Land of Enchantment | New Mexico: Santa Fe to Taos

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

USA

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 chilies are only the tip of the iceberg in the 47th state. You will 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 will be spent in enjoying the beauty of the land in serene seclusion.

With so much space and diverse land to we will focus on the northern high desert and Rocky Mountain portion of this interesting state. Starting in the state capital with it’s thriving arts and epicurean scenes you will explore the pinon and juniper laced trails, the high alpine Nambe Lake. From Santa Fe, you will 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 will 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 will 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. Santa Fe has, over the years, become the heart and soul of New Mexico’s thriving epicurean and art scene. 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 o er.

After breakfast, you will 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 pinion 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 historic streets of Santa Fe. Distance: 7 miles. Elevation Gain/Loss: 1800 feet.

Today you travel up the canyon to the Santa Fe Ski Basin where the trailhead to 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 feet.

Following breakfast, you will leave Santa Fe and travel 10 miles northwest of town to access the trailhead for Diablo Canyon. Start by hiking through an arroyo that allows access into the canyon. Pleasant hiking eventually brings you to the Rio Grande and what was once the working Buckman Ranch. Enjoy the lazy river for some time 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”. Thousands of people a year pilgrimage to the church in search of the Holy Dirt that is known to possess remarkable curative powers. Tour the church and also visit the Ortega family and Ortega Weaving.
Distance: 6.5 miles. Elevation Gain/Loss: 500 feet.

Today you will continue north on the High Road to Taos. In route stop on the outskirts of town to hike 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 it’s way through the low-growing pinon and juniper forest on the front side and also through a more forested area of pines on the backside of the loop. 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, you’ll close the loop and head back for a quick 10-minute drive into Taos and your well-appointed hotel.
Distance: 5 miles. Elevation Gain/Loss : 1100 feet.

Today would be considered the “big” day as far as hikes go on the itinerary. 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 feet! Gradual climbing for the first couple of hours brings you to what is seemingly the only flat section of the entire trail and you’ll notice that you’re truly in the high alpine now as the vegetation falls away making way for a much rockier landscape. Take a good long break here before tackling the steep but well-built switchbacks to the ridge separating Wheeler Peak and Mount Walter. 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. Once back at the hotel enjoy a well-deserved beverage for tackling the highest peak in New Mexico. Distance: 10 miles. Elevation Gain/Loss: 2950 feet.

Your final day will have a more relaxed itinerary as you hike down the Slide Trail, a historic old road, Old 570, turned hiking trail leading down to the confluence of the Rio Grande and the Rio Pueblo. A massive rockslide of over 55,000 pounds permanently closed the road in 1993 and the BLM has done a great job on creating a manageable route down into the steep canyon. 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 for a loop back. Transfer to town where you should have time to wander lovely Taos or enjoy the fine hotel amenities.
Distance: 6 miles. Elevation Gain/Loss: 700 feet.

New Mexico: Santa Fe to Taos | Land of Enchantment

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