Monday, October 01, 2018

Take a drive to see New Mexico's fantastic fall foilage

N.M. 4 to Jemez Springs.
There may be no better time to take a drive than when New Mexico’s aspen and cottonwoods trees are ablaze with fall colors.

One of the best Albuquerque area road trips to see the fall foliage is to Jemez Springs after the leaves of streamside cottonwood trees turn a deep orange.

It’s just a little over an hour’s drive from Albuquerque to Jemez Springs on U.S. 550 to N.M. 4 and the trip offers visitors great fall scenery amid towering red cliffs topped by stunning blue skies.

The village also boasts several good places to eat and drink, a hot spring bathhouse and the Jemez Historic Site featuring the stone ruins of an ancient Indian pueblo and San José de los Jemez church. 

Jemez Springs Bathhouse.
Travelers can enjoy even more spectacular scenery in the surrounding national forest by continuing up N.M. 4 to N.M. 126. The road spans 40 miles between La Cueva and Cuba and is a typical graded gravel forest road for much of way.

Check with the Santa Fe National Forest’s Jemez Ranger District Office at (575) 829-3535 for current fall foliage and road conditions. 

Another easy fall drive for Albuquerque residents is up into the mountains above Santa Fe to see the fall colors from the ski area chairlift. Rides are available 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends in September and every day during Balloon Fiesta, Oct. 6 through the Oct. 14. Visit for details.

Travelers returning from the ski area also can enjoy an extended tour of the woods by taking Forest Road 102 down to Pacheco Canyon Road to emerge near Tesuque.

Aspen trees in the forest off Hyde Park Road.
Another great fall drive near Santa Fe includes taking the High Road to Taos and returning along the Rio Grande.

Take U.S. 84/285 north to the Nambe turn off at N.M. 503 and follow to the Chimayo turnoff at Santa Fe County Road 98.  Drive through the village of Chimayo to N.M. 76 and then head up the mountain past Truchas over to Peñasco and on to Ranchos de Taos for the return trip along the Rio Grande on N.M. 68.

Cottonwood trees along N.M. 68 between Espanola and Taos.
But probably the best drive in northern New Mexico to view the fall colors is a 50-mile jaunt on U.S. 64 from Tierra Amarilla  over the mountains and through the Carson National Forest to Tres Piedras.

The highway climbs into the high country past the impressive Brazos Cliffs and offers plenty of unmarred scenic beauty including bright yellow aspen groves and stands of brilliant red oak trees.

Brazos Cliffs of U.S. 64 between Tierra Amarilla and Tres Piedras.

Travelers heading up to Tres Piedras on U.S. 84 will see over 90 miles of spectacular scenery including the stunning red rock cliffs near Abiquiu Lake. Upon returning on U.S. 285 from Tres Piedras travelers will pass by a lengthy cottonwood bosque between Los Ojos and Espanola and could see even more brilliant fall colors.

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