A short run up the road from Santa Fe is the historic mountain village of Taos, recently ranked #2 in the Smithsonian’s “Best Small Towns in the USA.”
Taos is both the heart of northern New Mexico’s winter ski haven and home of the Taos Pueblo—the oldest continuously inhabited community in North America. The Taos tribe offers visitors a rare cultural experience—an opportunity to step inside their homes and shops, and to take a step back in time. Their tribal ancestors, the mystical Anasazi, occupied these same grounds at the beginning of recorded time, and some of their ceremonial traditions are still being practiced today.
The distance from Santa Fe to Taos is only about 60 miles, and is an enchanted journey itself with a variety of ways to get there and back. One route takes you through Carson National Forest, named for legendary frontiersman Kit Carson. The forest is known for its hauntingly beautiful—some say haunted—national treasures of ponderosa pine and wildlife.
Another route takes you by Ojo Caliente, one of the premiere natural hot springs and spa resorts of the southwest, and the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, a cantilevered truss span rising 650 feet above a deeply etched passage of the Rio Grande.
The most popular Taos route from Santa Fe is alongside the Rio Grande, where whitewater rafters on vacation have been known to provide riotous amusement to travelers.
With so many scenic byways and side trips to choose from, planning the trip becomes an adventure all its own, and usually involves water in some form.
As for food … restaurants with bragging rights as both historical establishments and culinary stars are plentiful in Taos and along the way. Feeling outdoorsy? You might want to take a picnic lunch to enjoy in Carson Forest or alongside the Rio Grande, the better to appreciate one of the area’s most famous resources: clean air.
Taos comes by every eyebrow-arching facet of its reputation honestly. It is proudly eccentric, tough and bawdy on one hand, and dripping with haute art credentials on the other—a complex pairing cultivated passionately in Taos and throughout northern New Mexico. Museums and galleries line the streets, the Taos Film Festival is an international favorite, and there are always plenty of colorful characters eager to add anecdotal tidbits and lore.
The town has attracted both famous and infamous artists for over 100 years, including D.H. Lawrence, George O’Keefe, Ansel Adams, R.C. Gorman, and Dennis Hopper. To see Taos is to understand why artist colonies and salons are a significant part of its history, and why this will always be so, for as long as new talent keeps rising up and going off in search of a pure, natural, authentic source of inspiration far from the pretenses of urban life, there will be Taos.
A roundtrip to Taos on the High Road and back to Santa Fe is $520 + tax and takes 8+ hours.
A roundtrip to Taos on the Low Road and back to Santa Fe is $425 + tax and takes 6+ hours.
For more information check out these links:
Carson National Forest:
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge:
Santa Fe – ranked #1 for a Cultural Getaway by Travel/Leisure’s 2011 survey of America’s Favorite Cities
One of the top 5 romantic getaways – Travel/Leisure’s 2010 survey of America’s Favorite Cities
Ranked 2nd Cleanest Air in the World – World Health Organization – Air Quality Survey
Rated #1 in the Relaxation and Spa Category of TripAdvisor’s 2010 Traveler’s Choice Awards
One of the Top 10 Food & Wine Destinations in the US – Trip Advisor’s 2011 List
Forbes magazine has recognized Taos as one of “America’s Prettiest Towns.” The magazine calls Taos “captivating” and a “stunningly beautiful mountain community.” “Taos is a draw not only because of the natural beauty of its open landscape, clear skies and abundant light, but for the beauty of our cultural landscape, which plays an essential role in defining who we are through our art, food, music and history,” said Taos Mayor Darren Cordova. Other cities on the list include St. Augustine, Fla.; Old San Juan, Puerto Rico; and San Luis Obispo, Calif.