Editor’s Note: In this three part special feature, we’re exploring three of New Mexico’s most magical cities: Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos. In our final installment, we're heading to Taos, a destination city for outdoor enthusiasts throughout the year.
If you find yourself in New Mexico, "the land of enchantment," as it's known, then you have to visit Taos. Of all the popular travel destinations in New Mexico, this town, with its charming plaza for shopping, excellent food options, historical sights, cute neighborhoods, and wealth of outdoor activities, is a wonderful place to explore. And it might just be the most enchanting of all New Mexico destinations.
This magical vibe is especially evident at the El Monte Sagrado hotel. Right away the sparkling ceiling with a spiral motif captivates you as you walk in. Everything about this place is unique and makes other hotels seem utterly boring. And it’s eco friendly, which just adds to the specialness. An indoor grotto-like pool offers calm respite from a busy day and the whole place radiates a soothing and eclectic artful energy.
Make sure you visit the spa at this hotel. If you never go to spas, go to this one! It’s remarkable. You’ll probably ache a little anyway from partaking in Taos' many outdoor activities, so why not treat yourself to a massage? Be sure to ask for the room with the fireplace. A cozy adobe fire glows as you stare up at the sky light and watch birds fly overhead. They use premium ingredients and local scents like juniper, cedar, and sage.
The grounds are green and lush and rooms are full of character. Even basic rooms feel luxurious with turquoise studded bull skulls over the fireplace, sunken bathtubs, and fabulous cowhide furniture. The only trouble with staying here is that it’s hard to leave the room.
But leave the room you will, because there’s a ton of stuff to do in Taos. Start your day by going on a high altitude horseback ride in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with Big Al Johnson. A towering Texan cowboy with a big heart, Al will tell you story after entertaining story as you ride along taking in the spectacular views. He’s a character with a big personality and it’s fun to be around him. Al runs a tight ship and this is a perfect ride for beginners; the horse camp is immaculate and the animals are treated with great care.
After you work up an appetite, eat at The Love Apple for pure culinary magic. The food is farm to fork, made from scratch, and spectacularly good, and the cozy glowing atmosphere is dreamy. Omnivores can make a meal of interesting options like antelope, while vegetarians may feast on peach and goat cheese salad and fresh baked cornbread muffins. The creative menu changes with the seasons and a meal here is the kind you never forget.
River Rafting the Rio Grande is quintessential Taos. Los Rios River Runners has a variety of options to get you down the river at the level you’re comfortable with, including the difficult Taos Box, medium level Race Course, and calming floats. They have duckie boats too, for those who’d rather go solo down the river and they offer special trips like a Native Cultures Feast Float and Sunset Dinner Floats. Los Rios is New Mexico’s oldest rafting company, so you feel like you’re in great hands with these capable and friendly guides.
After river rafting, you can drive through the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument for gorgeous sweeping views. Head to Pizanos (on 23 State Hwy 150) for some satisfying lunch post-river. Have you seen the hilarious movie Paul ? Some scenes were filmed in Taos, and as you cross the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge on the way, you’ll see where the car chasing the RV crashed off the cliff. Don’t miss Pizanos. It’s the perfect place to refuel and you can sit outside and enjoy killer good pie, spinach salad, and local beer.
Four things to pack for Taos:
1. Sunday Afternoons Hat
The sun is intense in Taos, and if you’re on the river, or hiking, you need a hat. They make a variety of hats for everyone in the family, and the foldable vented cap packs down small in your bag.
2. Sea to Summit Dry Bag
This is an ultra lightweight, water tight backpack that packs down so small it fits in the palm of your hand, smaller than a coke can. It’s great for the river, shopping, or cycling, and when you don’t need it, you barely know it’s there.
3. Revo Sunglasses
Polarized, light weight, and high quality, Revo Sunglasses make water specific shades perfect for the river. They have floatable straps as well, making it easy to keep them on and also finding them should they somehow end up in the water.
4. Keen Sandals
Great for horseback riding (because of the beefy closed toe), river rafting, hiking, and just strolling around the Plaza, Keen Sandals come in sizes and styles to outfit everyone in the family. They’re so comfortable you don’t even have to break them in; they’re just ready to go. They’re also easy to slip on and off, making it easy to get through airport security quickly.