September can still be sweltering in Albuquerque, but just north of town, fall is already hitting the village of Jemez (HAY-mus) Springs.
Tucked into a valley in the Jemez Mountains, the tiny town (pop. 375) already has cooler weather and the first hints of autumn color―excuse enough to make the trek. A soak in the natural mineral waters that give the town its name is the clincher. The drive up takes you along the banks of the Jemez River and through a forested valley surrounded by red canyon walls.
Make a day of it with a visit to the ruins of a 17th-century mission and gallery-hopping.
Jemez State Monument. WHAT: Explore the dusky ruins of a 700-year-old Native American village and a 17th-century Spanish mission. WHEN: 8:30-5 Wed-Mon. HOW MUCH: $3. WHERE: 18160 State 4; www.nmmonuments.org or 505/829-3530.