If you’ve visited, you know. If you’re a first-timer, you’ll know soon enough: There’s something special about Taos, New Mexico. The iconic, small mountain town—located approximately five hours south of Denver—is a carnival for the senses. From spicy green chile to fast-flowing rafting waters to desert sunsets that have long inspired artists, Taos has something for everyone. Yet somehow, this Soul of the Southwest still remains fairly undiscovered, meaning you can explore its trails and pueblos and galleries sans crowds. Want to catch that Taos feeling? Here’s how.
Become One with Mother Nature
With 594,000 acres of public lands, there are no shortage of adventures to be had in Taos. Outdoorsy folks of all persuasions—bikers, horseback riders, hikers, fishermen, and kayakers—will all find their packs here. Water babies should head directly to the mighty Rio Grande and its Class IV whitewater (local rafting guides say 2019 water levels are the best they’ve seen in 25 years). Thrill-seekers can ride the infamous Taos Box, a 17-mile stretch of intense rapids at the base of the Rio Grande Gorge, while those on a quest for a little less of an adrenaline bump can cruise the more leisurely Rio Chama.
Looking to lace up your hiking boots? Take your pick from the miles and miles of paths that snake through the towering peaks surrounding Taos. (On any outing, keep in mind Taos’ nearly 7,000-foot elevation; drink lots of water and give yourself time to acclimate.) Beginners: Point your shoes toward the West Rim Trail that runs alongside the stunning Rio Grande Gorge. (Watch out for bighorn sheep!) For a moderate-rated option, the 3.7-mile (round trip) Williams Lake Trail brings hikers to a beautiful alpine lake surrounded by trees and craggy rock. Those seeking a true challenge should check out Bull of the Woods Trail. The 14.5-mile, out-and-back route leads hikers through pastures and gentle switchbacks to Mt. Walter (the second highest point in New Mexico). From there, it’s up, up, up to the grand reward: Wheeler Peak, the state’s highest point at 13,159 feet.
Take A Dip
Once your calves and quads are thoroughly burned out, rejuvenate them in one of the myriad hot springs peppered around town. Among our favorites: Manby and Black Rock hot springs, both located north of Taos. An easy 15- to 20-minute walk from Manby’s parking lot takes waders to two sand-bottomed and rock pools situated in the ruins of an old stagecoach stop. Black Rock and its two mud-bottomed rock pools are nearby, on the west bank of the Rio Grande; they require a short 10-minute walk from the primitive parking area. Water temperatures at both hot springs hover around 97 degrees and—heads up—clothing is optional.
Taos’ ethereal sunsets, soft, desert palette, and seemingly endless horizon have stirred artists from Georgia O’Keefe to Ansel Adams. See what that inspiration created at any of the nearly 100 art galleries and museums in town. This summer, don’t miss Judy Chicago: The Birth Project from New Mexico Collections at the Harwood Museum of Art (running June 2 through November 10); Chicago is a renowned American feminist artist who was named to the 2018 Time 100 list. Or, let your own creativity take over by fashioning a dreamcatcher at the 1,000-year-old Taos Pueblo with local tour operator Heritage Inspirations or making your own souvenir at one of Taos Clay Studio’s daily pottery classes.
There’s no bad time to visit Taos, but there are some special events that are worth planning a trip around. Check your calendars for these fun-filled celebrations:
- July 4 to 6: Taos 4th of July Music Getaway Weekend
- July 12 to 14: Taos Pueblo Pow Wow
- August 3: South Boundary Big Ride and Up and Over 10K Trail Run
- August 16 to 18: Taos Vortex 2019 (hosted by Meow Wolf)
- August 23 to 25: Summer Wine Festival
- September 2: Labor Day concert—Sting
- September 13 and 14: The Paseo 2019 Festival
- September 14: Taos Oktoberfest
- September 14: Bull of the Woods Trail Races
Plan your trip at Taos.org.