Photo: New Mexico TRUE
By Sydni Ellis
Winter sunshine makes the desert come alive, adding a soft, golden glow to a chilly day. A river weaves lazily through the canyon. Cacti and flowers spread out over the landscape. Birds fly over snow-capped peaks in the distance. It’s the beauty of New Mexico, baby! Drive to this state and you’ll be instantly drawn in by the wonder all around you, where you can’t help but admire the sky painted in all colors at sunset as you ride a honey-yellow horse down a nature trail.
Sure, you’ve heard about the endless adventures of skiing in New Mexico, especially since snow is a rarity in Texas. But for those less inclined to slide down mountaintops, New Mexico also offers plenty of things to do and see, from horseback riding to hiking, floating in balloons to trying archery, staying in lodges or vintage airstreams. It isn’t called the Land of Enchantment for nothing! Grab a face mask and your most comfortable shoes and explore New Mexico with us this month. (Be sure to check local guidelines for more up-to-date information.)
Start your journey in Taos, located an hour-and-a-half north of Santa Fe. This city is home of the historical (and extremely photogenic!) Taos Pueblo, AKA the oldest continuously inhabited dwellings in the U.S. These beautiful adobe structures have stood tall for more than 1,000 years. (Check taospueblo.com for updated information on closings related to COVID-19.) Beauty abounds in this artistic city. Don’t miss taking photos of the iconic St. Francisco de Asis Church, made famous by artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, or the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, which is the fifth highest bridge in the country that sits 650-feet above the Rio Grande.
Looking for more outdoor adventures? Visit the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument, home of rugged plains, volcanic cones, steep canyons and rushing rivers. Here, you can go whitewater rafting, hunting, hiking,
mountain biking and more. Or you can simply admire the gorgeous scenery from your private campsite. Explore taos.org for updated information. One of the most unique activities you can do is sign up for a llama trekking activity with Wild Earth Llama Adventures. While you hike through the non-touristy areas of the New Mexico wilderness, a llama will walk by your side to (literally) lighten your load. Llamas will carry your pack and keep you company throughout your journey, then hang out while you enjoy a gourmet picnic, starting at $125. llamaadventures.com.
At the end of the night, stay in the beautiful El Pueblo Lodge, which was built in 1912 as a ranch. These Southwestern-styled rooms feature lush bedding and modern amenities against an historical backdrop. They also offer a hot tub, ski and snowboard rentals (in case you do decide to visit the Taos Ski Valley), and a famous New Mexico-style breakfast including burritos and green chili salsa. If that isn’t enticing enough, this hotel is located near Taos Plaza, home of authentic Native American jewelry, weaving, pottery, drums and other locally made souvenirs to take home. elpueblolodge.com. Of course, if you prefer something a little closer to nature during your stay, then you can’t go wrong with the amazing Hotel Luna Mystica, home of wonderfully decorated vintage trailers. Choose your theme for the stay — 1950s charm, tropical paradise, American hero, 1960s dream or modern luxury — then enjoy your time under the starry New Mexico sky. Each trailer has its own kitchen, bed, bathroom and deck, so you’ll have everything you need for a comfortable yet rustic adventure. Reserve your trailer at hotellunamystica.com.
Next on the itinerary is a short drive to Angel Fire, just 37 minutes east of Taos. Drop off your bags at the Lodge at Angel Fire Resort, where you can stay in a cozy room just minutes from the ski lift, or you could rent a fully furnished vacation condo or cabin for beautiful, private mountain views. If you don’t want to ski, there are plenty of other options for enjoying the snow, such as going tubing, sledding or snowshoeing with the whole family. If the weather is really good, you can go ice fishing at nearby Eagle Nest Lake State Park. Book your stay at angelfireresort.com.
From there, make an appointment for one of Nancy Burch’s Horseback Riding Tours in the Enchanted Circle and the Carson National Forest. Options are available for newcomers and experienced riders to go on short trail rides, explore the wilderness, go on a seven-hour ride and more. During the winter, one of the most magical things to do is a winter sleigh ride tour. Bundle up for a ride on a romantic horse-drawn sleigh, where you will ride through the snow, drinking hot chocolate and taking pictures of the wildlife. Reserve your spot at nancyburch.com.
While you’re in Angel Fire, don’t miss out on a New Mexico tradition: riding in a hot air balloon! The family owned Hot Air Balloonatics LLC (hotairballoonatics.com) is just one of the many companies offering this cool experience. You’ll get a chance to soar with the birds and the many other colorful balloons floating over beautiful New Mexico, admiring the natural scenery and soaking up the freedom of being up in the air. Champagne toasts and New Mexico Biscochitos (sweet cinnamon and anise butter cookies) round out the evening.
Finally, if you decide to delay your trip until the spring, you can stay in the luxurious Canyon Madness Ranch in Roy, opening April 2021. Located on 14,000 acres of land (about two-and-a-half-hours from Angel Fire), this resort promises to be the ultimate relaxing, socially distanced getaway! Look out over the red sandstone cliffs of the Enciero Canyon, test out your archery and firearm skills under the guidance of trained instructors, or spend the day kayaking on the river. The main house is the Teepee lodge, designed by architect Alejandro Uribe, who is well known for his resorts in Cabo San Lucas. This fantastic dwelling honors Indigenous culture with its two teepee-shaped peaks connected by a huge room filled with modern amenities. Guests can stay in any of the eight contemporary-styled suites which have private living rooms, en suite bathrooms, and sliding doors that open to a balcony with breath-taking canyon views. When you get hungry, enjoy farm-to-table food prepared by chefs who focus on healthy, organic, farm-raised, exotic meats like buffalo and ostrich. It sounds divine!
During the day, enjoy one of the many outdoor activities offered, like horseback riding with just the beauty of the river, steep canyon edges and friendly wildlife to keep you company. Or, you could explore nature on the back of an ATV, tour nineteenth century American homesteads complete with arrowheads and pottery artifacts, or simply relax and enjoy the pretty landscape filled with diverse flora and fauna. Book Canyon Ranch Madness’ all-inclusive lodging, activities, food and beverages for $3,500 per person for seven nights, canyonmadnessranch.com.
Visiting New Mexico is a chance to get away from the stress of everyday life and immerse yourself in nature. You can spend hours just looking at the stars or connecting with rivers, mountains, and land in a way that seems impossible at home. This place is simply enchanting — you’ll feel totally refreshed when you get back home.