Fourth of July Canyon
Past the Spanish land grant of Chililí (its terms have been contested ever since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo), Highway 337 runs into Highway 55—bear right and head to Tajique, and then turn onto Forest Road 55 to reach Fourth of July Canyon. The area in the foothills of the Manzanos, seven miles down the dirt road, is a destination in late September and early October, when the red maples and oak trees turn every shade of pink, crimson, and orange imaginable. (Amazingly, the place got its name not for this fireworks-like show of colors, but for the date an Anglo explorer happened across it in 1906.) It’s also pretty in late summer, when the rains bring wildflowers.
You can explore on the short Spring Loop Trail or Crimson Maple Trail, or really get into the woods on Fourth of July Trail (no. 173), which wanders into the canyon 1.8 miles and connects with Albuquerque Trail (no. 78) to form a loop.
Forest Road 55 loops back to meet Highway 55, but the second half, after the campground, can be very rough going. It’s usually maintained in the fall, but at other times of the year, you might want to backtrack rather than carry on, especially if you’re in a rental car.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition