Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go To Fort Union National Monument

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  • Website link: Fort Union
  • Cost: free
  • Hours vary seasonally
  • Short film in the visitor center about the history of the fort
  • Self-guided or ranger-led tours of the grounds
  • When to go: anytime

Fort Union National Monument is:

150 miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and since Albuquerque has a major airport, we will start our adventure from there. Let’s go!

*Recommended hotels in Albuquerque: Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express.

Campgrounds and RV parks are also available in Albuquerque.

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Prairie near Fort Union. Imagine a wagon train ambling along the Santa Fe Trail here. Aside from the barbwire fences, this scene probably hasn’t changed much in the last 150 years.

Getting There

From Albuquerque take I-25 north toward Santa Fe. At Santa Fe continue on I-25/US 84 east toward Glorietta and Pecos, New Mexico.

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Bonus stop: Pecos National Historical Park. We love this park so much that we have recommended it on our site before. Take the self-guided tour to see the remains of a pueblo that was built around 800 AD. Plan to spend a couple of hours here. The visitor center is very interesting and definitely worth a visit. Here’s a link: Pecos National Historic Park.

Continue northeast on I-25/US 84 toward Las Vegas, New Mexico, then continue north to the town of Waltrous. Follow the signs from Waltrous to Fort Union. Drive time between Albuquerque and Fort Union: 2.25 hours.

Hotels, restaurants, and RV/tent camping available 30 minutes away in Las Vegas, New Mexico

Destination: Fort Union National Monument

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Fort Union’s Officer’s Row

Fort Union was an important outpost on the Santa Fe Trail. The fort was originally established in 1851 to be a supply depot and living quarters for soldiers serving to protect travelers and traders on the trail. With the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, better living conditions were needed, and the fort’s original wooden buildings were refurbished or rebuilt with adobe and brick. Larger supply warehouses were added at that time, and Fort Union began providing supplies to all the forts in the region.

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Mechanic’s Corral. This is where they worked on the vehicles of the day.
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Post Commander’s Quarters
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Detail of the Hospital Walls

Fort Union’s hospital was once the largest and finest medical facility between Kansas and California, serving soldiers and civilians alike. Even after the Civil War, the post continued to operate with soldiers in place to protect the Santa Fe Trail. The hospital continued to operate during this time, too. However, with the advent of the railroad, the Santa Fe Trail became less traveled, and the fort was abandoned in 1891. Some wheel ruts on the trail can still be seen at Fort Union.

Below are additional shots of the buildings.

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This concludes our Fort Union National Monument post. Thank you for joining us on our journey. We hope you will return every week as we post more great road trips. Please leave us note below and tell us about your journeys. We would love to hear from you. Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Carlsbad Caverns National Park

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  • Website Link: Carlsbad Caverns
  • Basic Entrance Fee: $12.00 per person. Kids 15 and under are admitted free. (Baby strollers are not allowed.)
  • Parts of the Big Room Trail are wheelchair accessible.
  • Ranger guided tours are available for additional fees.
  • Tours of other caves are available for additional fees, and reservations may be required.
  • Hours vary depending on the season. Check the above website for information.
  • Cafeteria available in visitor center. Snack bar located in the cavern.
  • Hotels and restaurants available in the city of Carlsbad, New Mexico.
  • RV/tent camping available in White’s City, the city of Carlsbad, and on BLM lands near the park. Backcountry camping requires a permit. Check the website for additional information.
  • When to go: anytime.

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Located 75 stories beneath the New Mexico desert, lies a dark and magical place like no other. Stalagmites, stalactites, domes, totems, mirror-like pools, and even chandeliers make for breathtaking sights (and exceptional photo ops) on your journey through the caverns. Walk in to the cavern via the natural entrance if you are up for the challenge, or take the speedy new elevator to the entrance of the Big Room. The Big Room Trail is a little over a mile long, and it is definitely worth every step. Plan to spend at least two hours enjoying the trail.

Travel tip: the temperature in the cave is a constant 56 degrees, so a light jacket is recommended, along with sturdy walking shoes with non-slip soles. For those who tend to be claustrophobic, don’t worry – this place is huge!

Getting There

IMG_4570 (1)Carlsbad Caverns National Park is approximately:

150 miles from El Paso, Texas200 miles from Lubbock, Texas300 miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico

El Paso is the closest city with a major airport so our trip will start from there.

