in the Carson National Forest just outside the Cruces Wilderness Basin.
The remote campgrounds feature a couple of small, well stocked trout ponds surrounded by open meadows and stands of aspen and pine trees.
The 25 mile drive on Forest Road 87 to the campgrounds is worth the trip alone. It’s found just off U.S. 285 about 10 miles north of Tres Piedras.
The well maintained road winds its way along San Antonio Creek before climbing to a plateau offering panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
Note the intersection of Forest Road 87A as this is the turnoff to the Los Pinos River and an alternative return route that comes out near Antonito, Colo.
Proceed into the woods and proceed to the lower campground to find a cinderblock outhouse and campsites amid the pines by the ponds.
Visitors may be curious about the charred remains of a building back in the trees and a concrete slab where a U.S. Forest Service once stood. See Otter Olshansky: A Lonely Death on New Mexico's Continental Divide Trail to learn more about what happened here.
Visitors to the campgrounds in the fall may encounter cattle roundups, continental divide trail hikers and bikers, wildlife, hunters and spectacular fall foliage.
The campgrounds are officially open June through October but remains accessible year round depending on the weather and road conditions. Anyone venturing into the backcountry to during the off season is asked to check in at the Tres Piedras Ranger station and let them know. Dispersed camping also is available throughout the area. For more information try contacting the Tres Piedras Ranger District at (575) 758-8678.
When traveling through Tres Peidras support the local economy by stopping at the Chile Line Depot. They serve great burgers, breakfast burritos, coffee and baked goods and are providing travelers a valuable service on what is otherwise a very long, lonely stretch of rural highway. We love this place, check them out at www.chililinedepot.com.
For other suggestions about where to go in New Mexico to enjoy fall camping and scenery see some of our previous articles at Fall is a Great Time for Camping in New Mexico and Visit the Valle Vidal for Great Fall Scenery and Throw a Cruise by the Brazos for Best Fall Colors.
Matt Pelletier of New Mexico Muskie's Inc at Quemado Lake, Fall 2010.Photo courtesy of Pelletier. By Karl Moffatt It’s New Mexico’s...
New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) Conservation Officer, Travis Nygren, shows off one of the giant tiger muskies found at Blue...
By Wren Propp Finding Otter The snow was deep and unstable on the road into Lower Lagunitas Campground as Ian Crombie...
Wild hogs are invading New Mexico and are threatening to destroy the environment, spread disease and run off wildlife, according to authorit...
Steve Chase, 28, of Laguna, NM shows off a fat salmon he snagged at Navajo Lake last year. Salmon snagging season has begun across much ...
By Karl Moffatt It’s near noon on a delightfully warm and sunny, midwinter’s day and the steaming waters and impressive view at the Spence ...
When the summer heat comes down on Santa Fe, there’s a great little spot this side of the Pecos where one can fish, picnic and play in the...
A native of New Mexico, the Gila trout can be found in clear running streams deep within the Gila National Forest. Photo courtesy of Jerry ...
Photo Courtesy of Diane Gilmore It wasn’t the kind of story you might expect to hear upon walking into a biker bar like Silva’s in downto...
Tim Davidson, 57, of Shiprock shows off a nice rainbow trout he caught at Acomita Lake this spring. It’s a Saturday morning and the sound...