Experiencing Santa Fe in the fall – Golden aspens in the mountains

Aspens in the Sangre de Christo Mountains

Aspens in the Sangre de Christo Mountains

When you’re visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico in the fall, you’re bound to look up and notice patches of blazing gold color in the surrounding mountains. You might not think you can take time to explore these golden treasures. But what is amazing is that the drive up the mountain to the Ski Basin is only 15 miles from downtown Santa Fe. And along the way, you can explore the beauty of those golden hills.

While 15 miles seems like a mighty quick trip, it isn’t. The road is winding and full of pull-outs where you can stop and look at the scenery and, if you’d like, take a hike. I would allow at least two hours for your trip up and down the mountain to the Santa Fe Ski Basin.

Driving into the Sangre de Christo Mountains
From downtown Santa Fe, this popular route begins by traveling  along Paseo de Peralta to Bishop Lodge Road and turning left onto Bishop Lodge Road. Then turn right at Artist Road (which becomes Hyde Park Road) and follow to the top of the mountain. If using a GPS, enter 100 Artist Road, Santa Fe, NM  87501.

Aspen Vista Picnic Area

Aspen Vista Picnic Area

Best Stops for Viewing Aspens
As you travel this scenic and winding road you’ll come to Hyde Memorial State Park. You’ll find a visitors center, hiking trails and camping. On my trip, I noticed the RV camping site full of yellow aspens. What a beautiful place to camp!

As the road entered the Santa Fe National Forest, there were some pull-outs, but many people stopped at the Big Tesuque Campground parking lot. The aspens were blazing gold and very visible during a short hike from the parking lot. You can camp there and I noticed several  yellow tents blending in with the fall foliage. Small creeks ran through the site adding to the beauty of the area.

View from Aspen Vista

View from Aspen Vista

After taking a short hike (the altitude is noticeable here) I continued the scenic drive to an amazing place… the Aspen Vista Picnic Ground, also a trailhead. But what was fantastic in this location was the wide vistas of the hills dotted with golden stands of Aspen. You can picnic or take a hike, or just hop out of your car and snap a few photos. This area is definitely a destination for the Santa Fe leaf peeper!

The road continues on up to Santa Fe Ski Basin. On the way, on the left side of the road is a walkway with guard rail that is worth a stop. From this area you can see the entire city of Santa Fe in the valley below. And when the aspens have completely turned, it’s a great place to oversee the golden hills.

Visiting Santa Fe in Autumn
Taking a drive up the mountain to see the golden aspens is just one benefit of visiting Santa Fe in autumn. Another great reason is that it’s chile roasting time. You’ll see Hatch chiles being roasted on street corners and in supermarket parking lots. And, if it is chilly enough during your visit, you’ll experience the smell of pinon smoke wafting into the air from Santa Fe kiva fireplaces. It’s a marvelous time to visit Santa Fe. More on Fall in Santa Fe.

Photo Gallery of Fall in the Sangre de Christo Mountains


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