Day Driving Tours
Day Driving Tours
High Road to Taos, River Road to Taos
Distance: 105 miles/170 KM
Driving Time: 6-8 hour
Route: From Taos Plaza, Hwy. 68 south to Ranchos de Taos; Hwy. 518 east; Hwy. 75 west to Peñasco; Hwy. 76 south to Trampas, Truchas, Cordova and Chimayó; Hwy. 68 south to Santa Fe; Hwy. 68 north to Española and Taos.
The High Road travels through awe-inspiring scenery and remote mountain villages that cling to their Spanish colonial roots. Start in Ranchos de Taos, a traditional agricultural community. With its massive adobe buttresses, high ceilings with vigas and hand-carved corbels, the San Francisco de Asis Mission is our most photographed and painted church. Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams are two of many artists who have depicted the church in their work. The retablos and bultos on the northeast screen were created by Molleno, an early 19th century santero, and the church has the largest altar screen in New Mexico. Be sure to explore the galleries and shops located around the plaza.
Visit Talpa’s charming little church of Nuestra Señora de San Juan de los Largos del Rio Chiquito.
Then stop at Fort Burgwin, where a garrison was stationed after the Taos Revolt against U.S. occupation. Fort Burgwin is now part of Southern Methodist University, SMU-in-Taos, and hosts summer sessions and is an active archeological site.
Drive 30 scenic miles through Carson National Forest to Peñasco, a small farming community.
In Las Trampas, admire San Jose de Gracia, a church still in use after 225 years. This larger mission was built in the cruciform style with two towers. Enjoy visiting artists’ studios in Ojo Sarco, before the little town of Truchas, which was built on a mesa below 13,101-foot Truchas Peak, the second-highest peak in New Mexico. In Truchas, see Nuestra Señora del Rosario, which was built in the early 1800s and has many well-preserved old santos.
In Cordova, a village known for the many woodcarvers who have lived there, is the
San Antonio de Padua Church. The church is only open for services, but if you can enter, you’ll appreciate the large altar screen painted by Rafael Aragon and other fine examples of religious work.
Chimayó’s Plaza del Cerro is the last surviving Spanish fortified plaza in the southwest. Believed to be built on sacred earth with miraculous healing powers, Santuario de Chimayó is probably the most visited church in New Mexico. Chimayó is also famous for the weavings of the Ortega and Trujillo families, and many shops contain their work, as well as fine crafts from the region.
Near Española is the massive church of Santa Cruz, Iglesia de la Santa Cruz de la Cañada, which has thrived during more than 250 years of continuous use.
Now travel to Santa Fe, which was founded in 1610 and is the oldest capital city in the U.S. Sites worth visiting include the Palace of the Governors, the Museum of Fine Arts, the International Museum of Folk Art, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian Arts, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santuario de Guadalupe, St. Francis Cathedral, Loretto Chapel, San Miguel Chapel (the oldest church in the U.S.) and the shops and galleries of Canyon Road.
Travel the “River Road” back to Taos, driving through Española where Spanish explorer Don Juan de Oñate staked his claim 400 years ago. Visit the nearby village of La Mesilla to admire the simple beauty of San Isidro, built in 1918, and the village of Velarde to see Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, built in 1817. Velarde is also a fruit-growing community, and roadside stands offer the season’s freshest produce. Follow alongside the fertile valley of the Rio Grande as it winds through a narrow canyon to the villages of Embudo, Dixon, Rinconada and Pilar. For information about the artists and studio tours, stop at Dixon’s Casa de Piedra Cooperative and the Pilar Yacht Club. At the top of the "horseshoe turn" just south of Taos, stop to admire the rich landscape of Taos valley.
Distance: 84 miles/136 KM
Driving Time: 2-1/2 to 3 hours
Route: From Taos Plaza, Hwy. 64 north to Hwy. 522 north to Questa; Hwy. 38 east to Red River, then south to Eagle Nest and Angel Fire; Hwy. 64 west to Taos.
The most popular tour in our area, this National Forest Scenic Byway circles Wheeler Peak, the highest in New Mexico at 13,161 feet. Throughout the drive, you'll see some of the oldest rocks in the southwest - quartz and feldspar that date back two billion years. Look for special Enchanted Circle markers to help guide your way.
Travel through the lush Hondo Valley and watch for the sign to the D.H. Lawrence Memorial but be aware that the facility is often closed due to a restructuring of the management through University of New Mexico. The English author spent much of his time from 1922 to 1925 writing in the solitude of a ranch on this property. After his death, Lawrence's ashes were brought here and placed in a chapel built by his widow, Frieda.
Continuing north, the scar on the mountains to your east was left by the San Cristobal/Lama fire of 1996, which destroyed almost 8,000 acres of national forest. Reforestation projects continue today.
Stop at the Red River Fish Hatchery which has free self-guiding tours of a show pond and several trout raceways. Children especially enjoy the show pool of the large rainbow trout, but fishermen downstream benefit from the harvest, too! Every year volunteers carry containers of brown trout fry down to the Rio Grande to help propagate the trout population.
