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8 Best Spots for New Mexico Fall Foliage

The best places in New Mexico for fall foliage include mountain peaks, easy-to-trek hiking trails, and scenic ski resort gondola rides. The best time to visit New Mexico for fall foliage is typically late October and early November. During this time of the year, the forest canopies of southern New Mexico turn into a vibrant golden hue of reds, oranges, and yellows. Best of all, Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino is centrally located to many of these top fall foliage viewing spots.

Sunspot Scenic Byway

Sunspot, New Mexico solar telescope at the Sunspot Astronomy & Visitors Center

Where: Byway begins in Cloudcroft, New Mexico from Cox Canyon Highway

Starting in Cloudcroft, New Mexico is the Sunspot Scenic Byway. This 15-mile stretch of road winds its way through southern New Mexico, passing popular landmarks like the Little Burro Mountains, Oscura, and San Andres Peaks. Leaf peepers will pass the fir, aspen, and pine forests of the Sacramento Mountains, with beautiful aspen trees changing to warm, auburn colors during the fall season. The byway ends at the Sunspot Astronomy & Visitors Center, home to several exhibits dedicated to solar research and a solar telescope.

Travelers should take Cox Canyon Highway from Cloudcroft to Sunspot Highway and drive south until they reach Coronal Loop in Sunspot. We recommend taking stops along the way to stretch your legs and enjoy the never-ending vistas of autumn colors.

Visiting with family? Check out these kid-friendly things to do in New Mexico. Plus, there are plenty of New Mexico fall events and activities happening near Inn of the Mountain Gods.

Cloudcroft, New Mexico

Fall colors on aspen trees

Reaching over 8,600 feet in elevation, Cloudcroft, New Mexico is one of the state’s best small town stops for leaf peeping. Nicknamed “city in the clouds”, this mountain town is located inside Lincoln National Forest and its high elevation makes for spectacular views of turning trees. The Sacramento Mountains that surround Cloudcroft are lush with gorgeous aspen trees whose leaves turn a vibrant golden yellow during peak fall foliage season.

Visit one of the following hiking trails that are considered easy to moderate in difficulty for excellent foliage viewing:

  • Osha Trail > 2.5 miles
  • Old Cloudcroft Highway Trail Loop > 2.8 miles
  • Little Apache Trail > 3.2 miles

Directions to Cloudcroft, New Mexico from Inn of the Mountain Gods:

  1. Turn right toward Carrizo Canyon Road/Indian Service Route 4
  2. Take a slight left onto Carrizo Canyon Road/Indian Service Route 4. Stay on this road for 2.9 miles.
  3. Turn right onto US-70 W. Stay on this road for 6.2 miles.
  4. Turn left onto NM-244 S. Stay on this road for 29.2 miles.
  5. Turn right onto US-82 W. Stay on this road for 1.2 miles until you reach Cloudcroft.

Cloudcroft, New Mexico is just one of many things to do near Ruidoso, New Mexico.

Ski Apache Gondola Rides

Scenic gondola rides at Ski Apache in Alto, New Mexico

Where: 1286 Ski Run Road, Alto, New Mexico

Soar above mountain ridgelines and forest canopies with a scenic gondola ride at Ski Apache, New Mexico’s southernmost ski resort. Ski Apache is home to New Mexico’s only eight-passenger gondola that presents riders with panoramic views of the Sierra Blanca mountains and tremendous views of fall foliage during autumn. Riders will feel like they can touch the clouds as the gondola reaches an elevation of 11,500 feet above sea level. Ski Apache is located in Alto, New Mexico, just a short distance from historic Ruidoso and Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino. Ski Apache gondola rides do not require a reservation.

Leaf peepers should also visit the three hiking trails located on property at Ski Apache. Each trail is considered easy in difficulty, making Ski Apache a New Mexico fall foliage destination perfect for hikers and leaf peepers of any age.

See what makes Ski Apache one of the best ski resorts in New Mexico.

Nogal Peak

Bird sitting on aspen tree with yellow leaves

Located north of Ski Apache and Sierra Blanca Peak, Nogal Peak takes hikers nearly 10,000 feet above sea level for truly unparalleled views. While fall foliage views will be plentiful, leaf peepers will also enjoy views of the white sands at White Sands National Park and the lava valley of Valley of Fires. Leaf peepers should look for the Nogal Peak trail, a 1.1-mile trail that begins at Crest trail and ends at Nogal Peak for magnificent views of changing leaves, mountains, and nearby natural landmarks. Be advised that some roads may only be accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles.

Directions to Nogal Peak from Inn of the Mountain Gods:

  1. Head northwest toward Carrizo Canyon Road/Indian Service Route 4
  2. Take Billy the Kid Trail and NM-37 N to Co Rd C015/Nogal Canyon Rd in Nogal. Stay on this path for 22.7 miles.
  3. Continue on Co Rd C015. Drive to Fs 400. Stay on this path for 7.1 miles.

See our guide to the best New Mexico hiking trails near Inn of the Mountain Gods.

Grindstone Lake Trails

grindstone lake in ruidoso new mexico

Where: 501 Resort Drive, Ruidoso, New Mexico

Grindstone Lake Recreation Area is home to five trails that total 18 miles. Grindstone Lake Loop, nearing 7 miles in length, is easily accessible from the Grindstone Lake parking lot and is one of the most popular hikes in the area. The trail is a well-maintained, single track trail that loops around Grindstone Lake. and is accessible to hikers of all ages. Grindstone Lake is located just outside historic Ruidoso and minutes from the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino.

Autumn is a great time for a romantic excursion. See our guide to a romantic getaway to New Mexico.

Ruidoso Lookout

Midtown Ruidoso mural.

Where: 235 Hart Ave., Ruidoso New Mexico

Ruidoso Lookout is one of the only of its kind in the Southwestern Region. While the tower, used to watch the Ruidoso area for fires, is closed to the public, the view of the landscape from the bluffs is breathtaking. Enjoy your walk to the lookout, surrounded by bright foliage, and take in the beautiful fall colors of Ruidoso below you once you arrive at the lookout. Ruidoso Lookout is a short 5.3 mile drive from Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino. 


Colorful trees line a river near the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico.

Where: FS Road 117 in Lincoln National Forest, New Mexico

Monjeau Lookout Tower is a great spot for leaf peeping in New Mexico. Located north of Ruidoso, this stone lookout hut was constructed originally in 1936 and restored in 1940. You’ll follow a 5.5 mile dirt road maintained by the National Forest to get to this scenic location, which means the fall foliage will be on display throughout your journey to the lookout before the 360 view at the top. 

Windy Point Vista

Lincoln National Forest forest canopy.

here: Ski Run Road in Alto, New Mexico

How to get to Windy Point Vista from Inn of the Mountain Gods:

  1. Take Carrizo Canyon Road to Grindstone Canyon Road
  2.  Turn left onto Wingfield St., right onto Chase Dr., and left onto Sudderth Drive
  3. Turn right onto Mechem Drive
  4. Turn left onto Ski Run Road, and Windy Point Vista’s lookout will be on the right.

Windy Point Vista is one of the best places to see fall foliage in New Mexico. This vantage point puts you nearly 10,000 feet high, letting you look down over the Lincoln National Forest and Tularosa Basin. From the town of Ruidoso, you can reach Windy Point Vista in about 30 minutes. The road up to Windy Point Vista is paved, but caution is recommended, especially around corners. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Fall Foliage In New Mexico

Plan your Autumn stay at Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino, where our hotel rooms and suites offer stunning lake and mountain vistas.

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