From El Paso, take US Highway 62/180 East toward Carlsbad, New Mexico. Drive time between El Paso and Carlsbad Caverns: 2.25 hours and 2.5 hours to the city of Carlsbad.

Travel tip: fill up with gas, use the restroom, and stock a few drinks and snacks before leaving El Paso. Services are very minimal along this road. Watch for the salt flats and beautiful mountain peaks of Guadalupe Mountains National Park along the way.

*Recommended campground in Carlsbad: Carlsbad KOA Holiday, located north of town, and approximately 40 minutes from the park.

*Recommended hotel in Carlsbad: Holiday Inn Express.

Destination: Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Below are some of the sights along the Big Room Trail. We will let the pictures speak for themselves.

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Bacon!
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Massive beauty
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Chinese Theater
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Mirror Lake
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Doll’s Theater
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Popcorn!

 

IMG_4463 (1)Most people visit Carlsbad Caverns to see the caves, but the park offers so much more, such as:

  • an amphitheater from which to watch thousands of bats come out at night during the months of May through October.
  • a scenic desert drive.
  • ranger led cave tours and night sky programs.
  • picnic areas.
  • hiking trails.
  • shopping, exhibits, and a nature walk at the visitor center.

About five miles south of White’s City, there is a turn off on Highway 418 to a separate little sliver of the park called Rattlesnake Springs. This is a day use area, mainly for picnicking. Along the same road, there is a BLM property called Cottonwood Picnic Area. This is a great place to stop for lunch, and just east of the picnic area there is a short nature trail that leads to the Black River. We were thrilled to find this hidden gem.

Travel tip: Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located in a desert. Spring, summer, and fall temperatures can be high, and the air is usually dry. Always prepare for the weather and bring along plenty of water.

IMG_4370 (1)Other things to do in the area include:

  • Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park. Here’s a link: Living Desert. (Carlsbad)
  • Brantley Lake State Park. Water sports, RV and tent camping. Here’s a link: Brantley Lake. (Carlsbad)
  • Lake Carlsbad Beach Park. Water sports, playground, swimming, fishing, just to name a few, in addition to miles of walker-friendly sidewalks! (Carlsbad)
  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park. One hour south of Carlsbad, and 30 minutes south of Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
  • Sitting Bull Falls. One hour southwest of Carlsbad in the Lincoln National Forest.

We hope that our overview of Carlsbad Caverns National Park inspires you to grab your camera, hop in the car, and head that way. The caverns are certainly more beautiful than the pictures portray, and this is another park that we think everyone should get to see at least once. Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Ruidoso, New Mexico

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Tucked snugly beneath the cool pines in the mountains of southeastern New Mexico, Ruidoso is a year-round vacation destination that has something for everyone. With its towering peaks, such as Sierra Blanca pictured above, and quaint alpine village setting, Ruidoso is a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We started going there as kids with our parents and grandparents, and we’ve been going back ever since!

The area offers skiing and other snow sports in the winter, along with the sweet, smoky aroma of piñion wood crackling in the fireplace. Summer brings the thrill of horse racing, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, golfing, and just about anything else you can think of to do outdoors. We love Ruidoso any time of year, but if we had to choose our favorite month to visit, we would choose October. We’re anxious to share this trip with you, so let’s get going!

Ruidoso is approximately:

140 miles from El Paso, Texas180 miles from Albuquerque, NM250 miles from Lubbock, Texas287 miles from Amarillo, Texas

Our trip is going to start in El Paso, since it is the closest city with a major airport. Drive time between El Paso and Ruidoso is 2.5 hours.

*Recommended hotels in El Paso: Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express. (Links for these hotels are located in our Places/Links section at the top of the page.)

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From El Paso, take US Highway 54 north toward Tularosa via Alamogordo, then take US Highway 70 northeast to Ruidoso.

⇒Alternate (recommended) Route: from El Paso, take I-10 north to Las Cruces, New Mexico. At Las Cruces, take US Highway 70 northeast to White Sands National Monument. Drive time between El Paso and White Sands: 1.5 hours.

