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Time Your Fall Break Just Right to Experience the Fall Colors at Angel Fire Resort

September 28, 2021

Your favorite café is serving pumpkin spice lattes again. That can mean only one thing: autumn has arrived! Fall Colors

Here in Northern New Mexico, we’re blessed to experience a long and lovely fall season. In fact, leaf peepers from every corner of the country make the journey to the Moreno Valley at this time of year. The reason? Some of the most enchanting and colorful foliage you’ll find west of the Mississippi.

Keep reading to learn all about the what, when, where, and how of the changing leaves at Angel Fire Resort

October is Peak Leaf Peeping Time in the Southern Rockies

October is the optimal time to bask in the orange, red, and gold foliage on and around our mountain. Depending on when you visit, you’ll get to enjoy the following trees at the height of their transformations. 

Early October: Aspens 

If you want to experience the spectacular beauty of aspens in autumn, schedule your trip to Angel Fire Resort for the first weeks of October. While Quaking Aspens are the most widely distributed native tree in North America, they’re especially plentiful in the expansive groves that cover New Mexico’s higher mountain regions. 

Aspens can grow to be anywhere from 20 to 80 feet tall. To spot aspens, look for long, narrow trunks sporting white or cream-colored bark. Of course, you’ll instantly recognize that brilliant shade of yellow that their rounded leaves turn during this time of year. 

Mid-October: Rocky Mountain Maples and Gambel Oaks

When you think of a maple leaf, you likely think of an iconic, three-lobed shape that also reminds you of a certain professional hockey team’s logo. But, after an autumn visit to our four-season, family-friendly Fall MTBresort, you’ll probably start associating that shape with the Rocky Mountain Maple!

This tree thrives in elevations above 4,500 feet. During the summer, its leaves — which grow from the tree’s twigs in pairs — are a lighter green. Come mid-October, however, they turn a deep reddish-orange. 

To identify a Rocky Mountain Maple, keep an eye out for a tree topping out at around 36 feet. Its bark will be gray-brown and either smooth or scored with small fissures. Another telltale sign that you’re looking at a Rocky Mountain Maple: the twigs that sprout from its trunk and branches are a reddish-brown. 

Another mid-October delight for foliage fanatics is the Gambel Oak, also known as the scrub oak, oak brush, or white oak. This tree is unique because it’s one of the few deciduous varieties to carve a niche out for itself in high-altitude forests like those to be explored in the Southern Rockies. 

Although these trees can reach up to 50 feet tall, they usually grow to about 30 feet. You’ll recognize one by its rounded crown. During the spring and summer, the topside of the Gambel Oak’s leaves is a glossy dark green. The underside is a lighter green and has a velvety finish. As autumn approaches, these leaves take on golden brown and reddish highlights. 

Late-October: Cottonwoods

Cottonwoods are magnificent, hardy trees that grow rapidly — sometimes as fast as six feet per year! No wonder this poplar species can reach up to 100 feet once they’ve fully matured.AFR_9508

Cottonwoods are probably most known for producing the white fluff you’re likely to see floating in the air around Angel Fire Resort during late spring. Also, they don’t mind having “wet feet,” meaning you’ll most often see them near running water or in bottomlands where moisture has a chance to collect.  

By the time autumn rolls around, the cottonwoods are ready to shed their leaves in a dazzling display of yellow. Look for large, triangular leaves with toothed edges and flat stems. 

Tour the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway 

Beyond our mountain, Northern New Mexico offers plenty of other opportunities to see the Land of Enchantment paint itself in fall colors.

Providing access to many hiking paths, rest stops, and overlooks, the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway is the road to ride through Northern New Mexico any time of year — but especially during autumn! This 85-mile circular route takes you on a one-of-a-kind journey through picturesque canyons, mountains, mesas, ranches, and even an old mining outpost turned ghost town. 

Angel Fire Resort guests appreciate that our close proximity to the Enchanted Circle makes it even easier to soak up all the fall goodness before winter arrives. So bring your cameras and capture the plentiful alpine scenery viewable from a variety of clear vistas scattered along this great highway. 

Explore the Carson National Forest

cumbres_and_toltec_fall_train_3a902abc-d1bf-4463-8981-cac31bf1c9d8

Photo courtesy of www.newmexico.org

Surrounding Angel Fire Resort to the north, south, and west are the 1.5 million acres of the Carson National Forest. You can easily take the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway and adventure deep into these woods for more aspen, oak, and maple viewing. 

If you prefer to let someone else do the driving so you can spend all your time looking at the leaves, be sure to check out the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. Although it’s a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Angel Fire Resort to the nearest stop — Chama — the railroad’s vintage steam locomotive will take you and your family on an unforgettable journey.

There’s something truly remarkable about the fall foliage in the Southern Rockies. Book your stay during the most golden time of the year at Angel Fire Resort today! 

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