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Driving New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle

Updated: 08.31.2016

Do you like to travel around in circles on a boomer road trip? A drive on New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle Highway  does just that, offering scenery, activities, and unique stops as it circumnavigates Wheeler Peak (13,161 feet), New Mexico’s highest point.

Explore the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge while driving the Enchanted Circle Highway near Taos, New Mexico

Explore the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge while driving the Enchanted Circle Highway near Taos, New Mexico

Every circle needs a start. To begin the circuitous journey, take NM Highway 522 north from Taos for the day’s first stop, Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, the second highest expansion bridge in the country. The gorge and bridge are seven miles west on NM Highway 64. Near the parking lot, visitors walk along sidewalks to viewing platforms in the middle of the bridge for a peak over the rail at the brown Rio Grande rushing 650 feet below the curving canyon walls.

Continuing the drive on NM Highway 522, pass through Questa, home to a thriving arts community and Wild Rivers Recreation Area. To complete the circle, take NM Highway 38 east to the rustic mountain town of Red River, a good place to stop for lunch. Log cabins and Swiss chalets vie for space along the highway adding to the town’s western feel.

Now the drive becomes a mountainous journey up 9,000 ft. Bobcat Pass. At the top, you’re rewarded with scenic high country as the road travels beside grassy meadows and white capped mountains. At Eagle Nest Lake State Park, the sparkling waters of the lake reflect a deep blue sky tempting the angler. Here the road junctions with NM Highway 64.

Visiting the Vietnam Veterans National Memorial State Park is a sobering experience when you drive the Enchanted Circle Highway in New Mexico.

Vietnam Veterans National Memorial State Park

The natural beauty of the region adds to the powerful experience at the Vietnam Veterans National Memorial State Park. In 1971, Dr. Victor Westfall and family erected a chapel overlooking the Moreno Valley to honor son, David, a 1968 casualty of the Vietnam War. Inside the Visitors Center, a small theater shows a moving documentary of scenes from the era as actors read letters written by soldiers, parents, friends and politicians. No matter your political persuasion, you’ll be reaching for the box of tissues placed beside the chair.

Casa Benavides Bed & Breakfast Inn in Taos, New Mexico, makes a great headquarters when driving the Enchanted Circle Highway.

Casa Benavides Bed & Breakfast Inn in Taos, New Mexico, makes a great headquarters when driving the Enchanted Circle Highway.

Follow NM Highway 64 south through the mountains to reach Taos in time for afternoon tea at Casa Benavides Historic Inn, a convenient headquarters when touring the Taos area. We like to stroll into the art-filled living room with our cup of tea and a plate of homemade goodies. Sitting in the late afternoon sun, surrounded by western art and Native American artifacts, is the perfect way to close the circle on an enchanting day.

Looking for more New Mexico Road Trip ideas? You’ll find a fun itinerary in our ebook, New Mexico Backroads Weekend Adventure.

Have you driven New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle Highway? Join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook or send us an email to ask a question or share your experience.

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