Leaves are turning.
This morning on my walk along the acequia, I noticed the splashes of gold and red appearing among the still green foliage of late summer.
Fall is here; soon we will be bundling up in warm woolens and heavy coats (reminder to take yours to the newly opened, Clean Taos), and sipping welcoming mugs of hot chocolate. But for the moment, brisk mornings and evenings aside, the days are balmy and Indian Summer will hopefully stick around for a while!
At this time of year people all over celebrate the Harvest Season – San Geronimo Feast Day is celebrated at Taos Pueblo, later, next month the ancient Celts honored Samhain which has morphed into our modern-day Halloween, when traditionally here in Taos, our first snow arrives.
This is quite possibly my favourite season in Northern New Mexico, as the mountains begin to shimmer golden beneath the brilliant blue skies, and while it’s still warm enough to enjoy a cup of tea outside in the afternoon sun.
As the Equinox arrives to herald the change of Season, I’m thinking about all the great things we get to enjoy during Autumn in Taos, beginning with the turning leaves!
So as you begin making plans for late September and October, be sure to include a hike, road trip, or train ride to see the majestic vistas that are unique to New Mexico in fall. With prime fall foliage just around the corner, I’ve got all the details of when the colors will soon be blazing.
Weather prognostication may be the most popular Taos pastime: When will the first snow fall? When will the ice melt? And, of course, when will the leaves change? The annual turning of the aspens especially, that glorious and fleeting moment in time when the mountains are awash in gold and crimson, is one of the most beautiful times of year here, but predicting peak “Gold Rush” season can be a bit dicey.
However, that moment will soon be upon us and so I thought I’d look into the actual process of the leaves “turning”, and discovered it is a matter of chlorophyll. When the temperatures get cooler, it’s a signal to trees that winter is coming. As a result, the leaves put down a layer of cells that cause the tree to block chlorophyll from getting back into the leaves. Since it doesn’t rejuvenate, the remaining pigment—those stunning yellows and oranges—is revealed. These are the fall colors we see in the aspens and cottonwoods. Other colors, like reds and purples, are a result of chemical changes within the leaves themselves.
So what we really want for the perfect color days are abundant sunshine and low temperatures—not cold temperatures and not freezing temperatures, so with the warm temperatures that we are currently enjoying, we are looking at a narrow window of a week or two.
It may be difficult to predict the exact timing of when the fall foliage will peak, but most experts are saying that between September 24 and October 24th we should be awash in golds, reds, copper and bronze! There are plenty of driving routes that will take you through the “Gold Rush” in the mountains, The Aspens in the mountains above Taos are starting to turn, and by mid-October should be a magnificent sight! Check the webcam at Taos Ski Valley for current views.
The Carson National Forest is home to the famed Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, a loop of over 80 miles, focused around the highest peak in New Mexico, Wheeler Peak. The loop starts and ends in Taos, which has a reputation for being one of the most beautiful locations for fall colors in New Mexico. It was named New Mexico’s Best Fall Foliage Small Town by Country Living Magazine.
The Enchanted Circle which includes Red River, Eagle Nest, Angel Fire and Taos. is a gorgeous drive at this time of years with stellar views for miles.
For an enchanting scenic drive, head North from Taos on Highway 522 to Questa, then, go East on Highway 38, through Red River and Elizabethtown, until you reach Eagle’s Nest. This is where you get to start the best part of the drive, going South on Highway 64, through Angel Fire, and right back to Taos. The trip is 85 miles and can take three to six hours, depending on whether you take your time to experience the truly spectacular views.
If you plan your trip for the end of October, you could even be in Taos for the Taos Mountain Balloon Rally from October 25 -27th. Much smaller than the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, this event makes it possible to viewers to get much closer to the action. Another exciting option for viewing the fall colors of the Carson National Forest is to book a ride on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. The ride starts in Chama, New Mexico, travels through the Carson National Forest, and ends up in Antonito, Colorado. You might want to book early to get a seat, but even if you’re too late to enjoy this unique experience this year, you can prepare for next year.
Along with the sites for the TSV Webcam, Cumbres & Toltec Railroad and the Taos Mountain Balloon Rally, do check Taos.org linked below for places to stay and more ideas on planning your trip.
With this post celebrating Nature, I invite you to join me in standing in solidarity with the Global Climate Strike. (Sept 20-27th.)
Please visit the site below for information as to how you can get involved.
The gorgeous photographs you see here were taken by Geraint Smith.