New Mexico’s largest apple producer, Manzano Mountain Retreat, sells fresh cider and apples at its orchard in the eastern foothills of the Manzano (“apple tree” in Spanish) range, about 50 miles southeast of Albuquerque, in the heart of Cibola National Forest’s turning leaves. Depending on the weather, this rustic country store on the secluded grounds of a popular retreat center sells jugs of perfectly tart-sweet cider—as well as Red Delicious, Law Spur Rome, Ozark Golden, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, and more than two dozen other varieties of apple—from about mid-September to early November (Thursday–Sunday). You can easily combine a trip here with a visit to nearby Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, in the small town of Mountainair, which is also home to the historic Shaffer Hotel, a striking example of 1920s Pueblo Deco architecture with 19 simply furnished rooms.
As it twists and turns past ghost towns and dense forests, the Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway provides a breathtaking route into the immense and untrammeled Gila Wilderness. Sycamore, walnut, maple, ash, cottonwood, alder, and willow trees provide a kaleidoscope of fall color in canyons and along streams and portions of the Gila River. Ideally, allow a couple of days to fully explore this 154-mile route, or simply tackle one of the trail’s two main prongs, each easily reached from I-25, in a single day. You access the northern arm at Exit 83 off I-25, just north of Truth or Consequences, where you can stop by the Geronimo Trail Visitor Center. Head west on N.M. 52, following the route used by early miners into a landscape once abundant with silver and other prized ores. Be sure to stop at the two neighboring, so-called ghost towns along the route, Winston and Chloride (don’t miss the latter’s Pioneer Store Museum). Down by Caballo Lake State Park, you can pick up the lower, more frequently traveled arm of the Geronimo Trail. N.M. 152 retraces some truly spectacular, sharply winding sections of an old stage-coach line on the way to bustling Silver City, passing through the funky old mining villages of Hillsboro and Kingston, each with a smattering of diversions. Stop for a burger or green-chile tamales, and admire the local art and memorabilia, at Hillsboro General Store Cafe, which has served the community continuously for more than 130 years. The very inn that once housed miners at the turn of the 20th century, the Black Range Lodge—with its dramatic stone walls and beam ceilings—has seven rooms offering impressive panoramas of the Black Range Mountains. The sweeping views of dense pines spotted with honey-hued aspens along this part of the route are memorable, especially as the road rises and twists sharply west of Kingston.
A RUIDOSO RAMBLE
The mountain resort town of Ruidoso, high in the Sacramento Mountains, is an ideal spot for a brisk fall stroll amid art galleries and one-of-a-kind boutiques, with dozens of them strung along the town’s main thoroughfare, Sudderth Drive. A particularly festive time to visit, while leaves are in full fall glory, is during the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium (cowboysymposium.org), a three-day gathering (October 11–13) at Ruidoso Downs popular with fans of Western lore, where you can shop for Western artwork, attend cowboy poetry and storytelling performances, and feast on authentic chuckwagon cooking. The contemporary Inn of the Mountain Gods, just southwest of town, affords stunning views of 11,981-foot Sierra Blanca peak framed by rippling Mescalero Lake. Take a seat at the resort’s Wendell’s Restaurant and Lounge and soak up the majestic view through the soaring three-story window. The scenery in this part of the state inspired artist Peter Hurd (who was, by marriage, part of the iconic Wyeth family of American painters). You can view works by Hurd, his son Michael, and other Wyeths at the Hurd–La Rinconada Gallery, in tiny San Patricio, about 20 miles east of Ruidoso. Several guesthouses are also available for rent at this historic arts ranch.
SPRINGS IN AUTUMN
Before 1950, when beloved TV personality Ralph Edwards convinced local officials to rename the town for his popular game show, Truth or Consequences was called Hot Springs, and for good reason. You’ll find no fewer than 10 bathhouses, many of them historic, in the compact downtown, where guests can soak away their stresses in pools fed by pleasingly warm, mineral-rich thermal springs. Situated at a scenic bend in the Río Grande, which skirts downtown on its way south from nearby Elephant Butte Reservoir, Riverbend Hot Springs is an especially inviting spot for a fall soak. The five public and three private pools are set among wooden decks and stone terraces overlooking the river and the willows, oak, and native cottonwoods along its banks, with Turtle Mountain in the distance. The groomed grounds of Riverbend, which also offers lodging, provide spectacular fall hues of orange and gold.
A HIGH ROAD REPAST All roads to Taos offer exceptional fall color, but the famous High Road might just be the most alluring. The stars along most of this route are the groves of giant cottonwoods glimmering with Mikado-yellow brilliance. On this 56-mile route between Santa Fe and Taos, through venerable Spanish colonial (Peñasco, Truchas) and Native Pueblo (Nambé, Picuris) communities, stop for a leisurely meal at Rancho de Chimayó, a sprawling adobe hacienda that in 1965 became a fine restaurant. This beautiful building with dark-red chile ristras hanging from its eaves is known for classic New Mexican fare. Take a seat on the adobe-walled, catalpa-shaded patio and order of glass of the house specialty beverage, the Chimayó Cocktail, a tartly refreshing blend of crème de cassis, Sauza Giro gold tequila, lemon juice, and apple cider. Stay just across the road from the restaurant in Rancho de Chimayó’s Hacienda, which offers seven rooms withvigas, 19th-century antiques, and great views of the countryside. ✜
Andrew Collins, a Portland-based writer, is the editor of OutAloha and OutCity Northwest
NEED TO KNOW
Caballo Lake State Park (575) 743-3942; bit.ly/caballolake
Pioneer Store Museum (575) 743-2736; pioneerstoremuseum.com
The Lodge Resort & Spa (800) 395-6343; thelodgeresort.com
Manzano Mountain Retreat (505) 384-4467; manzanomountainretreat.com
Hillsboro General Store Cafe (575) 895-5306; hillsborogeneralstore.com
Black Range Lodge (575) 895-5652; blackrangelodge.com
Inn of the Mountain Gods (800) 545-9011; innofthemountaingods.com
Hurd–La Rinconada Gallery (800) 658-6912; wyethartists.com
Aspen Vista Trail Mile marker 13, N.M. 475
Ten Thousand Waves (505) 982-9304; tenthousandwaves.com
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument (575) 536-9461; www.nps.gov/gicl
TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES
Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch (575) 772-5157; geronimoranch.com
Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway (575) 894-1968; geronimotrail.com
Geronimo Trail Visitor Center 529 N. Broadway; (575) 894-1968
Riverbend Hot Springs (575) 894-7625; riverbendhotsprings.com