Bonus stop: White Sands National Monument. Here’s the link: White Sands National Monument. Currently $5.00 per adult to enter the monument. Entrance is free for kids 15 and under, and there is a shop at the visitor center that rents sand discs for sledding on the dunes. Even if sledding isn’t your thing, the scenery is out of this world. There are plenty of places to park along Dunes Drive, so get out of the car and climb the dunes for spectacular views and photo ops with the mountains as the backdrop. Travel tip: before you go, check the website for park closures due to testing at White Sands Missile Range. Closures typically last three hours or less.

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From White Sands, take US Highway 70 to Alamogordo.

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Bonus stop: New Mexico Museum of Space History/International Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo. Here’s a link: Space Museum. Plan to spend a couple of hours here, as it is a fantastic museum that both kids and adults will love. Alamogordo offers many  hotel and restaurant choices, as well as a state park, wineries, and a zoo. While you’re in town, be sure to be on the lookout for the world’s largest pistachio! 

From Alamogordo, take US Highway 54 north to Tularosa (13 miles), then take US Highway 70 northeast to Ruidoso.

⇒Alternate (recommended) Route: from Alamogordo, take US Highway 82 east to Cloudcroft. (19 miles of steep two lane road.) This route through the Lincoln National Forest is very scenic. Travel tip: when you see the “Tunnel Ahead” sign, slow down for a pull out. The view of White Sands from the viewpoint is pictured below.

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Continue east on US Highway 82. Right before you reach the village of Cloudcroft, there is another pull out. Stop and get out of the car, stretch your legs, and breathe in the fresh mountain air. (The elevation here is about 8650 feet.) Learn about the historic Cloudcroft Railroad/Mexican Canyon Trestle pictured below. This only remaining portion of the old rail line is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Bonus stop: Cloudcroft. Stop here and have a look around the village that is home to Ski Cloudcroft. The village also has shopping, restaurants, history, and a totally laid-back atmosphere.

*Recommended restaurant in Cloudcroft: Dave’s Cafe – 300 Burro Ave. Good food and good service.

Bonus stop: Sunspot Solar Observatory. Head south from Cloudcroft on Highway 130 toward Sunspot, New Mexico via the Sunspot Highway (aka Highway 6563). It is an extremely scenic drive (a total of 19 miles in the Lincoln National Forest) that ends at the observatory. Along the road, be sure to stop at the scenic viewpoint pull out for fabulous views of White Sands and the Tularosa Basin. At the observatory, check out the visitor center, the telescopes, and the beautiful scenery. The elevation at Sunspot is about 9200 feet.

From Cloudcroft, take Highway 244 north to US Highway 70 to Ruidoso. Highway 244 is also a scenic route through the Lincoln National Forest. Drive time from Cloudcroft to Ruidoso: 1 hour. Travel tip: watch for deer and elk along this road.

Did we mention why we like this area in October?

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Destination: Ruidoso, New Mexico

*Recommended resort hotel in Ruidoso: Inn of the Mountain Gods. This resort has everything, including a gorgeous, yet challenging golf course, and a casino! Here’s a link: Inn of the Mountain Gods.

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View from the terrace at Inn of the Mountain Gods

*Recommended hotel in Ruidoso: Hampton Inn.

*Recommended Mexican food restaurant: Casa Blanca – 501 Mechem Dr.

*Recommended restaurant for dinner: Texas Club – 212 Metz Dr.

*Recommended restaurant for lunch: Anaheim Jacks – 1097 Mechem Dr.

We have heard that Sacred Grounds – 2704 Sudderth Dr. – is great for breakfast. We haven’t been there, but we have seen the crowded parking lot!

Here are our picks for some of the best things to do in Ruidoso:

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  • Bet! Enjoy the excitement of summer horse racing at Ruidoso Downs. The adjoining Billy the Kid Casino is open year-round.
  • Gamble! Play the slots or try your hand at one the gaming tables at Inn of the Mountain Gods Casino.
  • Shop! Ruidoso’s downtown offers a variety of great shops and art galleries. There is bound to be something for every heart’s desire.
  • Play! There are public golf courses, a public swimming pool, tennis courts, public parks, a bowling alley, miniature golf, bumper boats, go-carts, and horseback riding stables, just to name a few. img_4710.jpg
  • Ski! Head up to Ski Apache for wintertime fun in the snow. There is also a site for sledding and tubing near the ski area.
  • Learn! Check out the Hubbard Museum of the American West, located just east of Ruidoso Downs race track.
  • Hike! There are many hiking trails in the area, along with bike trails.
  • Canoe! Area lakes provide the perfect setting for canoeing, kayaking, or fishing.IMG_4654

⇒Side trip: For history buffs, head northeast on Highway 48 (aka Billy the Kid Trail) from Ruidoso to Capitan for a visit to Smokey Bear Historical Park. Spend an hour touring the museum and nature area, and see Smokey’s final resting place. Tickets are $2.00 per adult and $1.00 for kids between the ages of seven and twelve. Kids under six are admitted free.

