USA | New Mexico: Santa Fe to Taos

Explore the northern high deserts of New Mexico in the southern-most tip of the Rocky Mountains.

USA
  • Sun setting in the mountains of New Mexico
  • Church in New Mexico
  • view of the mountains in New Mexico
  • A view if the river from he top of the canyon in New Mexico
  • Mountain in New Mexico
  • Adobe building in New Mexico
  • Mountains in New Mexico

Trip Highlights:

  • Summit Atalaya Mountain and enjoy the views down to Santa Fe, north to Apache Canyon and Glorieta Baldy Peak, and west to the Jemez Mountains.
  • Follow a gently ascending trail through pine forest and stately aspen groves to Nambe Lake.
  • Enjoy the 360-degree views of some of New Mexico’s highest peaks from the top of Wheeler Peak at 13,161 feet.

Stunning desert vistas, high alpine peaks of the most southern portion of the Rocky Mountains, charming adobe homes and dwellings, thriving art communities, and chilis are only the tip of the iceberg in the 47th US state. You begin your journey in Santa Fe.  Santa Fe has, over the years, become the heart and soul of New Mexico’s thriving epicurean and art scene. New Mexico is the 5th largest state in the United States with only 2 million residents, meaning large portions of your trip are spent in enjoying the beauty of the land in serene seclusion.

With so much space and diverse land, you focus on the northern high desert and Rocky Mountain portion of this interesting state. Starting in the state capital, with its thriving arts and epicurean scenes, you explore the piñon and juniper laced trails, and the high alpine Nambe Lake. From Santa Fe, you hike to summit Atalaya Mountain and enjoy sweeping views of the surrounding land and look down on the city. Travel along the beautiful “High Road” to Taos, with an overnight stop in the charming village of Chimayo, with its historic chapel and centuries-old family weaving traditions.

Enjoy spectacular cuisine at Rancho de Chimayo and continue your journey to the mountain town and artist colony of Taos. You spend your time in Taos exploring local classic trails leading you deep into the Rio Grande Gorge and attempting to summit New Mexico’s loftiest peak, Wheeler Peak at 13,161 feet above sea level! After your last day’s hike and you feel your legs and lungs have had enough, you take a guided tour of the oldest intact dwelling in North America, the iconic Taos Pueblo.

Trip Itinerary

Arrive in Santa Fe, the exuberant and historical capital of New Mexico. Enjoy a stroll through this colorful city and take a peek into the many shops, art galleries and historically significant buildings Santa Fe has to offer.

After breakfast you drive 15 minutes to St. Johns College on the outskirts of town and the trailhead to Atalaya Mountain. This is a favorite hike amongst Santa Fe locals and it winds through dry arroyos and pinon and juniper forest en route to the summit of Atalaya Mountain. Once on top enjoy the views down to Santa Fe, north to Apache Canyon and Glorieta Baldy Peak, and west to the Jemez Mountains. Following the hike, transfer back to the hotel and enjoy its amenities or wander the historical streets of Santa Fe.

Distance: 7 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 1800 ft.

Today you travel up canyon to the Santa Fe Ski Basin where the start of the Winsor Trail is located. Today’s objective is Nambe Lake. Following a gently ascending trail through pine forest and stately aspen groves the hike takes on a more alpine feel eventually reaching Nambe Lake, a lovely alpine lake nestled tightly below Lake Peak in a spectacular rocky cirque. Following a lunch break retrace your steps for a transfer back to Santa Fe and your wonderful hotel.

Distance: 7 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 1200 ft.

Following breakfast, you leave Santa Fe and travel to the trailhead for the Lower Rio en Medio Trail. Start your hike on a private road for a short distance before the wooded trail actually begins its ascent up the creek. Enjoy the many creek crossings enroute to beautiful waterfalls and then wander back for the drive to Chimayo, a quaint and historic little town on the High Road to Taos. Chimayo is well-known as the home to El Santuario de Chimayo, a small adobe church that has become known as the “Lourdes of America”. Tour the church and also visit the Ortega family and Ortega Weaving.

Distance: 8 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 2000 ft.

Today you continue north on the High Road to Taos. On the way, stop on the outskirts of town to hike at the base of Taos Canyon and the Devisadero Loop trail. A local favorite, this moderate loop is located on the sunny side of Taos Canyon and winds its way through the low-growing piñon and juniper forest as well as a more forested area of pines. Located at the top of this hike are a unique stone circle of rocks along with a couple well-crafted stone chairs. After a rest on the summit chairs, close the loop and head back for a 10 minute drive into Taos and your well-appointed hotel.

Distance: 5 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 1100 ft.

Today would be considered the “big” day compared to the rest. Following an early breakfast, drive 30 minutes up to the Taos Ski Valley and trailhead access to the highest point in New Mexico, Wheeler Peak at 13,161 ft! Gradual climbing for the first couple of hours brings you to a flat section where you’ll notice that the vegetation falls away making way for a much rockier landscape. Take a break here before tackling the steep, but well-built switchbacks to the ridge. Once on the ridge it is a quick 15-minute walk to the summit! Enjoy the 360-degree views of some of New Mexico’s highest peaks before descending the way you came.

Distance: 10 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 2950 ft.

Your final day has a more relaxed feel as you hike down the Slide Trail, an historic old road, Old 570, turned hiking trail leading down to the confluence of the Rio Grande and the Rio Pueblo. After loitering down in the canyon bottom for a stretch, climb up and out of the canyon on the steeper Picuris Trail and connect with another trail on the canyon rim to loop back. Transfer to town where you should have time to wander lovely Taos or enjoy the fine hotel amenities. If time permits it’s possible to visit the historic Taos Pueblo.

Distance: 6 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 700 ft.

New Mexico: Santa Fe to Taos | USA

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