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Taos City Trip

San Francisco de Asis Church in Taos, New Mexico

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Where to Stay Where to Eat What to See & Do

TAOS DAY 2: Wild Rivers Recreation Area, Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and Taos Pueblo

After breakfast, it's a good idea to pick up lunch provisions at Cid's Food Market. This gem features natural foods, and you'll need the delicious nourishment for your picnic at your next adventure, Wild Rivers Recreation Area.

The Wild Rivers Recreation Area in Taos, New Mexico

A scenic Bureau of Land Management recreation area, Wild Rivers gives visitors a first-hand look at the black rocks of the Rio Grande Gorge. To get there, take State Road 522 north to the mountain town of Questa, then veer left and go through the tiny town of Cerro. It's about a 35-mile, scenic drive and a favorite among motorcyclists in summer and fall. Wild Rivers offers a variety of hikes. One of the most fun and shortest is the Big Arsenic Springs trail. In one mile, you'll wander from the rim of the gorge down to the swift-flowing Rio Grande. It's steep and challenging at times, but the sight of Big Arsenic Springs is the big payoff. The setting is ideal for a picnic. Don't be tempted to drink the water from the spring; you're better off with bottled water or with the water fountain near the restrooms back at the trailhead.

On your return drive to Taos, take Highway 64 east to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, which at one time was the highest bridge on the U.S. highway system. Park at the scenic overlook and picnic area for an easy walk to the bridge. From the windy height of 650 feet, you can look straight down at the river you just visited up-close. During spring, you'll see rafters threading through the rapids below. Just be forewarned that, even if you aren't afraid of heights, the Gorge Bridge may very well make your heart race.

The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in Taos, New Mexico, stands at 650 feet tall

On the way back, pay a visit to the magnificent Taos Pueblo, three miles north of town, one of the oldest among the 19 pueblos in New Mexico. It's important to note that "pueblo" refers not to one single tribe but rather to Native American cultures unique to the Southwest. The Spanish coined the term in the 16th century when they happened upon the mud-brick settlements along the Rio Grande. They dedicated each one to a saint — hence we get names such as San Ildefonso, San Felipe and Santo Domingo. Taos Pueblo is an architectural wonder demanding an up-close visit, but be prepared to play by tribal rules, always bearing in mind that people still live there.

Be sure to observe restrictions about parking, photography and polite behavior, lest you receive a ticket from a tribal police officer. The pueblo is open to visitors daily, but periodically closes for ceremonial reasons. The buildings are made strictly of adobe: sun-dried bricks of earth mixed with water and straw. Roofs are supported by vigas, logs hewn and carried down from the mountain forests. Take in the stunning view of the mountains that form a backdrop to the pueblo and you'll realize why the locals hold them sacred.

The dining room of Doc Martin's Restaurant at New Mexico's Taos Inn

After visiting the pueblo and then freshening up back at your hotel, plan tonight to dine on contemporary seasonally changing fare at Byzantium, located in the quiet La Placita plaza. With only seven tables, diners can expect truly personalized service, house made deserts and bread, and a selection of pan-Asian and American specialties, such as the stacked Caesar salad or the pistachio-crusted pork tenderloin. Also in the middle of town, Doc Martin's Restaurant in the Taos Inn, has a contemporary American/Southwestern menu featuring appealing dishes like grilled chicken breast with green chile and apricot glaze.

Continue to Day 3

*Wild Rivers Recreation Area image by BLM New Mexico/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


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