Thursday, August 22, 2013

Eat to Hike, Hike to Eat - Taos, New Mexico

Allyson and I spent a great 3 day weekend in Taos, New Mexico for our 1 year wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago. Honestly, we needed another weekend (preferably filled with relaxing by a pool) after our adventure-filled Taos weekend.  This post will cover the great hiking and eating Taos and the Taos Ski Valley have to offer. I already wrote another post about our visit to Taos Pueblo. This is a must-do when in Taos.


We went on two great hikes in the Taos Ski Valley area. Within a 30 minute drive (and a really pretty drive at that!) from of the town of Taos, is the Taos Ski Valley. There are many hikes that start along Highway 150, which heads into the Ski Valley. We selected one - Italianos Trail (Trail #59) - described on a few hiking websites as being a favorite of the locals.

Hike: Italianos Trail in Taos Ski Valley
Hike Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult (steep and constant climbing)
Hike Distance (Round Trip): 7 miles
Elevation: 8,704 feet to 11,387 feet

The trail is 3.5 miles one way (7 miles round trip) and we were basically climbing the whole way out/up the trail. We gained 2,700 feet in elevation while crossing over the river more times than I kept track of. At this time of year (August), the river crossings were fun and not difficult at all. And the wildflowers were incredible! Highlights along this trail included the wildflowers and various fungi, a breathtaking aspen grove, and a couple meadows with decent views. For people looking for a loop trail (and something even more challenging that what we did), you can make a loop out of Italianos and Gavalin Trails. For people looking for something easier, you could just hike up to the aspen grove (about a mile up the trail) and back. You would still get to cross the river multiple times and see lots of wildflowers. 

 Aspen Grove

Ally's artistic shot

 Indian Paintbrush is one of my faves.

One of the meadows

The sun and clouds were actually doing this! Magical!

Hike: Williams Lake
Hike Difficulty: Moderate
Distance (Round Trip): 8 miles (or 4 miles if you start where I recommend)
Elevation: 9,207 feet (starting at ski village) to 11,100 feet

Our second hike is probably the most popular hike in the area - Williams Lake. You can start this hike in two different places. We followed directions provided in the Falcon Guide: Hiking New Mexico, Third Edition, by Laurence Parent. Honestly, I probably wouldn't recommend this route. We started at the base of the ski lift. It adds 4 miles to the hike, making it an 8 mile round trip hike. Although there are some nice aspens along that trail, there was also a lot of construction noise right by the ski resort. The best part of the hike started once we reached the actual Williams Lake Trailhead by the Bavarian Lodge and Restaurant. Unless you are just dying to add 4 steep miles (two up and two down), I recommend starting at the main trailhead. 

I have one other strong recommendation. Don't dress based on the weather in the town of Taos. Bring layers and a rain jacket, because we got caught unprepared. It even hailed, which was a first for us while hiking. We really enjoyed this hike, but didn't get to spend much time at the lake, because the rain and hail were not exactly comfortable. 

Cool modern house in the ski valley. Telescope in the upper right hand corner. 

 A little friend found us. 

Williams wasn't much of a lake by August. 


We had our anniversary dinner at The Love Apple. Pretty perfect, right? This place is so darn cute. It looks like someone started a Pinterest page for their dream restaurant and then actually brought it to life. Every little detail fits with their quaint, romantic vibe. We really enjoyed sitting outside on their patio lit by string lights. Make sure you try the amazing cornbread with whatever delicious butters they provided. Their menu is all organic and local and just delicious! Don't forget your cash though, because they don't take credit cards!

 They list all of the farms and other locations where they get their ingredients on the chalkboard.

 Clearly we were destroying the cornbread! My fave was the blue cornbread.

I forget what our delicious, chocolate dessert was called, but it came with a little heart shortbread cookie. Perfect for our anniversary (they do this on every dessert I think.)

Another night was had dinner at Taos Pizza Out Back. It was super casual with a great outdoor seating area. Supposedly, they have gluten free crust, but they didn't that night. We've had pizza a couple places in New Mexico and they all seem to come with sesame seeds on them. Don't knock it til you try it. I'm a sesame seed pizza eater for life now. 

Your visit to New Mexico isn't really complete without a breakfast burrito. Locals all have their favorite place to grab a breakfast burrito. So far, my fave is Taos Diner. So good! Make sure you bring your appetite, because this bad boy is huge. You can get green chile, red chile, or both (called Christmas). I highly preferred the green chile at Taos Diner and wish I hadn't ordered both, but was still very, very satisfied. 

Rio Grande Bridge

We took a little detour after our hike at Williams Lake to check out the Rio Grande Bridge. North of town, turn left to stay on Highway 64 instead of turning right to head to Taos Ski Valley. About 4 miles down the road is the bridge. You have to get out and walk out onto the bridge to really experience it. It's a little scary because the river is a long way down there, but the gorge is spectacular. There is also a trail along the gorge somewhere, but we didn't have time to check that out. 

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