New Mexico is Colorado’s neighbor to the south. The north-central portion of the state shares the Sangre de Cristo mountain range with Colorado and that’s where Taos and New Mexico’s highest peak live. Taos, the “place of red willows,” is a collection of restaurants and shops surrounded by rugged beauty, warmth and culture.
Taos Pueblo, the town bordering Taos on the northern side, is known to be one of the oldest continually inhabited communities in the United States. It is believed to be over a millennium old and built somewhere between 1000 and 1450 A.D. Currently, 150 people live in the structure year round.
We were able to road trip down to Taos for a few days and experience as much of this quirky town as we could. We climbed mountains, relaxed next to hot air balloons, and explored the Rio Grande River.
If you were hoping to get any recommendations besides Mexican food, then you may need to read a different article. We had Mexican food for every meal, and we’re very happy about it. Out of all the restaurants we tried, one stood out from the rest. It had a focus on quality ingredients, two locations, and didn’t break our bank. The Taos Diner was by far our favorite and we wish we would have visited this restaurant first so we could go every day we were there. Get a burrito “Christmas style” and never look back. Their green chile shines, but the red is just as delicious. It is easy to get a great meal in Taos under $10.00. Try out Guadalajara to eat among the locals. Hit Michael’s Kitchen Restaurant and Bakery in the morning and grab a green chile croissant. For a super cheap and delicious breakfast, stop by El Taoseno Restaurant just south of town. All of the food in Taos is delicious and reasonably priced. We decided to go on a green chile tour and tried every green chile each restaurant had to offer.
If you want a great coffee (and coconut milk!) try out The Coffee Apothecary. It has great brews, comfortable laptop spots and it’s attached to a bicycle shop — what more could you ask for? We spent an afternoon there hiding from the sun and caffeinating for our hot spring excursion that evening (more on that later).
Taos is home to the mystifying Earthship Biosphere community. We were lucky enough to stay in Picuris for a night, one of the rentable Earthships in the community. Earthship homes are unique because they are fully self-sustaining while using very simple construction techniques to work with the Earth and elements. They use solar, but their solutions for water use and heating/cooling are the most interesting, especially since Taos only gets on average of seven inches of water per year.
The water is used three times: for drinking water, watering all the plants inside, to fill the toilet, and then finally to water the plants outside. With such little rain, it’s incredible efficient the system is. The plants inside of the house purify the air and help with filtration of the water. It makes for an extremely comfortable atmosphere. When we stepped into the Earthship, we instantly felt relaxed and at home. There is a meditative aspect to staying in these structures. They feel more in tune with the needs of the land. Even with all the incredible eco-friendly practices, it doesn’t feel like you’re “roughing it” in any compacity. There is a fully functioning kitchen, hot showers (you just have to wait for two minutes for the water heater to kick on), indoor lighting, and a comfortable temperature all year round. Temperatures in Taos range from 12 degrees to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and because of the construction of the building dug down into the earth, it regulates the temp inside. The placement of the windows work with the summer and winter sun to either cool or warm the attached rooms.
Easy-to-find materials are utilized in the structure of the building, like glass bottles and tires. They are used to build durable structures. Currently there is an Earthship being built in Puerto Rico that is hurricane resistant. If you are interested you can volunteer, or donate!
It’s proximity to both mountains and desert make Taos a fun place to camp. You can experience both flat and spaced out desert camping and classic Rocky Mountain alpine camping in a single weekend. There are several free established and dispersed camping areas on the road from Taos up to Taos Ski Vally. The sites were close to the road at times but they were shaded and next to a creek. On the west side of Taos, there is ample BLM land that allows free dispersed camping as well. We found a great spot right on the rim of the Rio Grand River. It’s hard to beat the stars in the desert. It’s no wonder there are so many alien sightings in New Mexico… In the morning we woke up to the most amazing sunrise and a hot air balloon taking off only about 100 feet away. It was a good way to start the day.
This is where Taos really shines. Most people know of Taos Ski Valley as a winter destination. However, Taos is much more than that. The town sits at the base of the Sangre de Cristo range; the same Sangre de Cristo range that you visit if you have ever been to Great Sand Dunes National Park. They’re beautiful. Summit the highest point in New Mexico – Wheeler Peak (13,161 feett above sea level). This 8 mile out-and-back hike will reward you with views all the way back into Colorado. There is also a large heard of big horn sheep that frequent the saddle just below the summit.
If you want to stay close to town, hike the Devisadero Loop Trail. A favorite hiking spot for locals, this trail will take you through diverse terrain with a beautiful view overlooking the town of Taos and beyond. Don’t forget your fishing rod! The Rio Grand River is just a short drive out of town. There are several river access points. We stopped at a small day-use area near Arroyo Hondo and had coffee in the shade right on the banks of the river. It was wonderful. Taos is also surrounded by natural hot springs. We hiked to quite possibly the nicest natural hot spring we have ever visited; right on the bank of the Rio Grande. We hiked in about an hour before sunset and there was only one other human there. We enjoyed this area so much that we decided not to name it in the blog. However, if you are interested in knowing its location – you can send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or message us on social media and we’ll be happy to tell you where it is. There is a large parking area and it might not be much of a secret, but for us, it was perfect.
There is one way for this tour to be a reality, our sponsors! Sending a thank you shout out to our title sponsor Nite Ize, and all of our other awesome sponsors that make this happen: Crazy Creek, National Geographic, Sea to Summit, Mountain House, Lowe Alpine, Old Town, Leki, HydraPak, UCO Gear and Wenzel. If you like the gear that keeps us groovin’ click here to enter for a chance to win