Fourth of July Canyon
This is one of the most beautiful and unexpected fall hikes you will find in New Mexico. Vibrant oranges, yellows, and reds are painted throughout the trees in this picturesque woodland. The Fourth of July Canyon hosts hiking, picnicking, and even camping.
Southeast of Albuquerque near Tajique, NM
Fall is beautiful all across our country. In New Mexico, you imagine the beautiful Rio Grande Valley lit up with Cottonwoods ablaze in their yellow glory. At higher elevations in the mountains, breathtaking Aspens twinkle golden and sit quaking. For transplants living in the beautiful desert southwest, sometimes fall brings nostalgia of red maples, yellow oaks, and abundant acorns that are not typically scattered throughout the New Mexico landscape. But in one section of the Manzano Mountains in early October, a large canyon of big-toothed red maples and oaks lights up with hues of oranges, reds and burgundy. This magical forest is sure to delight young and old. This is THE perfect NM fall spot to collect leaves and acorns, take family photos, wander up the trail, or hike the entire loop. You just may have to remind yourself you are still in NM and not back in NH or WI with the rainbow of colors on display.
Picking the right weekend to go when the leaves are at their peak may seem tricky, but visiting sometime during the very end of September and first couple of weeks of October should guarantee you will see at least some oaks and maples at their finest (they say weather changes determine their rate of change). The later in October will mean more leaves blanketing the forest bottom (best for leaf piles).
TIP: To check for color updates, call the U.S. Forest Service fall foliage hotline at (800) 354-4595. A recording will prompt you first to the southwest states and then you can select an update for NM. This hotline is updated starting in September each year.
In addition to the fall foliage, this is a fantastic family outing because there are many levels of activity you can choose to do at The Fourth of July Trailhead. Picnic and relax at one of a picnic tables near the parking lot. Wander to the back of the picnic area and you will find Fourth of July Trail 173. Follow the well maintained trail into the leaf studded canyon. The first mile of the trail thru the canyon is an easy walk for all ages. Farther up, the trail will follow a stream and spring. The entire loop is well marked and approximately 6.5 miles. Weather tends to be cooler in the am and late afternoons, and can be warm during the day. Layers are recommended. The canyon is somewhat shaded from the warm NM sun. There are signs warning that you are in bear and cougar country, so be aware.