Fall Leaves Best In Los Alamos At End Of Jemez Mountain Trail

Fall colors come to the area. Courtesy photo


With the official start of fall, the leaves in and leading to Los Alamos are slowly beginning to change, with leaf peeping views expected to peak in early October.

Several upcoming events will give travelers an excuse to take the Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway to this cultural and recreationally rich area, including:

  • “Jemez Mountains Elk Festival” at Valles Caldera National Preserve Sept. 26;
  • “Opera on the Rocks” at Bandelier National Park Sept. 26; and
  • “Pajarito Trail Fest” in Los Alamos Oct. 17.

One of the most popular scenic fall colors drives, the Jemez Mountain Trail is a 66-mile stretch beginning at San Ysidro Pueblo along Highway 550 and continuing through the hot springs village of Jemez Springs and the Valles Caldera with a turn on Highway 501 directly to Los Alamos.

On Sept. 26, the Valles Caldera will host its sixth annual “Jemez Mountains Elk Festival” with free entry to the park in recognition of Public Lands Day. Because the Valles Caldera is home to New Mexico’s second largest elk population – events, tours, booths and activities at the event will all be centered around educating the public about elk and their role at the preserve.

Elk viewing tours are available beginning at 5 p.m. Sept. 25 and 26. Reservations are preferred with spots remaining on a first come first served basis. Visit vallescaldera.gov for more information.

Elk also can be spotted at Bandelier National Park, especially in the fall when bull elk make bugling sounds to attract a mate as part of “rutting” (mating) season. Along with wildlife viewing, Bandelier is most visited because of its fascinating indigenous history, dating back 11,000 years. Like the Valles Caldera, there is no charge to visit Bandelier on National Public Lands Day Sept. 26.

Bandelier will come alive with the music of Mozart that evening beginning at 4 p.m. with “Opera on the Rocks.” Tickets are $15 per person for non guild members or $35 per family of four. On Sept. 27, Bandelier will give visitors a chance to observe the Total Lunar Eclipse through a special observing session with telescopes and eclipse activities at 6:30 p.m. There is no charge for the event. Park entry fees do apply. Visit nps.gov/band for more information.

Oct. 17, the beauty of the fall colors will be at its peak and offer a breathtaking backdrop for runners participating in the Pajarito Trail Fest. The trail run includes a 10K and 15-mile run through Pajarito Mountain and surrounding single track trails in the Santa Fe National Forest. Entry fees are $40 for the 10K, and $45 for the 15-mile. Proceeds from the race will benefit the Pajarito Environmental Education Center, Pajarito Mountain Ski Club and SW Nordic Ski Club and Triatomics. To register, visit pajaritotrailfest.org.

For complete information about Los Alamos including suggested itineraries and scenic fall drives, check out visitlosalamos.org.


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