This post focuses on Taos, New Mexico, USA and the surrounding area. If you would like to view a quick summary of my travel and photography recommendations, please scroll down to the end of this post.
I usually stay in one of the rooms in Helen’s House at the Taos Inn. Helen’s House is a small, quiet building surrounded by courtyards. Its rooms have wood-beam ceilings and adobe fireplaces. The Taos Inn is in the center of Taos, within walking distance of many shops and restaurants, including the Taos Plaza. For a more luxurious stay near the center of Taos, I recommend El Monte Sagrado or Palacio de Marquesa. If you would like to camp, there are campgrounds in the nearby Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.
Left: Courtyard between Helen’s House and Sandoval House at the Taos Inn Right: Light by Taos Tin Works outside my room at the Taos Inn
One of my favorite things about the Taos Inn is that there is live music every night at its Adobe Bar. I like to sit up on the balcony or next to the adobe fireplace while listening to the music. It’s a nice way to end the day. Two other places with live music are Taos Mesa Brewing and KTAOS Solar Center. Taos Mesa Brewing is a microbrewery located out on the mesa next to Taos. Its unique architecture and artwork, musical guests, and mesmerizing view of the mesa and mountains from the patio make it a great spot to visit. You can also buy clay pint glasses made for the brewery by a local artist. KTAOS Solar Center is home to a solar-powered radio station, music venue, restaurant, and bar. The view of the mountains fills the windows. If you’re there on a Monday night, you can attend the taping of the radio show “Off the Cuff Live!” for free.
Live music at the Adobe Bar in the Taos Inn
Taos Mesa Brewing
Left: KTAOS Solar Center Right: Taping of “Off the Cuff Live!” at KTAOS Solar Center
Taos has many wonderful restaurants. My favorite spot for breakfast is Gutiz. It has the best french toast I have ever had. The Taoseno (beans, tomatoes, potatoes, rice, cheese, scrambled eggs, and red & green chile in a terra-cotta bowl) is also delicious. I always make sure to get some lunch and a slice of frozen avocado lime pie at Orlando’s New Mexican Cafe when visiting Taos. My favorite spots for dinner are The Love Apple and El Meze. The Love Apple has a warm and cozy atmosphere. It specializes in locally-sourced food. My favorite meal there was fresh-caught trout with lime cooked in a corn husk and peach cobbler for dessert. Remember that this restaurant does not accept credit cards. El Meze specializes in what it calls regionally-inspired, rustic comfort food. My favorite meal there was bison tamales in green chile and mini cardamom doughnuts for dessert. The view from the restaurant is amazing. I recommend requesting a table with an unobstructed view of the mountains.
Left: The Love Apple Right: Frozen avocado lime pie at Orlando’s New Mexican Cafe
There are great hiking opportunities in the surrounding area. My favorite hiking trails are Big Arsenic Trail in the Wild Rivers area in Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and Williams Lake Trail in Carson National Forest. I recommend hiking these trails in the morning to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. Always bring rain gear and layers just in case. Big Arsenic Trail is 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) one way and has an elevation change of 680 feet (207 meters). The views of the gorge and the Rio Grande are beautiful. The trail ends next to the Rio Grande. Nearby, there are cold-water springs and petroglyphs. You can ask at the visitor center about how to find the petroglyphs. There are also picnic shelters along the rim of the gorge if you would like to have lunch with a view. Williams Lake Trail is 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) one way and has an elevation change of 900 feet (274 meters). In the winter, you can snowshoe along the trail. The trailhead is in Taos Ski Valley. Hike along streams and through pine tree forests on your way to Williams Lake. The lake is at 11,040 feet (3,365 meters) and is surrounded by mountain peaks. You can see the highest point in New Mexico, Wheeler Peak, near the end of the trail. You might also see some marmots living among the rocks next to the lake. There’s a Bavarian restaurant near the trailhead if you feel like a post-hike meal or beer. Another option for outdoor adventures is to hike with llamas. Day hikes and longer treks are available.
Left: Hiking into the Rio Grande Gorge along Big Arsenic Trail in Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Right: Petroglyphs on a boulder near the end of Big Arsenic Trail in Rio Grande del Norte National Monument
Left: Williams Lake at the end of Williams Lake Trail in Carson National Forest Right: View of Wheeler Peak near the end of Williams Lake Trail in Carson National Forest
Taos has many other activities and cultural experiences to offer. The Taos Pueblo has been home to its Native American community for over 1,000 years and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tours are available every day. You can also attend ceremonies on certain dates. If you visit Taos in the winter, Taos Ski Valley is the best place to ski and snowboard in New Mexico. The unique architecture of San Francisco de Asis Mission Church in Ranchos de Taos has been photographed by Ansel Adams and painted by Georgia O’Keeffe. It’s neat to see a building featured in many works of art and to be able to photograph (or draw or paint) it yourself. The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is another famous structure. There are walking paths on either side of the bridge that offer spectacular and dizzying views of the Rio Grande Gorge. You can also photograph the bridge from hiking trails in the rest area next to the bridge. While you’re out on the mesa to see the bridge, I recommend checking out the innovative and sustainable homes called Earthships. Earthships are passive solar homes made from natural and upcycled materials and are intended to be off the grid. You can view or tour these homes at the Earthship Visitor Center. My favorite museum in Taos is the Millicent Rogers Museum. It showcases the “rich and diverse heritage of the American Southwest.” My favorite artwork at this museum is the gorgeous pottery made by Maria Martinez, the famous San Ildefonso Pueblo potter. If you have time and would like to learn about her home or buy pottery, the San Ildefonso Pueblo is a little over an hour from Taos.
Unique architecture of San Francisco de Asis Mission Church
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
Earthships at the Earthship Visitor Center
Beautiful artwork at the Millicent Rogers Museum
My favorite shops are Smoke Signals, Taos Drums, and Taos Tin Works. Smoke Signals sells peace pipes and other items made by the owner and other local artists. Taos Drums has a huge selection of drums made from wood and rawhide. Taos Tin Works sells lights, candle holders, and other items made by punching holes in tin or copper.
RESTAURANTS & BARS
- Adobe Bar
- Anaconda Bar
- Doc Martin’s
- El Meze
- KTAOS Solar Center
- Orlando’s New Mexican Cafe
- Taos Mesa Brewing
- The Love Apple
- Treehouse Bar & Lounge
- Hike Big Arsenic Trail in the Wild Rivers area in Rio Grande del Norte National Monument
- Hike Williams Lake Trail in Carson National Forest
- Hike with llamas
- Listen to live music at Adobe Bar
- Listen to live music at Taos Mesa Brewing
- Listen to live music or attend taping of “Off the Cuff Live!” at KTAOS Solar Center
- Photograph San Francisco de Asis Mission Church
- Photograph and walk across the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
- Ski or snowboard at Taos Ski Valley
- View or tour earthships at the Earthship Visitor Center
- Visit Taos Pueblo
- Big Arsenic Trail Map
- Carson National Forest Map
- Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Map
- Williams Lake Trail Map