Saturday, October 5, 2013

Fall Foliage at Aspen Vista (Santa Fe, NM)

Hike Difficulty: Easy (the distance I went) to strenuous (all 11 miles)
Hike Distance (Round Trip): ~ 3-4 miles (to first lookout) to 11 miles (total)
Time (Round Trip): 1 1/2 - 2 hours (my 3-4 mile hike) or 6 hours (11 mile hike)
Elevation: 10,000 ft to 12,040 ft (11 mile hike) 

I plan on doing this 11-mile hike with Allyson before we leave Santa Fe, but I have had a head cold all week and was dying to get some fresh air. I'd also read in the Santa Fe New Mexican that this weekend would be the peak colors for the aspens in the Santa Fe Mountains. We are going to have some temperatures below freezing this weekend, which may shorten the aspen colors season. I obviously had to get up there and see the aspens at their most incredible moment! And I think I did! 

Wow! We saw some magical aspens on our hike to Santa Fe Baldy last weekend, but the groves were much smaller. At Aspen Vista, you are surrounded by aspens and can see them continue well off into the distance. It's quite spectacular, and I'm going to let my pictures explain because they'll do a much better job anyway. 

The trail is a fire road that begins at the east side of a large parking lot on Artist Road. The parking lot is between 12 and 13 miles up Artist Road, shortly before you get to the Ski Basin. I was already in the aspens when I stepped out of my car at the parking lot. They continued at least as far as I hiked (about 2 miles out), but I think they may continue the majority of the trail. I was there mid-afternoon and the light was perfect. However, there were also quite a few people on the trail at that time of day. I'm guessing this trail will be swarming with people this weekend, but thankfully the fire road gives people plenty of room. 

 I'm thinking Sunset Magazine needs this photo for their cover!

 I only walked to this point. It was the first opening with views of Santa Fe. I'm sure there are more (and possibly better) views as you continue along the trail, but I got plenty of aspen love on this easy hike. I figured I should turn around given that I am sick. 

If you don't feel like walking (or you can't walk very easily), this spot seems like the perfect one for enjoying the view. The first road (and the distance I went or even shorter) was accessible to even beginner hikers. I saw people of all ages, all fitness levels on this trail, and all were enjoying it.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, Allyson and I are hoping to head back up here in a few days. I'll update this post about the "state of the leaves" at that time, but I'm hoping Santa Fe has another week or two of amazing colors.

UPDATE (October 14): Santa Fe National Forest Aspens are definitely past their prime colors. We went for a hike yesterday and most of the leaves are completely off the trees. There are still a few very beautiful aspens that have changed from yellow to beautiful reds and oranges, but the majority of the trees have no leaves at all. This doesn't mean this trail isn't still beautiful, but it was a very different experience than I had two weeks ago.


  1. Thank you Anne for this really nice, in-depth report. And such beautiful pictures! You definitely know how to use that camera. Hope to visit some of these locations this autumn, I think you will save me a bit of trial and error.

  2. Thanks Bill. Honestly, the subject here was pretty easy to photograph! Would have been difficult to get a bad picture on this day. I hope you luck out and get here during peak colors, because it really was magical.