Travel tip: stop in at the Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway Visitor Center in Ruidoso Downs (next to the Hubbard Museum of the American West) before traveling to these sites. Here’s a link: Billy the Kid Scenic Byway.

Next, head east on US Highway 380 to Fort Stanton Historic Site. Take a tour of the grounds and learn the importance of this historic fort. Here’s a link: Fort Stanton.

The third stop is Lincoln, New Mexico for some Old West history. (East on US Highway 380 from Fort Stanton.) Learn about the Lincoln County War, Sheriff Pat Garrett, and Billy the Kid, while touring the historic buildings in town. Tickets for entrance into all of the designated buildings are $5.00 per person at the visitor center. There is also a nice hiking/nature trail along the Rio Bonito. The slides below show some of the sights around Lincoln.

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We’re going to end this post with one last side trip idea. (While in any area, why not see everything. Right?)

Just a short drive east (one hour) from Ruidoso is the city of Roswell, New Mexico. (Remember the 1947 Roswell incident?) Well, whether or not you believe a flying saucer crashed there, a trip to the International UFO Museum and Research Center might be something you want to add to your itinerary.

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Go ahead and admit it…we know you want to see this place. So go, even if it’s just so you can say you have been there! Telling about your trip to this museum will make for great campfire or cocktail party conversation, too.

Okay, that’s a wrap. Hopefully we have inspired your wanderlust, and if a trip to New Mexico is on your radar, we sincerely hope that you will make plans to visit Ruidoso and surrounding areas in the future. Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Taos, New Mexico

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Taos Pueblo

Northern New Mexico is a breath of fresh air – literally. The air is clean, the skies are bright, and the mountains are majestic! While visiting Taos you will be able to learn about its historic past, see world class art, and enjoy great food, all in a casual, laid-back atmosphere! Taos is also a year-round hub for a multitude of outdoor sports, and opportunities for sightseeing abound.

  • The perfect destination for a long weekend.
  • A great get away for couples.
  • When to visit: anytime, but we like September and October. Snow sports enthusiasts will love Taos in the winter months.

Taos is approximately:

133 miles from Albuquerque, NM70 miles from Santa Fe New Mexico295 miles from Amarillo, Texas290 miles from Denver, Colorado

This road trip is going to start from the closest major airport, which is in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We’re so glad to have you along for the ride!

Getting There

*Recommended hotels in Albuquerque: Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express, several locations to choose from.

procsimpleOX63LBZ7*Recommended restaurant in Albuquerque: Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen – 5011 Pan American Freeway NE.

Travel tip: We highly recommend the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which takes place every October. Click this link for information.

From Albuquerque, take I-25 north to Santa Fe. Drive time between Albuquerque and Santa Fe: 1 hour.

Alternate recommended route: (Scenic Turquoise Trail) From Albuquerque, take I-40 east to Highway 14 north toward Madrid. Bonus stop: Madrid, New Mexico. Once a ghost town, Madrid is now a thriving artist community. Drive time between Albuquerque and Madrid: 1 hour. Continue on to Santa Fe via Highway 14. Drive time between Madrid and Santa Fe: 40 minutes.

Bonus Stop: Santa Fe. 

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Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi (Santa Fe)

Travel tip: If you can’t spend a few days in Santa Fe, at least stop for a few hours to explore the plaza. Plan a trip back when you can spend some time exploring everything this historic city has to offer.

*Recommended attractions in Santa Fe: Santa Fe Plaza, Palace of the Governors, Canyon Road Art Galleries, Loretto Chapel, San Miguel Chapel, Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe Railyard. (We have heard that Meow Woof is a must-do in Santa Fe, but we haven’t been there yet.)

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Rail Runner train at Santa Fe Railyard

Suggested hotel in Santa Fe: Holiday Inn Express.

