This time of year, the state lives up to its Land of Enchantment designation. Just about anywhere you go the shades and tints and tones of the mountain and desert landscape are breathtaking. So it’s time to embark on a journey across New Mexico. From legendary bakeries, to wildlife refuges, to haunted attractions, here’s the perfect fall road trip in the state.
The beginning of any road trip starts with a travel mug full of great coffee. That is Iconik Coffee’s wheelhouse. They roast, grind and brew only their beans, so a good pour-over, latte, espresso, or some other coffee concoction is a given. With two locations, there’s no reason not to grab a cup of joe to go.
Head south out of Santa Fe and hook-up with Highway 14, a southern section of this picturesque route that takes you right through the central part of the state. The highway is rimmed by the Ortiz and San Pedro mountains to the East and the Sandia Mountains, part of Cibola National Forest, to the west. In fall, the slopes are dotted with the changing hues of cottonwood, maple and sycamore leaves. Continue south toward Mountainair on Highway 337, part of the Salt Missions Trail Scenic Byway that scoots along the eastern side of the Manzano Mountains, also ablaze in fall colors. Along the way there are cultural and historic sites to check out.
Nestled in the hills just south of Santa Fe, sits the Village of Cerrillos, an official “ghost town” whose streets welcome dayâ€trippers yearâ€round. Ghost towns exist all over the world but there’s something that makes those in America uniquely enchanting and even romantic. While the majority of abandoned towns across the country were paved over to make way for suburbs, Cerrillos found a second life. #Cerrillos #HistoricCerrillos #MiningTown #MineShaftTavern #TurquoiseTrail #TurquoiseTrailNationalScenicByway #TiffanyAndCompany #GeorgeFKunz #CasaGrandeTradingPost #CerrillosHillsStatePark #SantaFeTravelGuide #TheCityDifferent #SantaFeNM #SantaFeLife #SantaF
Time for lunch. This is the place. The city’s claim to fame is that it’s just 10 miles from the center of the state … and this restaurant. Order one of their lunch boxes and sit out on the patio in the fresh mountain air. The lunch comes with either a smoked brisket, chicken or pork sandwich, plus salad, fruit and a dessert. Local knowledge says go with the melt-in-your-mouth brisket. The bakery does indeed have delicious sweet items too, so be sure to pick up a homemade chocolate cinnamon roll or biscotti or an apricot kolache before getting back on the road.
After lunch head west on Highway 60 to the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge — a dynamic place to walk off that lunch. The hiking trails vary in length from a quarter-mile loop to a four-mile out-and-back. The longer hike takes you through the wild desert landscape, along the bottom of a mesa and them up to the top for panoramic views of the Refuge. This beautiful sanctuary is home to hundreds of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, flowers, shrubs and trees. It’s a wild botanical garden and wildlife area all in one place.
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Hungry? How ‘bout them apples at Costanza Orchard? Take Interstate 25 north for a stop at this six-acre orchard, located in the lower Rio Grande Valley, that has 1,000 apple, pear and peach trees. You can stroll through the orchard and pick you own apples or buy a five, 10 or 20-pound bag or a bushel of the apple-of-your-eye favorites. Or try a refreshing glass of their homemade cider. Open seasonally.
Fall brings with it the ballyhoo of Halloween and a trip to a haunted house. Keep going north for a visit to this spine-chilling experience. Do the words “immersive haunted house” have you shaking in your boots? They should. This interactive event, put on by the actors at Blackout Theatre Company, brings you front-and-center to the drama that’s taking place inside this eerily spooky building. You, as an audience member, are part of the unfolding horror story. Be forewarned, it’s not for the feint-of-heart. Open weekends throughout the month of October.
If you haven’t been frightened out of your wits, wander over to the Cellar Bar here for a drink. It might just put the color back in your cheeks. There’s a good selection of draft beer: a lager, IPA, some ales, plus a very inventive specialty drink menu. The Penicillin might be appropriate. Wines are by the glass or bottle and include both domestic and imported in a wide-range of red, white, sweet and sparkling.
Whew, what a day. Time to crawl into bed at this charming, secluded historic adobe. The quiet setting is a perfect ending to the day. You’ll have your own casita with a glowing fireplace that accentuates the warm tones of the southwestern decor. In the morning, stroll through the gardens and courtyards to a breakfast of green chile burritos, quesadillas, pancakes and French toast, plus fresh fruit, yogurt, juice, coffee and tea.
After breakfast, take Highway 550 to Highway 4 for a stunning drive through the Jemez Mountains. This section of the loop, from San Ysidro to White Rock, is chock-full of cultural, historical, geological and natural beauty. The ever-changing foliage of the Santa Fe National Forest is bursting with color, as is the red rock desert. You’ll pass the Jemez Pueblco, Jemez State Monument, Soda Dam and Battleship Rock, 200 feet of volcanic rock that looks like Navy warship. As you head east, Jemez Falls comes into view, as well as the breathtaking landscape of the Valles Caldera National Preserve, a 13-mile wide depression made by a volcanic eruption. Keep your eyes open for wildlife … you might see deer, elk, wayward coyotes and a soaring golden eagle.
This leg of the scenic byway ends here in White Rock, just in time for a meal at this local cafe. The owner-chef-baker specializes in gourmet comfort food and French-style desserts. Soups, salads and sandwiches top the lunch menu, but the pumpkin mascarpone ravioli and the sweet piggy pasta are other-worldly. Treat yourself to a slice of flourless lava cake or a really big chocolate chip cookie before heading for home. If that’s back to Santa Fe, squeeze in a stop at Bandelier National Monument and a walk through the ancestral Pueblo dwellings there.