Aspen and light

As the days shorten and the temperature drops here in the Southern Rockies, fall colors begin to move into the mid-elevation canyons below the crest of the mountains. They spill down like trickles of bright paint toward the old Spanish villages and Pueblos that dot the broad and luminous valley of the Rio Grande. The great burst of yellow among the high forests of aspen and spruce fades as quickly as it flared. But further below, colors seem to concentrate and richen in the smaller groves and stream-side meadows, set off by the deep greens, rich olives, and waxy blues of the mixed-conifer forest.

Ponderosa. “Of all western pines this one seems to the beholder most full of light”

The aspen will follow you halfway down the mountain, clinging to the cooler drainages and forming a golden canopy of light far over your head as it becomes their turn to shine.

Aspen high above the Bear Wallow Trail

But now, a new palette of color emerges. The scrubby Gambel Oak sheds its dour summer colors and dons the most surprising warm copper, persimmon, and deep red wardrobe.

A tangle of Gambel Oak

Wild currants throw off all restraint.

This dogwood relative goes deep into the red end of the spectrum,

While the Cliffbush simply can’t make up its mind.

Strawberries display a bipolar nature you would never suspect.

While their proud and thorny relative, the wild rose, takes on an elegant, conservative dress.

The lovely Rocky Mountain Maple glows in a pure chartreuse yellow.

Other shrubs experiment with warmer combinations of color, flaunting fashionable yellows.

These photographs were taken along the Bear Wallow Trail, about halfway up the road to Ski Santa Fe, just beyond Hyde Memorial State Park, 8 miles from the Santa Fe Plaza. The Borrego-Bear Wallow loop is a hike we frequently recommend to guests here at the Inn. While it is a beautiful walk any time of the year, it is simply exceptional right now.

Get outside and follow the light.