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.
Where are the fall leaves in New Mexico?
Many say that you will find the best fall leaves in south central New Mexico. Here, leaf peepers will find forests and mountain sides filled with aspen trees and oaks in historic destinations like Mescalero, Ruidoso, Cloudcroft, and Sunspot.
Does New Mexico have fall foliage?
Travelers will find fall leaves in various areas of New Mexico. However, southern New Mexico is home to some of the best fall foliage in the state. Gorgeous sites for fall foliage include Sierra Blanca Peak and the Sacramento Mountains.
Now let’s get to the top spots for fall foliage viewing in New Mexico:
Sunspot Scenic Byway
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.
Cloudcroft, New Mexico
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:
- Turn right toward Carrizo Canyon Road/Indian Service Route 4
- Take a slight left onto Carrizo Canyon Road/Indian Service Route 4. Stay on this road for 2.9 miles.
- Turn right onto US-70 W. Stay on this road for 6.2 miles.
- Turn left onto NM-244 S. Stay on this road for 29.2 miles.
- 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
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.
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:
- Head northwest toward Carrizo Canyon Road/Indian Service Route 4
- 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.
- 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
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.