Fall is Fabulous in the Southern Rockies - The Rocky Mountains are at their most glorious in autumn when the aspens turn the mountains gold and the air is clear and crisp. The Rockies actually begin-or end-just outside of Santa Fe as the mountain chain stretches from just south of the city in a continuous formation of peaks into northern Canada.
Located on the doorstep of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain range, Santa Fe is the perfect jumping off spot for fall leaf viewing. Driving tours, hikes, and chairlift rides are all within close proximity to the city's historic downtown. A short drive from the Santa Fe Plaza up Artist Road/Highway 475 is the trailhead for the Dale Ball Trail System. Located right on the city limits and offering a variety of walks of different lengths, the Dale Ball trails are at an altitude of just over 7,000 feet.
Slightly higher up along 475-a designated New Mexico Scenic Byway-about a mile into the Santa Fe National Forest is the Boreggo trailhead located just above the Hyde Park camping area. This is a winding trail that crosses the little Tesuque Creek and is deep in a conifer and aspen forest with different out and back options of varying lengths.
Higher still is the Aspen Vista trailhead located at an altitude of roughly 10,000 feet. This is a prime fall walk through a huge stand of aspens that cover the trail in yellow leaves and form a canopy of shimmering gold for the first several miles of the trail's 7 mile length. At the top of highway 475 is the Windsor Trail, a high-moutain path that climbs to over 11,000 feet through conifer and aspen forest and leads to the 250,000 acre Pecos Wilderness area.
Also at the end of Highway 475 is Ski Santa Fe which operates its Super Chief, 4-person chairlift during the height of fall colors. The chair runs at a leisurely pace through aspens and conifers, finally terminating high above the Rio Grande Valley affording a spectacular 8,000 square mile view of the valley below. The mountain views are equally impressive both going up and back down the chairlift. It is also a pleasant walk down to the base of the lift. Specific dates have not yet been set for this year but typically the chairlift runs for several weeks in early October. The operating dates and hours will be posted on the Ski Santa Fe website. Information is also available at Ski Santa Fe, 505-983-9155.
A drive up and down Highway 475 is an easy trip. Covering more ground are loops up the High Road to Taos and back down along the Rio Grande or a mountain drive through the sprawling scenery in the Jemez Mountains west of Santa Fe along Highway 4. Both of these trips are mapped on the bureau web site
Back in Santa Fe, fall means freshly-harvested green chile is being roasted all over town, the best of the season's fresh produce is served at area restaurants, and the town is bathed in the last sunny, warm weather of the year. For complete information, contact the Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-777-2489 for a free Santa Fe Visitors Guide.
Information courtesy: Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau.