When Columbus Day weekend arrives in New Mexico, the intense summer heat starts to fade, and it becomes the perfect time to go outdoors. Whether you’re hoping for crisp fall weather in Red River or one last glimpse of summer in White Sands, New Mexico has an abundance of exciting things to do and see. While you’re planning your autumn getaway, check out New Mexico vacation rentals in these beautiful spots.

1. Questa

Enjoy fall foliage without the crowds in Questa, a small town in northern New Mexico. Dress in layers and head out for a hike through the spectacular Cabresto Canyon, where changing leaves set the hillsides ablaze with color. For a change of pace, head down to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument for panoramic desert and canyon views. If you feel like driving, spend an afternoon on the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway. This roadway takes you through changing fall views in valleys, mesas, mountains and forests.

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2. Taos

Come prepared for adventure during a Columbus Day weekend in Taos. Pack your camera to capture the fall foliage on a hike along the West Rim Trail or the Williams Lake Trail. If you’re serious about fall colors, make the short drive to Arroyo Seco for brilliant leaves and wild trail rides. October is also a great time to try rafting for the first time. The waters are relatively calm after a dry summer, so you can enjoy a calmer ride with outfitters like Los Rios River Runners. Use your vacation rental as a home base for your adventuring.

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3. Pleasanton

Get away from it all with a quiet Columbus Day weekend in Pleasanton. After a lazy morning at your local vacation rental, head out for a hike past the site of a historic mill at the Catwalk Recreation Area, or soak in the peaceful vibes at Sundial Springs. For a peek into New Mexico’s past, make the drive up to the Mogollon ghost town in the Gila National Forest.

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4. Santa Fe

Experience a different take on Columbus Day in Santa Fe, which honors New Mexico’s Native American history with Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations. The fun happens on the Santa Fe Plaza. Visit this site throughout the weekend to watch traditional Native American dances, drumming performances and storytellers, and pop in to local galleries like Shiprock to see native arts on display. While you’re downtown, enjoy a meal at local hotspots including Sazon and The Shed.

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5. Albuquerque

The skies around Albuquerque come to life with hot air balloons on Columbus Day weekend during the city’s legendary Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Wake up early for the laser light show, and stick around for the stunning mass ascension, when hundreds of colorful balloons lift off at once. Other weekend events around the city include a chainsaw carving competition, the Fiesta of Wheels Car Show and balloon rides over the city.

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6. Chama

Ride a vintage steam locomotive through the mountains near Chama, which is the start of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. As you ride the narrow-gauge rails, check out the fall colors and marvel at the sheer walls of the Toltec Gorge. Afterward, go for a hike on the Continental Divide Trail, or explore historic downtown Chama. The town is famous for its golden-hued cottonwood trees, so check them out on the stroll to the Poshuouinge Ruins.

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7. Jemez Springs

Make the most of the crisp fall weather with a weekend in Jemez Springs. From here, explore some of New Mexico’s most beautiful hot springs. Start out with a soak in McCauley Warm Springs, which requires a 1.5-mile hike into the Jemez Mountains. Then, lather yourself in healing mud at the Ojo Caliente Minerals Springs spa. When you’re feeling relaxed, drive through the changing leaves along the Jemez Mountain Trail scenic byway, or pop into Jemez Pueblo to explore local Native American history.

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8. Las Cruces

If you’re not quite ready to let go of summer days, head south to Las Cruces, which is warm and sunny well into the fall. Take advantage of the pleasant weather at White Sands National Monument, where glistening sand dunes wave across the desert. Try sandboarding, take a bike ride through the dunes, or simply enjoy the views on Dunes Drive. Back in town, bring a sweater for the cool evenings and enjoy the changing colors of the red oaks while you dine at La Nueva Casita Cafe or El Jacalito.

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9. Farmington

Explore the Four Corners area from a vacation rental in beautiful Farmington, one of New Mexico’s outdoor adventure hubs. The weather cools down significantly in October, making it the perfect time for an off-road tour with Four Corners Explorers. For a more active trip, hike under colorful cottonwoods on the Animas River Trails or try mountain biking in Lions Wilderness Park. The San Juan Symphony also ramps up its fall season on Columbus Day weekend, giving you the opportunity to listen to world-class classical music.

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10. Red River

Escape into the mountains in lovely Red River, where fall colors turn the hillsides into a work of art. Pack your tackle for a day of trout fishing on the Red River, or ride horses through the hills with Bobcat Pass Wilderness Adventures. On a warm afternoon, bring little ones to the Red River Nature Trail, or check out the changing leaves on the Sawmill Park Trail. Don’t miss Oktoberfest, where you can try local craft brews and wines, play family games, and sample traditional German food.

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11. Cloudcroft

Revel in the peaceful and cool mountain air in Cloudcroft, which sits 9,000 feet above sea level. This charming town is at its best in October, when days are pleasant and the aspens change to a vibrant golden color. Pack snacks for a drive down the Sunspot Scenic Byway, a 15-mile route through the Sacramento Mountains, or head to the Old Apple Barn for a stroll through the orchards 10 miles west of town.

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