As summer fades into fall, here's an insider's tip—this the best time to be in Santa Fe County. From mountain hikes with spectacular fall foliage to tasty craft ale adventures along the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway, this place is a paradise, especially without the summer crowds. You can savor freshly roasted New Mexico green chile in world-class restaurants and experience the region's unique history, culture, art and food at a celebrated harvest festival. With our warm, sunny days and cool starlit nights, be sure to pack a swimsuit and a sweater along with your sense of adventure.
Finding Fall Colors
A hike in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains rewards you with inspiring views of gorgeous fall foliage and a chance to truly get away from it all. Surrounded by nature's beauty in the foothills of the Rockies, life becomes simpler with every step you take. Here are a few favorite fall trails in Hyde Memorial State Park.
Aspen Vista Trail is the most popular spot for gazing at the glory of fall's foliage. Locals flock here for panoramic views of aspen groves in a blaze of gold, red and orange hues. You could join the crowds that gather roadside to marvel at the magnificent sweep of colors, but take the trail, instead. It's worth it. For an easy hike, meander through tall aspen groves for 2.5 miles, then stop for a picnic with a view before turning back.
The Borrego Trail displays the brilliant colors of quaking aspens along a moderate, nearly five-mile round trip journey. You'll be following the footpath of an old sheepherder. The loop trail leads to an aspen forest, a beautiful spot to enjoy autumn's symphony of colors.
Winding through the Sangre de Cristo Mountain foothills, the Dale Ball Trails offer superb spots for leaf-peeping. The high-desert network of pathways overlooks panoramic vistas filled with the colors of fall. According to Travel + Leisure and Sherman's Travel, the Dale Ball Trails offer some of the best hiking opportunities in the country.
For more inspiring outdoor adventure ideas, view our Trails Through Time video:
Savoring World-Class Cuisine
For centuries, a rich blend of cultures has shaped New Mexico cuisine, from ancient Puebloan people growing beans, corn and squash to today's celebrated chefs serving five-star fare. Dine on the flavors of New Mexico's melting pot in acclaimed restaurants such as the entrancing entrancing Terra at Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado, where regional influences and a creative take on Southwestern classics result in piñon-crusted rack of lamb and other delights. Arable is the go-to spot for farm-to-table fare. This friendly locals' favorite serves everything from Southern shrimp and grits to street tacos and New Mexico's iconic green chile cheeseburger. For healthy spa dining, head to Blue Heron at Ojo Santa Fe Spa Resort. A table overlooking a serene spring-fed pond is a lovely place to enjoy seasonal fare made with local ingredients, including Ojo Farm Salad and Bison Bolognese.
Feast your eyes on Santa Fe County's dining destinations in this video tour:
The Ale & Spirits Trail on Turquoise Trail
The Ale & Spirits Trail celebrates New Mexico’s thriving craft brewery and distillery scene along the historic Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway. This road less traveled winds its way to the old mining towns of Madrid and Cerrillos, featuring art galleries and other unique places to dine, shop and sample award-winning craft ale and spirits. Along the way, the Turquoise Trail offers stunning views of mountains, mesas and red rock formations.
Start your ale adventure at New Mexico's first, and biggest, craft beer brewery, Santa Fe Brewing Co. In the sleek new Beer Hall at HQ, sample fusion tacos paired with award-winning ales. Choose from 27 taps of beer, cider, wine and other drinks. Live music is often on tap, too. The brewery's 7K IPA is New Mexico's best-selling craft beer.
Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery serves craft beer and artisan spirits made with local sage and juniper berries in an intimate tasting room bar and bottle shop. Play a round of darts and watch Tumbleroot's production process through glass windows.
Beer Creek Brewing Company is known for great beer and outrageous pizza. The expansive patio is the perfect place to enjoy both, as you take in endless views of sky and mountains. Beer Creek is at the forefront of New Mexico's Farm to Tap movement of beer made with locally grown ingredients, including hops the brewery grows on a nearby farm. Don't miss the bestselling Bootlegger Blonde, pure New Mexico beers, made entirely with locally sourced ingredients.
Try a variety of New Mexico craft beers at Black Bird Saloon in Cerrillos, housed in an Old West saloon that dates to the 1880s. With crooked doors, uneven floors and an easygoing atmosphere, this saloon harkens back to the days of the Wild West. It's a mighty fun place to wile away as you relish supreme suds and deliciously creative burgers.
At the end of the Turquoise Trail, look up and you might be rewarded with a magical sight of multi-colored hot air balloons in flight, if your timing's right. They're part of the 2021 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, held October 2-10. The world's largest balloon event draw thousands of hot air balloons for Dawn Patrols, Evening Glows, Mass Ascensions and other fantastical fun.
Learn more about the places on the Ale & Spirits Trail on our Todo Local video:
Drink Responsibly and Have a Designated Driver
A Hands-on Harvest Celebration
Just off the Turquoise Trail lies El Rancho de Las Golondrinas, an acclaimed living history museum that brings New Mexico's Spanish Colonial and Territorial periods to life with costumed docents and historic buildings. The museum's annual Harvest Festival was voted the second best harvest festival in the country by readers of USA Today. It's easy to see why. With a pumpkin patch, hay rides and an exciting line-up events that celebrate the people and cultures of New Mexico's past, this is a one-of-a-kind celebration. This year's Harvest Festival takes place October 2-3, with flamenco dancers, Spanish Colonial artist demos and hands-on family fun such as making your own tortillas, stringing ristras, making sorghum on a burro-driven mill, and grape stomping, a nod to New Mexico's history as the first wine-making region in the country.
Glamping in the Wilderness
For a memorable stay, experience high-desert glamping at KitFox in the Galisteo Basin Preserve. You'll stay in a luxurious tent surrounded by gorgeous wilderness, with more than 30 trails to explore. Back at base camp, you can relax, fuel up on healthy, gourmet food, hang out by the fire at night and watch the stars put on their nightly show. The motto here is unplug from your regular world and “plug into the wild.”
These are just a few of the many exciting events and things to do during Santa Fe's most spectacular season. For more information, be sure to follow us on social media.