If you haven’t done a fall hike through a stand of colorful leaves, this week is likely your last chance until next year.
Aspens in the high country have past their peak, so a lower elevation trip is in order. A trip up the Quemazon Trail will lead you to some brilliant stands of young aspens re-sprouted since the Cerro Grande fire.
The trailhead is near the corner of 48th and Trinity. The walk is a steady uphill climb, but the old road is never really steep. On the way up you can marvel at the ponderosa pines saplings planted by volunteers in 2001 and now 10 feet tall. The aspen stands are found above 8,000 feet, about 1.5 miles from the trailhead. The stands extend in every direction, from Los Alamos Canyon north to a brilliant orange stand near Pipeline Road. If you keep heading uphill to the two-mile point, you’ll be treated with a grand, golden vista backed by Pajarito Mountain.
For a maximum dose of yellow, you can extend this trip as a 7-mile loop with Pipeline Road. The County Trails and Open Space page has a description of this hike.
But fall in New Mexico isn’t just about golden aspens. A walk from the Mitchell Trailhead to the Perimeter Trail and from their east to the cemetery is rich with bronze, red, and orange foliage. Gambel’s oaks light up the landscape with a mix of green, yellow, bronze, and occasionally red leaves, sometime all on the same leaf. Smaller in stature, but bolder in color, are Fendler’s Barberry, a spiny shrub with deep red leaves and shiny red berries. Cliffbush and Ninebark dot the ridge to the north with a rusty red. This trip is particularly colorful in the late afternoon.
The Mitchell Trail is at the corner of 45th, Yucca, and Arizona. A quarter-mile climb brings you to the Perimeter Trail—turn right and walk as far as you like. Or you can leave a vehicle at the Rendija parking area off Range Road for a one-way, 2.5 mile walk.
Photo courtesy of Craig Martin.