eeing the leaves change colors here in the Cibola National Forest has become a tradition of mine, since we moved here several years ago. Growing up in the further southern area of New Mexico, we didn’t have mountains quite as accessible as we do here in Grants, so my family never went out of their way to see the fall colors. Here the mountains are so close to home and so easy to get to, that we can’t help but take a trip up the mountain every fall to see the beauty of the changing leaves.
The week Mount Taylor got its first snowfall my first thought was that I’d better get up that mountain soon so I could see the leaves changing. I waited until that weekend and my husband and I went for an afternoon journey up the mountain.
We headed up Lobo Canyon Road/ State Road 547 and decided to go up towards the top and see the views from the La Mosca Lookout off of Forest Road 453. There are beautiful aspens on both sides of the road on the way up 453 to the lookout and most of them were just starting to turn colors. As we went to the top of the lookout there were stunning specks of color in our view for miles and we got out and walked around so we could get a better view of the dramatic fall colors in the distance.
While we were driving up I was a little disappointed because some clouds had rolled in and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get the pictures that I had intended on getting that day. At the lookout area we walked around in the brisk 39 degree weather towards the southeast, where you can see all the way to Albuquerque. The trees all had snow on them still, but only on the north facing half of them. I was snapping some pictures of the half snowy trees when the sun snuck through some clouds and lit up a section of the mountain that had some breathtaking fall colors on it! The sun only came out for a couple of minutes before it darted back under the dark clouds, but it was beautiful and made every second of our drive worth it!
I highly encourage you to take a drive up either Mount Taylor or the Zuni Mountains to see the beautiful changing of the leaves. My top two drives on Mount Taylor are the one we took, up Forest Road 453 towards the La Mosca lookout and the northern section of Forest Road 193. Most of the trees on Forest Road 453 hadn’t started changing yet, but were very close. Forest Road 193 is located just as the pavement ends on Lobo Canyon Road, it is the road that turns off towards your right. That is the upper section of Forest Road 193 and goes to the Gooseberry Spring trailhead. A few years ago we camped out near that area during an elk hunt we had in mid October and the leaves were so beautiful along that road. That road does loop back to the main road, but can get pretty dicey if you don’t have a good high clearance four wheel drive vehicle, so I would just turn around at the trailhead there.
The Zuni Mountains also have some great fall foliage. The best place that I’ve seen is from the Ojo Redondo campground to the Post Office Flats area. To get there take Forest Road 49 and follow the signs to the campground, which will take you up Forest Road 480. That area is very beautiful year-round, especially in the fall when the leaves on the aspens are changing.
With this beautiful fall weather and great fall foliage scenery, what better time to get out and explore your public lands than now.
For more information call the Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center at 1-505-876-2783.