With the onset of the fall season, countless aspens in New Mexico explode with shades of gold and crimson. The leaves start changing colors around mid- or late September, the fall foliage peak by mid-October, and continues into early November. The most popular season for higher elevations is early to mid-October, and mid- to late October for the lower elevations. Hence October wins as the best time to go leaf peeping in New Mexico.
Best places to absorb New Mexico's fall leaves
North-central New Mexico provides the most breathtaking aspen vistas. The Carson National Forest is often claimed to be the state's top place for fall foliage viewing. The woods are home to a scenic 80-mi (130-km) Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway. The drive sits in the town of Taos and features Wheeler Peak, the highest mountain in the Land of Enchantment. If you're into a more active getaway, check out the jaw-dropping vistas of the Rio Ojo Caliente hiking area in the southern part of the national forest.
Also, Taos is a gateway to another scenic route—Highway 64. Follow the route through to Chama in the Rocky Mountains. Many find the middle section between Tres Piedras and Tierra Amarilla to be the most beautiful part of the road.
As you reach the village of Chama, take the opportunity to jump aboard the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. The railroad winds along the border between Colorado and New Mexico and connects Chama, NM, and Antonito, CO. However, fall trips between late September and late October are usually shorter—you'll ride half the way to historic Osier, CO, and back to Chama. Anyways, leaf peepers will highly appreciate a day trip across the mountains.
Another area famed for autumn brilliance is Santa Fe National Forest near New Mexico's capital. In particular, visit the alpine wilderness between Ski Santa Fe and Hyde Memorial State Park. The hillsides dotted with tall aspens burst into fiery gold and take on a dainty aura when angled sunshine filters through the quaking leaves.
At last, check out the fall foliage around New Mexico's largest city of Albuquerque. Go to such picturesque spots as Tingley Beach Park or the Alameda Wetlands Preserve in the North Valley of Albuquerque. And feel free to explore the neighboring Cibola National Forest, praised for glorious fall colors.