Capture the sights of fall in New Mexico from a sky-high vantage point - Albuquerque Journal

Capture the sights of fall in New Mexico from a sky-high vantage point

Riding the Sandia Crest Tramway is a high-flying way to see some fall colors. (Courtesy of Ski Santa Fe)

New Mexico’s fall foliage colors can be a treasure trove of visual stimulation.

Reaching those colors, however, can sometimes be a challenge.

But a couple of the state’s ski areas are doing what they can to provide an interesting, sky-high vantage point to see the trees’ leaves changing.

The Sandia Peak Tramway, which runs daily except for Tuesdays, climbs more than 3,000 feet in elevation along a 2.7-mile length that takes about 15 minutes to reach the crest of 10,378-foot Sandia Peak.

“It’s a nice time to go see the mountain,” said Ben Abruzzo, tram vice president of operations. “It’s a wonderful way to go be in the mountains.”

Soaring slowly above the Cibola National Forest gives riders the chance to gawk, admire and photograph the views, he said.

“What’s really neat on the front side, on the west side, you can see a kind of secret landscape,” Abruzzo said. “It is mostly conifers, but there are some really amazing pockets of aspens and maples. This time of year, there are some really striking yellow and even bright red patches of trees, which are really beautiful.”

And from the crest, an 11,000-square-mile, panoramic view unfolds laden with a multitude of scenic highlights.

Ride the Chile Express ski lift at Angel Fire Resort for a two-mile excursion through aspen glades. (Courtesy of Angel Fire Resort)

“From the top there’s multiple hiking trails with beautiful views to the east and west,” Abruzzo said. “It just depends on how adventurous you are and how far you want to go.”

Of the other ski areas in the state, many use their ski lifts to allow access to the upper peaks, but all except Angel Fire Resort have closed in preparation for the winter season.

Angel Fire, however, remains open Friday through Sunday through Oct. 30, said Greg Ralph, the resort’s director of marketing.

“The colors are just starting to peak so now is the time to visit,” he said.

Riders take the famed Chile Express lift, climbing two miles to a height of 10,657 feet over the course of a 10-minute excursion.

“It’s the second-longest chair lift in North America, almost two miles so it’s a pretty good journey,” Ralph said. “You go right through the forest, can get off the chair up there. There’s a restaurant so you can grab a snack or lunch, play some disc golf and go ziplining. You can zip right through the leaves.”

The great thing about chair lift, he said, is anybody can use it.

“The chair helps you get right in the forest, right in the colors,” Ralph said. “You’re at 10,000-something feet. It’s a beautiful ride. It’s really fun and it’s great for the family. It doesn’t take any athletic ability so anybody can do it. Little kids, grandma, grandpa. Anybody can get to the top of the mountain and see the colors.” The stunning landscape from on top is well worth making the trip, he said.

“You’re looking out over the Moreno Valley,” Ralph said. “You’re seeing to the north Eagle Nest Lake. You can see Wheeler Park (at 13,167 feet is the state’s highest point) when you look to the northwest. By this week, Wheeler will have snow. The air is good and crisp. The forest will be nice and damp and fresh. You can still see some wildflowers so you can still see signs of spring, summer and now fall all in the forest.”

And, of course, plenty of trees turning on their fall magic.

“You can see them across the valley and it’s a pretty sight with the whole mountainsides turning gold,” Ralph said. “On the mountain, we’ve got some good groves that you’ll be riding through. And you see the distance shots across the valley too so it’s pretty neat.”

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