ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Nights are getting cooler and days are getting shorter, which means hot chocolate, sweaters and the changing leaves of autumn are just around the corner.
Cruising around the city, one can already see a sprinkling of yellow and orange leaves on top of the trees. As fall approaches, the leaves will become less green, creating a colorful landscape for at least a few weeks.
Kerry Jones, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, said the intensity of the colors depends on weather conditions.
“What you want is warm sunny days and cool crisp nights without frost or freeze,” he said. “Wetter than average conditions in August and September can result in less vivid colors.”
He said the state had an above-average wet August, which could impact the colors, but it’s too soon to know yet.
There are plenty of places in the city, around it and a few hours drive to experience a colorful landscape.
Bachechi and Alameda Open Space
For those short on time, Bachechi and Alameda Open Spaces, adjacent to one another in the North Valley, offer a quick fix. The county purchased the 27-acre Bachechi property from the family and have converted it into an outdoor oasis. There are walking trails, plenty of landscaping and a forest of trees that will offer a great view of fall colors. Colleen McRoberts, Bernalillo County open space coordinator, said visitors will see plenty of colors.
“Bachechi is a great choice,” she said. “You have the cottonwoods, maples and fruit trees and you will get yellow but also the nice reds and purples.”
McRoberts said the lack of sunlight triggers the change although temperature and moisture can contribute to exactly when that change happens. She said typically by mid-September the leaves start changing colors.
Visitors can walk a short distance to the Alameda Open Space, which provides access to the trail that runs along the bosque, offering yet another view of the changing leaves in both Albuquerque and Corrales.
Bachechi is located on the west side of Rio Grande Boulevard. just south of Alameda. Call 505-314-0400 for information.
There may be no better way to get a bird’s eye view of the multi-colored valley than standing on top of a mountain overlooking it all. Sandia Crest is just a short drive from the metro area and offers a view of all the fall colors in a multitude of ways.
Access by vehicle to the crest is through a two-lane road on the back side of the mountain. The drive up there will provide travelers a view of the changing colors. Once there, multiple trails provide access to the forest of trees. Those not up for a hike can climb the stairs and literally stand on the edge of the mountain. The spot provides a panoramic view of the entire city.
There is a paved parking lot, restrooms and gift shop. To get to the crest from Albuquerque, take I-40 east to the Tijeras exit, which is N.M. 14. Take the highway north to N.M. 536 and turn left. The road ends at the crest.
Fourth of July Canyon
The Fourth of July Canyon is home to a campground, trails and plenty of trees, making it a popular fall destination. Bigtooth maples and Rock Mountain maples provide the main show, displaying hues of red, orange and purple. Jay Turner, a district ranger in the area, said the area is popular during the fall because of the unique color sightseers can find there.
“We have mostly maple species in the canyon,” he said. “Quite of few of them actually. That’s kind of rare in the rest of the area.”
He said the trees start to turn about mid-September and peak until mid-October, although he said there is some indication that could occur sooner this year. Turner said travelers can call the ranger district at 505-847-2990 to check on the progress of the trees before making a trip out there.
The canyon is tucked in the Manzano Mountains within the Cibola National Forest and takes about an hour and half to reach from Albuquerque. The area has grills and picnic tables. Take plenty of water and sturdy shoes.
The canyon is near the small town of Tajique and drivers will have to travel a short distance on a dirt road to access it. Once there, the changing colors can be viewed while driving, during a short walk or with a hike.
To get there from Albuquerque, take Interstate 40 to the Tijeras exit and go south (right) on N.M. 337 for about 35 miles. Look for a T-intersection at N.M. 55 and head west (right). Drive to the town of Tajique and look for the Fourth of July Campground sign on the right-hand side of the road, which is F.S. 55.
Santa Fe Ski Basin
The Santa Fe Ski Basin is just over an hour drive from the metro area making it an easy day trip. The Santa Fe Ski Basin is within Santa Fe National Forest and its towering aspens create a colorful show during the fall. The road to the basin cuts through the aspen forest and provides access to the Sangre de Cristo mountains that reach elevations between 10,000 and 12,000 feet in that area.
Julie Anne Overton, spokeswoman for the Santa Fe National Forest, said the trees will hit their peak color the last week of September or the first week of October.
To get there from Albuquerque, take Interstate 25 north and take the St. Francis Drive exit in Santa Fe, which is U.S. Highway 84/285. Take a right at Paseo de Peralta and follow it to Bishop Lodge Road and turn left. Next, take a right on Artist Road, which will become N.M. 475. Follow that for about 16 miles to the basin.
For information, contact the Española Ranger District at 505-753-7331.
Although the Jemez Mountains are a favorite summer destination for Albuquerque residents, the area offers a scenic kaleidoscope of color in the fall.
A popular spot is the village of Jemez Springs. The small town provides not only plenty of opportunities for a hot soak but it’s nestled in the forest. Visitors can enjoy the fall colors with an outside soak in one of the nearby springs, with a hike, a stroll or even from the car. Outside of the town in both directions are plenty of picnic areas right off N.M. 4, including the popular Battleship Rock.
Overton, the spokeswoman for the Santa Fe National Forest, said the area offers plenty of color. The Virginia creeper and wild rose will turn red and the cottonwoods will turn yellow around late September to mid-October.
For information, call the Jemez Ranger District at 575-829-3535 or visit jemezsprings.org.
The area is about an hour to an hour and a half from Albuquerque. To get there, take I-25 north to Bernalillo exit 242, which is N.M. 550. Travel west for 20 miles to San Ysidro. Go north (left) at N.M. 4 for about 18 miles to reach the village.