Nature & Science

Enjoy fall colors in Carson National Forest!

View Present and Past Fall Colors on the Carson National Forest

Click on the images or link to visit the Flickr Album for images of fall colors throughout the years.

Mountains with yellow colored fall trees mixed in Mountain view of fall colors dappled within evergreens Mountain view of fall colors dappled within evergreens
2018 Fall Colors 2017 Fall Colors 2016 Fall Colors

For Spectacular Views
For spectacular views in the high country, consider hiking or packing into the Pecos, Latir, Wheeler Peak, or Cruces Basin Wilderness, or Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area.

Viewing Carson National Forest From your Car

  • "Enchanted Circle" loop - Taos, Eagle Nest, Angel Fire, Red River - with an optional drive to Cimarron-Valle Vidal-Questa and then back to Taos.
  • Drive up to Taos Ski Valley or along one of the most beautiful stretches in the State - U.S. Highway 64 from Tres Piedras to Tierra Amarilla.

View Fall Colors from the Train
Travel in style through sunlit aspen on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad from Chama to Antonito.


Will Our Children Be Able to See Aspen?
Aspen's radiant gold is brought to you by fires that raged through this part of the world a century ago. Aspen is the mother of the forest, usually the first tree species to appear after a fire or after logging. Aspen sprouts from suckers in the ground and as it grows, it shades the ground, allowing young fir and spruce to take hold. Once they do, the aspen falls over and dies, only to reappear once again after fire or logging.
Deer and Elk Need Aspen Too
Aspen offers autumn beauty but also keeps many deer and elk alive through harsh winters in the mountains. These animals eat leaves and new shoots on young aspen and the bark of taller trees. The Forest Service helps keep the aspen part of the forest by planned burning and selective logging in areas where deer and elk spend the winter.

Why Do Leaves Change Color?
During spring and summer, leaves serve as factories, manufacturing most of the foods necessary for a tree's growth. This takes place in the leaf cells that contain chlorophyll, which gives the leaf its green color. But leaves also contain orange and yellow pigments masked much of the year by green chlorophyll.

Autumn's shorter days and cooler nights halt the leaf's food manufacturing. Chlorophyll breaks down, exposing other pigments. Other chemical changes can happen, creating even more pigments - yellow, red, and blue - which you see in the red and purple of maples or the bronze or brown of oak and beech.

Picture of Fall Colors at Taos Ski Valley
Also, colors on the same tree can vary from year to year, depending upon weather conditions. When autumns are warm and rainy, leaves are less colorful.
When leaves fall to the ground and decay, they help fertilize the soil, returning some elements borrowed by the growing tree.
Enjoy Nature's recycled autumn brilliance!

Picture of Fall Colors - Carson National Forest