In Questa, you will want to visit Artesanos de Questa. Local woodworkers, tinsmiths, painters, stained glass workers and sculptors show their work at this cooperative. Continue past Molycorp, Inc., which mines and mills molybdenum, a steel-hardening agent and lubricant.
Take a break in Red River and enjoy a stroll through this family-oriented town with an old west feel, complete with saloons and a melodrama theater. Red River offers winter skiing and snowboarding; the ski area lifts also operate in the summer.
As you leave Red River begin looking for elk and other wildlife between Bob Cat Pass and Eagle Nest Lake, one of the finest trout and landlocked salmon waters in the United States.
The old gold mining town of Elizabethtown is off to the south. Established in 1870 after gold was found, this was the first incorporated town in New Mexico, with at least seven saloons and three dance halls.
Visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, built by Dr. Victor Westphall and family in memory of the death of his son and others in Vietnam.
Take a break in Angel Fire, a four season resort with skiing, golfing, shopping and restaurants.
Drive the twisting Taos Canyon road back to Taos. Many of our artists live and work in this canyon. Studios and galleries - painting, pottery, bronze casting, woodworking - are open for visitors to watch artists create their art. Canyon art guide brochures are available at the Taos Visitor Center.
Heritage Inspirations | Guided Tours with Angelisa Espinoza (taos.org)
After working as a travel guide for over a decade in the Land of Enchantment, last year Angelisa Espinoza partnered with Heritage Hotels & Resorts to create Heritage Inspirations.
I had first heard about Angelisa from Maresa Thompson when I joined her for dinner at the El Monte Segrado Resort & Spa last Fall. Angelisa had been working at the El Monte when she met Jim Long the CEO of Heritage Resorts & Spas.
After sharing her dream of owning her own Travel Company here in New Mexico, Long decided to back her and Heritage Inspirations LLC., was born.
“Considering my many years of experience as a travel expert and guide, this partnership seemed like a natural fit.” Angelisa tells me as we sit and chat in the Matriarch Room (dedicated to Mabel Dodge Luhan) at the Palacio de Marquesa, where Asia Golden is graciously hosting us.
I had run into the two of them a couple of weeks prior at a popular cafe, where Asia introduced me to Angelisa. I had been following her on Facebook and Instagram, taken by the fabulous photographs she posts as well as the enthusiasm for living that comes through every word she writes and every picture she takes!
I’d been out of the loop for some months due to health issues but recovery has been swift and I was ready to get back to work. I was at the cafe for another meeting, but made plans with the two of them and now here we were. As we enjoyed a lovely bottle of wine, we got to know one another and Angelisa’s high energy is infectious and inspiring.
“I remember a road trip I took to Taos in my early 20’s, I had felt something spiritual about the land, she recalls, “The dramatic skies seemed to evoke a sensation out of me that longed to become intimate with the mystery that seemed evident in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.”
Neither Asia nor I are rooted in these parts although we have both lived here for years and feel deeply connected to both the land and its people, but Angelisa has roots here, even though she grew up in California.
“This region of New Mexico is the root of my heritage; just north of Taos, my Espinoza lineage starts in southern Colorado in the San Luis Valley and extends throughout northern New Mexico.” She explains. “In Taos there are two street signs that cross with my grandparents surnames, Espinoza and Maestas reminding me how blessed I am to share in this culturally rich land as apart of my family lineage that is now a part of me.”
Not only do her roots go deep, her knowledge of the terrain is impressive. After working as a travel guide for a variety of adventure companies for over a decade, mostly in New Mexico, her experience as a trip expert, itinerary developer, wilderness and rafting guide, bike and hiking guide, fly fishing, skiing, climbing – the list goes on – serves her well. It is her love of geology, history and culture that sets her apart, and make her tours memorable.
“I want to provide an authentic experience and creative sojourn here in New Mexico.” She says. “Many people think of this state as flat, brown and dry, and It’s true, there are definitely those places that force solitude and silence amongst the sage flats, the gypsum sand dunes and the arroyos.” She continues, “but these tours are about unveiling the other truths that are often not known about; the wild diversity of over 10,000-foot mountains saturated in aspens, hemlocks and wildflowers in rich green meadows while only 30 miles to the west the land is painted in oranges, pinks, reds and whites stacked, eroded and split open to invite the artist’s canvas and the river rat’s vessel.”
Her poetic nature has lifted her vision – inspiration is what guides this remarkable young woman, it is her North Star, the love of the land she generously shares with all who sign up for her tours. As we sit together chatting about a myriad of shared interests, I’m struck by the continuum of Remarkable Women in Taos; even nowadays, women continue to mold and shape this town’s future and destiny, (many of them from far-flung places) just like Mabel and her friends did in their time.
This is what makes Angelisa special; she too relocated here, but the Land of Enchantment is part of her personal heritage which give her tours an authenticity many others cannot claim.
Heritage Inspirations tours run the gamut from day trips to weekend excursions – “dynamic, diverse and authentic” just like their founder, there is something for everyone!
For more information about Angelisa and Heritage Inspirations please visit the site linked below this post.
All images c/o Angelisa Espinoza
Blog courtesy of taoStyle – Read more at www.taoStyle.net