Drive the High Road from Santa Fe to Taos for the remote scenic beauty and solitude. The 56-mile High Road winds through historic villages past the Santuario de Chimayo, a church famous for its healing dirt. We shopped the galleries featuring punch-tin artwork, straw applique, statue saints called retablos, and weaving shops.
Don’t miss the 90-degree left turn at historic Panasco as we did. When you drive straight, the paved road turns to dirt and ends a few miles farther.
Pro Tip: Keep a backup paper map handy. You’ll find that cell phone reception and travel apps are not dependable in the mountains.
The road to Taos winds through the Carson National Forest with an alpine landscape and unforgettable views. A right turn takes you into Taos.
A left turn leads you to the Church of San Francisco de Assisi, dating to the late 18th century. Does this look familiar? The church was photographed by Ansel Adams and painted by Georgia O’Keeffe and other artists many times.
Once you’re in Taos, enjoy these fantastic outdoor experiences.
1. El Monte Sagrado
We made El Monte Sagrado Living Resort and Spa our headquarters for our Taos stay. It’s a Heritage Luxury hotel and northern New Mexico’s most exclusive resort. Find yourself surrounded by naturally landscaped grounds and picturesque mountain views at over 7,000 feet elevation.
Indulge in cutting edge seasonal dishes by Executive Chef Christina Martinez at De La Tierra Restaurant and Garden Courtyard. Brave the Anaconda Bar with its giant anaconda sculpture that wraps around the bar and disappears above. Delight in the Inferno Margarita and ever-changing creative cuisines like the Taos Smash Burger and Mojo Roasted Pork Tacos with peach-habanero salsa.
Immerse yourself in the healing serenity of the award-winning Living Spa with luxurious rituals, remedies, body treatments, and skincare. You will feel the Taos spirit!
2. Taos Pueblo
As you tour the Taos Pueblo, a living Native American community with over 1,000 years of tradition, you’ll see multi-storied adobe buildings still inhabited today. When you visit, take cash to purchase jewelry, gifts, fresh-baked bread, and pueblo tacos. Your tour guide is usually a college student who gladly accepts tips — and earns them.
Keep in mind that the people of the Taos Pueblo won a significant victory in the 1970s. The government returned Blue Lake and most of their former lands in the mountains to the Pueblo people. Today the lake and the stream running through the pueblo are considered sacred. Take a moment and breathe, “We are grateful to Mother Earth.”
3. Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
Ten miles northwest of Taos, you’ll cross the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, the fifth highest bridge in the U.S., roughly 650 feet above the Rio Grande. The gorge looks like the earth cracked open as it’s a long slit in the earth’s surface that the Rio Grande carved far below.
4. Taos Earthship Biotecture Community
Visit the Taos Earthship Biotecture Community one mile past the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. You’ll learn about architect Michael Reynolds and the passive off-the-grid houses made of natural and recycled materials such as earth-packed tires and glass bottles. These unique houses address the six basic human needs for a harmonious life: food, energy, clean water, shelter, garbage management, and sewage treatment.
You can learn more about the construction and experience life inside an Earthship when you rent for a night or a week. Explore an Internship or Academy Training. The Biotecture has even partnered with the Western University of Colorado to offer credits toward master’s degrees in Environmental Management.
5. Llama Trekking Adventures
Partake in multi-day llama trekking adventures or gourmet lunch day hikes along the Rio Grande Gorge and the mountains with friendly, wooly llamas who carry your backpack and gear so you can enjoy the gorgeous wilderness views. Experienced naturalist guides will enrich your llama trekking eco-adventure with knowledge about native plants, wildlife, edible and medicinal plants, cultural history, and wilderness living skills.
6. Wild Rivers Recreation Area
The Wild Rivers Recreation Area has a backcountry byway with five developed campgrounds, at least seven hiking trails, a visitor center, picnic tables, grills, drinking water, and restrooms. Two group shelters are available by reservation. The canyon ecosystem descends 800 feet from the rim to the river through unique, diverse plant and animal life. You’ll see mule deer, red-tailed hawks, prairie dogs, and mountain bluebirds.
7. Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument
Comprised of rugged, vast open plains at 7,000 feet elevation, the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument is dotted with volcanic cones and cut by steep canyons where the Rio Grande carved the deep gorge through layers of volcanic flows and ash. The highest volcanic cone is Ute Mountain at 10,093 feet.