*Recommended hotel in Santa Fe: Inn on the Alameda. Within walking distance of the plaza and Canyon Road galleries. Free breakfast. Click this link for Inn on the Alameda

*Recommended restaurants in Santa Fe: The Shed – 113 E Palace Avenue, at the plaza, and The Pink Adobe – 406 Old Santa Fe Trail.

⇒Side trip: Pecos National Historical Park. From Santa Fe, take I-25 toward Glorietta, then Highway 50 east to Pecos, New Mexico and follow the signs to the park. View the ruins of a pueblo that was built around 800 AD. Allow at least two hours to see the site via a self-guided walking tour. The visitor center museum is extremely interesting. Drive time between Santa Fe and Pecos National Historical Park: 40 minutes. We highly recommend a visit to this park! Click here for information.

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Church building at Pecos National Historical Park

(High Road to Taos) From Santa Fe take Highway 84/285 north toward Pojoaque, then take Highway 503 east via Highway 98 to Chimayo. Bonus stop: historic Santuario de Chimayo. Learn about El Posito, a hole with supposed healing powers in its dirt. From Chimayo, take Highway 76 north to Cordova, then Truchas. Continue on Highway 76 toward Penasco. Bonus stop: historic Church of San Jose de la Gracia in Las Trampas for a quick photo op and a brief history lesson. Highway 76 takes you all the way to Penasco where it merges into Highway 518, which takes you to Ranchos de Taos. At Ranchos de Taos, turn east on to US 64 to Taos. Although these directions sound complicated, they’re not. This drive is scenic and definitely worth the time. Drive time between Santa Fe and Taos: 2.5 hours.

(Low Road to Taos) At Santa Fe, take US 84 West, then 285 North toward Espanola, then take Highway 68 to Taos. Drive time between Santa Fe and Taos: 1.5 hours.

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The Church of San Jose de la Gracia (Las Trampas)

Destination: Taos, New Mexico

Suggested hotel in Taos: The Historic Taos Inn.

*Recommended hotels in Taos: El Pueblo Lodge – Here’s a link, and Hampton Inn.

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*Recommended restaurants in Taos: The Gorge Bar & Grill – 103 East Plaza. Eat outside on the second floor patio overlooking the plaza, and Mondo Italiano Taos – 832 Paseo Del Pueblo Sur. Good Italian food.

We will let you make your own itinerary, but the following are some of our favorite things to do in Taos:

The Plaza. Walk the square, check out the unique shops and boutiques, pick up a box of chocolates at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and stop in at one of the plaza’s restaurants for drinks and a meal. Travel tip: there are some great shops and restaurants just off of the plaza, too.

Taos Pueblo. Take a guided walking tour of the pueblo. Learn the history of the site and of the people who have called this sacred ground home for over one thousand years. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Very well worth the price of the tour and a tip for the tour guide. Plan to spend two hours here.

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Taos Pueblo

Hot Air Balloon Ride. For the thrill of a lifetime, take an early morning hot air balloon flight. Dip into the Rio Grande Gorge, touch down on the river, then float high above the plateaus for spectacular views of the gorge and the mountains with glimpses of the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument. End your flight with a glass of champagne. We recommend Pueblo Balloon Company for this half day excursion! Here’s a link: Pueblo Balloon Company.

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Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Take US Highway 64 West from Taos. Park on the west side, and walk across the bridge, which sits 650 feet above the river! Look for desert big horn sheep on the rocks along the gorge. Great photo ops here.

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Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Fish. Or spend your day enjoying most any other outdoor sport your heart may desire. Rafting outfitters in Taos can arrange a float trip on the Rio Grande. Stop by Taos Fly Shop for some great fishing gear, a license, and tips on where the fish are biting. Check out the Taos Ski Valley for great hiking and mountain biking, and of course skiing and snowboarding in the winter.

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Fly fishing on the Rio Pueblo

Kick back. Grab a good book and find a cozy spot in the sun, or curl up in front of a fireplace with a warm drink and that box of chocolates you bought at the plaza. Take a leisurely stroll through the art museums and galleries then stop in at Parcht (on the plaza) for a glass of wine and a bite. Or get back on the road for a drive through the mountains and Carson National Forest. The possibilities for rest and relaxation in the Taos area are endless.

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We hope your trip to Taos is historic, relaxing, and everything else you want it to be! Leave us a reply and let us know how much you enjoyed your trip. We would love to hear from you.

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018