New Mexico has been at the center of southwest travel forever. Its bustling towns and rich cultural background makes it a magnet for travelers. Enveloped by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Taos is especially lively, and well-known for its active travel options. From mountain adventures, to llama riding and some unique cultural stops along the way, this lovely city has just about everything. Today’s guest contributor, Fred Mays from North Texas Active Life is here with some great recommendations for active travel in Taos.
Mystical City: Taos, New Mexico
Taos is often viewed as a side trip from a vacation to Santa Fe. Don’t make that mistake! Taos is a destination in its own right. There is so much to see and do, from the arts, to the historic and mystical Taos Pueblo, and any number of outdoor adventures.
Let’s start with the Taos Pueblo, continuously inhabited by the Tanoan people for over a thousand years, making it the longest inhabited community in the United States. The pueblo is the permanent home to about a dozen Native American families today, who live without modern conveniences like electricity or running water. It’s not a life for everyone, and the population has slowly declined in recent years.
Active Travel in Taos
Those same mountains hold another key to Taos’ attraction. They are filled with hiking trails, mountain biking trails, and in the winter there are four ski resorts just out of town. The Rio Grande River Gorge slices through the high desert terrain, and outfitters run the rapids with rafts and kayaks. During the spring melt-off the river swells with Class III and IV whitewater.
I floated the river with New Mexico River Adventures during calmer water times. Guides do an excellent job of explaining the history of the river and surrounding wild country.
For wilderness hiking in the Carson National Forest without the need to lug a heavy pack, there are llamas to carry the load.
Wild Earth Llama Adventures provides a guide and llamas for day hikes or multi-day treks in the mountains around Taos, or in the Rio Grande river gorge. You’ll be surprised how much more terrain you can cover by not carrying that heavy pack on your back. And breathe that fresh mountain air.
The Taos climate is four seasons. It sits at seven thousand feet elevation on the high plains, desert terrain. Even during the summer it cools off enough at night for a light jacket or sweater. Winters are moderately cold and snowy, especially in the higher mountain elevations.
There are miles of mountain biking trails in state parks and the national forest. We rented bikes from Gearing Up Bikes and toured trails in the Rio Grande Gorge State Park, overlooking the river gorge, north of Taos.
In the winter the mountains around Taos have four ski areas to pick from. The largest is Angel Fire with peaks over 11,000 feet. There are also trails for Cross Country skiing and snowshoeing.
Looking for a place to stay in Taos? Start your search for hotels in Taos, New Mexico with us!
Art and Culture in Taos
Art lovers have an abundance of opportunities to let the Taos culture atmosphere satisfy them. There are eight museums in town, and over 40 art galleries. A complete list can be found at the Taos Visitor Center website.
We spent an enjoyable hour visiting the Enchanted Circle Pottery in the Taos Canyon, getting the tour from owners Kevin and Jo DeKeuster. They explained their creative process, which includes firing their molds in a wood fueled kiln to 2,400 degrees.
For restaurants, I recommend Lambert’s on Bent Street. It has a full menu for dinner, and a fine wine list. Another more budget conscious restaurant is The Gorge on Taos Plaza right by the main plaza entrance off Route 68, Paseo del Pueblo Sur. For lunch the Burger Stand on Paseo del Pueblo Sur serves up huge burgers and craft beer.
Just south of Taos you will find a rarity, a New Mexico vineyard. The Vivac Winery sits just off Highway 68, the road from Santa Fe. It has a full tasting room, and obviously you can buy wine by the bottles or the case. We found the current vintage quite good.
So no matter whether you are seeking adventure, culture, or just a nice place to enjoy a glass of wine and dinner, Taos has a lot to offer. I’ve spent four days there and would go back in a heartbeat because there is so much to see and do.
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