Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The High Road to Taos (and the Low)

The High Road

If you tell someone you are going to Santa Fe, one of the first questions they ask you is "Are you driving the High Road to Taos?" It definitely should be on anyone's "bucket list" for New Mexico. Our first trip up to Taos was driven at night because we left after Ally got off work on Saturday night. On our way back, we went to Ojo Caliente (a mineral springs spa and resort - honestly, I wasn't super impressed but I'll have to comment on that on another post) so missed the High and Low Roads to Taos again.

However, last weekend we drove up to Angel Fire because we had a free room for two nights at the Angel Fire Resort. We decided this would be a good opportunity to check out both the High and Low Roads to Taos (or to Santa Fe if you want to get technical!)

We left Sunday morning from Santa Fe and decided to take the High Road up to Taos. We started it a little differently than some of the directions online suggested. The suggested route starts you heading east on NM 503; however, we took US 285/84 north into Espanola to have the hottest (by far) and one of the most delicious (tough competition in NM) breakfast burritos of my life! El Parasol has a little stand outside the larger El Paragua Restaurant on Santa Cruz Road. We ordered breakfast burritos, sat outside at one of their picnic tables (there is no inside seating), and sweat our faces off (because the burritos were hot, not because of the weather).

We picked up the High Road to Taos by heading east on Santa Cruz Road. Continuing on that road, we reached Chimayo. The thing to do in Chimayo is the Sanctuario de Chimayo, a Roman Catholic Church and National Historic Landmark. It is an important pilgrimage site for Catholics, and therefore receives almost 300,000 visitors a year (some pilgrims actually walk all the way from Albuquerque!)

 Going to call these Bean Trees (no idea what they really are)

Along the High Road, there are lots of signs for art galleries and studios, and I'm assuming most of them are attached to people's houses. We weren't really in the market for art on this trip, so we didn't stop at any of these.

I enjoyed reading the Wikipedia page on the High Road as we drove along. This way we learned some history of each little town, as well as any of the places we should stop to check out.

Truchas and its views from the road 

We took a slight detour to drive through the town of Cordova, but there wasn't much to the town. We drove past Truchas, but maybe should have detoured there instead. The next place we got out of the car was at San Jose de Gracia Church in Las Trampas. It was well worth the stop and right on the main road. You can't miss it. The church was built in 1776 and is a model for Spanish colonial church architecture. There is a cool, little cemetery in the yard and it's just an awesome place to take some pictures!

The drive through Carson National Forest, after Las Trampas (and really all the way to Taos), was really beautiful. There was very little traffic and wide open views. When we reached the stop sign (the end of State Road 76) we turned left to check out the Picuris Pueblo. It had another beautiful, picturesque church. I guess the church was torn down in 1989 due to water damage, but the pueblo members rebuilt the church by hand. Pretty remarkable!

On the way out of Picuris, we stopped at a little market for a cold beverage. There aren't many options on the high road for stopping for a soda or snack, so I'm glad we came across this. If we had continued on the High Road by turning right at the stop sign, we would've missed it!

Carson National Forest Vista Point

We stopped in Taos for some groceries (We missed Cid's Market again! Cid's is supposedly an awesome organic/crunchy market but it is closed on Sundays!) and continued on our way to Angel Fire. The road between the two is so beautiful, but better when it's not raining and your windshield wiper breaks! We ended up on the side of the road for awhile, which made this day really long. We finally made it to Angel Fire Resort and spent our evening NOT in the car, drinking wine, and playing cards on our balcony with a lovely view of the mountains and valley.

Oeste Vista Trail

The next morning, we went on a short hike in Angel Fire. We wanted to head back to Santa Fe kind of early, because we didn't want to get stuck in another afternoon thunderstorm with no windshield wiper. Oeste Vista Trail is a lovely loop (I've seen conflicting information on the distance, somewhere between 2.6 and 3.5 miles) and pretty straight forward. The views are not amazing but it was a great way to stretch the legs and get outside, without driving very far.

 The trailhead instructs you to take the Lower Loop first, which is actually the trail to the right. Kind of confusing but the right trail is correct. All signage is set up for people hiking counter-clockwise on the loop. 

The Low Road

The Low Road back to Santa Fe was a little more straight forward. No way to get lost on this road. It goes right along the Rio Grande for a lot of it, which is really cool. We stopped to eat lunch at a pull-off, and happened to be there while a group was rafting down the river. The river was pretty low at this point, so didn't look all that exciting (definitely not as exciting as our trip down the Rangitata River in New Zealand!)

In Rinconada, we saw a sign for a brewery and decided we should stop in and have a beer. Really glad we did! This little brewery had a cute patio out back with some shade and we shared a Tarantula Trek Red Ale (suggested by the bartender). After we had our beer, we walked to the fruit stand next door and went home with some tasty nectarines.

And we made it home before it rained! We were watching storms coming from both directions, but made it home with no problems. So glad we had the opportunity to explore both the High and Low Roads to Taos during the day time. New Mexico has such beautiful scenery and it seems to go on forever!


  1. We were in this area recently, it is truly beautiful and interesting. LOVED looking at your wonderful photos! I will have to seek out some of the places you mentioned next time we are there.

  2. I believe your "bean trees" are catalpas.

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful journey vicariously through your photos.

  3. Thank you, Judy! Really glad you enjoyed. I'll be heading back to Santa Fe in a week or so for more adventures (including Durango, CO and Mesa Verde), so I hope you'll come back to check out the blog. Enjoy your day!

  4. Thank you, Roberta. Seems like a reasonable guess. Glad you enjoyed the photos!

  5. I have a question for you... my hubby and I are going to be driving from Taos to Sante Fe. This will be a one way trip. Do you recommend the low or high road?

    1. Hi Megan. I think I would pick the High Road if I could only do one. There were a lot of cool stops and it was just really beautiful! Hope you enjoy your trip!

    2. Thank you for getting back to me! I'm saving this post in my vacation folder so I can make sure we hit some of the cool stops you did. We're going in June. I can't wait! Never been to the Southwest.