New Mexico Fall Foliage Train Rides (2024): A Complete Guide

Last revised: December 31, 2023

By: Adam Burns

There is currently only one heritage railroad in New Mexico, the popular Cumbres & Toltec Scenic which operates a section of the former Rio Grande's legendary narrow-gauge lines, which predominantly were located in southwestern Colorado.   Their excursions run through the fall season, allowing guests the chance to see Chama's fall colors.

Fall Splendor

Welcome to the enchanting state of New Mexico, where autumn paints the landscapes in breathtaking hues. As summer bids farewell and crisp air descends upon the region, vibrant colors emerge, transforming the scenery into a magical tapestry. If you are looking for other ways to experience the fall colors here beyond just a train ride here are some of the most popular.

Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway

Embark on a scenic drive along the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, a 85-mile loop that showcases the autumn beauty of northern New Mexico. Travel through golden aspen groves that adorn the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, framing picturesque towns like Taos, Questa, Red River, and Angel Fire. Witness the breathtaking interplay of reds, oranges, and yellows as you wind through mountain passes, capturing panoramic views that will leave you awe-inspired.

Jemez Mountains

Discover the captivating charm of the Jemez Mountains as fall unveils its wonders. Explore the Jemez Mountain Trail, a scenic drive that meanders through the heart of the mountains, revealing a kaleidoscope of colors. Immerse yourself in the beauty of the Valles Caldera National Preserve, where expansive meadows and vibrant foliage create a stunning contrast against the volcanic landscape. Don't miss the chance to witness the breathtaking sight of the cascading waterfalls at Jemez Falls and Battleship Rock.

Gila National Forest

Nestled in southwestern New Mexico, the Gila National Forest offers a secluded haven to experience autumn's grandeur. Venture along the Catwalk National Recreation Trail, where towering cliffs and vibrant foliage accompany you on an unforgettable hike. Marvel at the golden cottonwoods that line the Gila River, creating a striking reflection on the water's surface. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of the wilderness as you traverse through canyons, forests, and hot springs, discovering hidden pockets of fall brilliance.

Santa Fe National Forest

Indulge in the autumn splendor of the Santa Fe National Forest, a treasure trove of natural beauty. Embark on the Aspen Vista Trail, where golden aspen groves stretch as far as the eye can see, offering a mesmerizing display of color. The contrasting landscapes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the desert mesas add a unique charm to the scenery. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of the forest, capturing the essence of fall as you hike, bike, or simply bask in nature's glory.

Cimarron Canyon State Park

Nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Cimarron Canyon State Park boasts a stunning display of fall foliage. Follow the Cimarron Canyon Trail, which winds alongside the Cimarron River, providing glimpses of vibrant cottonwoods and shimmering aspens. Take a moment to cast your gaze upon the towering cliffs that surround the canyon, painted in hues of red and gold. Whether hiking, camping, or fishing, Cimarron Canyon State Park offers an idyllic retreat to soak in the beauty of autumn.


New Mexico's fall foliage destinations beckon nature enthusiasts and leaf-peepers alike to indulge in the seasonal spectacle. From the picturesque Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway to the serene wilderness of the Gila National Forest, each location unveils a unique palette of colors and experiences. Embrace the magic of autumn in New Mexico as you explore these remarkable destinations, immersing yourself in nature's vibrant canvas. Discover the joy of fall foliage, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Overview

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

(Chama):  The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic (C&TS) operates the longest stretch of the legendary Denver & Rio Grande Western's narrow-gauge (3-foot) network still in existence in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. 

It totals 64 miles between Antonito, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico.  The highlight of your trip is crossing 10,015-foot Cumbres Pass and passing through the Toltec Gorge, a line completed to Durango in 1881. 

The Rio Grande's so-called "San Juan District" was built to serve Colorado's then-booming silver mining industry but survived as a branch until the 1960's.  The nearby Durango & Silverton Narrow-Gauge (D&SNG) also maintains a segment of this same network, the Silverton Branch from Durango to Silverton. 


For train enthusiasts visiting either the C&TS or D&SNG is a chance to step back in time, witnessing how railroads operated more than a century ago.  Much of the original infrastructure, buildings, and even historic steam locomotives remain preserve. It is also a great way to view the changing colors of autumn as the railroad hosts excursions through October every year.

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