In Santa Fe, New Mexico, autumn road trips reveal vibrant foliage
Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Fall Getaways: Santa Fe

October 08, 2010
by Sarah Amandolare
Fall is made for festivals, hikes in the woods, and scenic road trips, with stops along the way for local produce and stunning photo opportunities. This week, we highlight distinctly autumnal activities in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Santa Fe Style

Santa Fe is the second oldest city in the United States, initially drawing settlers from Mexico and Spain in the 1600s. Today, the city has blossomed into a haven for artisans and crafts people, and also attracts second-home owners and retirees who fall for the city’s “traditional European layout.” Despite having the cultural offerings of an urban destination, Santa Fe has maintained a small-town style of living, according to ABC News.  There are more than 250 art galleries in Santa Fe, a prominent opera company and exciting regional cuisine that fuses Mexican flavors with traditional Southwestern fare.

New Mexico Road Trip

Autumn foliage peaks in mid-October, presenting perfect conditions for long drives.

Consider a weekend road trip between Santa Fe and Taos, two New Mexico cities with distinct personalities. Warm adobe architecture complements Southwestern scenery, captured in works by Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams. In September, chile pepper festivals celebrate the harvest, but October means foliage, made more dramatic by roads cutting through the Rio Grande River and over canyons freckled with colorful cottonwood trees. Stop in small towns like Cordova and Truchas along the way, advises Cottage Living magazine.

Outdoor Play

Outdoor sports and travel site Gorp says, “the Santa Fe National Forest is often overlooked by visitors to the region,” but local residents are enamored with the area’s “alpine wilderness and first-class fishing, hiking and biking.” Santa Fe boasts 1.5 million acres of national forest, featuring varied topography, including active volcanic lands.

Find Santa Fe’s best trails in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, including many hikes that can be completed in less than a day. For example, the Atalaya Mountain Trail has a seven-mile route and a four-and-a-half-mile route. Both trails culminate at the top of Atalaya Mountain, which offers views of the Rio Grande Valley and the city of Santa Fe spread out below.

Santa Fe’s dry autumn weather and comfort food lend themselves well to picnic lunches. Sunset magazine suggests walking or biking to Stone Forest, a shop with Japanese-style fountains and sculptures, as well as a garden. It’s a memorable atmosphere, a combination of “robust sun, the pinon smoke, and the tang of falling leaves.”

Southwestern Scenery

Santa Fe’s fall scenery is characterized by vivid yellow leaves and rolling green hills. A Web shots album features photographs of foliage, and all that comes with it.

Call the U.S. Forest Service leaf hotline for foliage updates in the Santa Fe area.

At the summit of Ski Santa Fe in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, a chairlift operates through early October, giving leaf peepers expansive views of the surrounding landscape amid changing leaves.

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