You’ll find petroglyphs, prehistoric dwelling sites, and several types of archaeological sites, plus abandoned homesteads. The monument protects wintering animals and provides a corridor where animals move between the two mountain ranges. Relish recreational activities like whitewater rafting, camping, mountain biking, hiking, hunting, and fishing.
8. The Enchanted Circle
The Enchanted Circle, the 84-mile scenic byway through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, passes through river valleys, mesas, national forests, and over Wheeler Peak, the highest point in the state at 13,161 feet. Venture from Taos to Angel Fire and villages, including the ghost town of Elizabethtown. You’ll drive through more ski towns like Eagle Nest and Red River. Join the Enchanted Circle Brewery Tour led by Turquoise Tours. The village of Questa is the gateway to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, renowned for its beautiful scenery, trout fishing, and pristine mountain lakes with wilderness hiking trails.
9. Taos Ski Valley
Head to Taos Ski Valley, which is famous for its ski-in and ski-out accommodations, and you’ll revel in hiking, rock climbing, cutthroat trout fly fishing, river rafting, balloon rides, and much more during the summer. Of course, there’s skiing and other snow sports in winter. You’ll find alpine village suites and condos for rent.
10. Golfing In The Taos Area
Taos Country Club’s 7,000-foot elevation Par 72 golf course, designed by Jep Wille, was awarded a four-star rating by Golf Digest. You’ll drive the ball through low sagebrush, Bermuda fairways, and past numerous sand traps to bentgrass greens, all surrounded by panoramic mountain views. The Terrace offers gourmet dishes, drinks, craft beers, and snacks.
The Valle Escondido, hidden valley in Spanish, is a nine-hole, no-golf-carts throwback between Taos and Angel Fire. You’ll tackle postage-stamp greens via natural state fairways, across mountain pastures and cat-tail wetlands, and around tall Ponderosa pines. Find bar food, cold beer, and cocktails at the clubhouse, a community hangout.
The 18th hole at the 8,500-foot Angel Fire Golf Course drives uphill to the clubhouse, where you’ll enjoy two restaurants, a club, a pro shop, and locker rooms. Reserve your tee time online. You’ll play the bluegrass fairways through Ponderosa pine and wet, rich bottomland from elevated tee boxes. The help from the high altitude blesses drives that wind up traveling farther than ever.
11. Taos Glamping With Heritage Inspirations
This year, a Glamping Adventure with Heritage Inspirations will include a three-day, two-night “Journey Within” from August 12 to 14 during the dark sky, new moon Perseid Meteor Shower. Your luxurious glamping tent experience will connect you spiritually to the Taos earth, water, and sky.
You’ll breathe in the clean, fresh air with guided outdoor yoga, energize on the hiking trails, and savor a stand-up paddleboard session. Indulge in organic farm-to-table chef-crafted meals. You’ll make a sage and pinon smudge stick, learn horno bread baking at the Taos Pueblo, and walk the pueblo to appreciate their traditional way of life.
12. Rio Grande Balloons
In a hot air balloon at sunrise, quietly float over the sage meadows of the Rio Grande near Taos, dip into the Rio Grande Gorge, almost touching the water below, then lift again along the canyon walls and up toward the mountains. You are encouraged to dress in layers, wear sturdy shoes, and wear a hat to protect you from the burners’ heat. Depending on the weather, the trip ranges from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. Enjoy a champagne toast to conclude your adventure.
Editor’s Note: If you haven’t enjoyed a hot air balloon ride before (and you should!), consider our 11 hot air balloon ride tips and things to know before your first time here.
13. White Water River Rafting
Taos has some of the best white water river rafting in the Southwest! Experience the world-famous Taos Box, a real thrill seeker of a trip, an exciting 17-mile full-day whitewater adventure through the majestic Rio Grande Gorge. You’ll venture through class III and IV rapids along 700-foot canyon walls. You’ll quickly learn to navigate as a team.
The class I-II half-day float trip is perfect for families with young children or seniors. You’ll pass under buttes and cliffs of volcanic rock, and float around islands and banks abundant with wildlife and flush with birds. You can hook up with several experienced outfitters.
In conclusion, experiencing a newfound spiritual connection to Taos, I speak the Pueblo proverb: “I add my breath to your breath that we shall be as one people.”