15 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Taos
Northern New Mexico's high desert collides with the Sangre de Cristo mountains' snowcapped peaks magnificently in Taos, making an alluring backdrop to the crimson and burnt umber adobe buildings set around a central plaza in this small town. Writers and artists in search of creative inspiration have flocked to Taos for more than a century now, seeking out its magic, surrounding desert solitude, and ever-shifting light.
You won't be at a loss for things to do in Taos. Home to museums, galleries, and all kinds of boutiques, Taos is also a revered outdoor destination. In winter you can ski powder at Taos Ski Valley, one of the best ski resorts in the US, located about 30 minutes from town. While summers are for fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and whitewater rafting. And year-round, there is soaking at Ojo Caliente, a favorite regional hot spring resort just 45 minutes away.
The town's modern history dates back more than 400 years, but its indigenous residents have lived on this land for more than a thousand years. At the edge of town is the Taos Pueblo, which is also a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, and still home to some 4,500 people.
Like its more famous neighbor, Santa Fe, located about 70 miles to the southwest, Taos gets its energy from its multicultural population. You'll want to check out the restaurant scene here, known for creating dishes topped in fiery green or red chile as well as other New Mexican culinary staples like fry bread tacos.
Whether you visit for a day or linger for a week, here are our picks for the top attractions in Taos.
1. Taos Pueblo
On the northern edge of the Taos sits a UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Historic Landmark: Taos Pueblo. The Native American community has been continuously inhabited for more than 1,000 years, and is comprised of stunning multi-storied adobe buildings set against the backdrop of forested and snow-capped peaks.
Despite its reputation as one of the more private and secretive pueblos in the southwest, Taos Pueblo eagerly welcomes visitors to its 95,000-acre community of 4,500 people. The pueblo offers an impressive tour with plenty of photographic opportunities. There are also public dances at various times during the year, as well as locally produced arts and crafts with a focus on jewelry.
Address: 120 Veterans Highway, Taos, New Mexico
Official site: http://taospueblo.com/
2. Taos Ski Valley
Just up the road about 30 minutes from town is one of New Mexico's best ski resorts, Taos Ski Valley. This resort was relatively unknown for many years, and locals were happy to keep it that way. Well, it's hard to keep secret a place that regularly receives 25 feet of light, fluffy powder snow each year.
Word is out. Now the resort and its 14 lifts and 110 runs are a bit busier than before, but it still has the laid-back vibe of a true skier's mountain. The reason for this is space. The resort is spread out over an incredible 1,294 acres, so you'll always find your patch of quiet snow and hidden, untracked routes.
Taos is famous for its steep runs, and upon arrival, can look downright intimidating to a novice skier, as some of the steepest terrain is located near the base at the front. Don't worry, however, while Taos is not the easiest beginner mountain in the West, it does have a slew of manageable green and blue trails.
If you are looking for an adrenaline rush or to show off your mogul skiing to a crowd, take Al's Run, which goes right under a chairlift. Expert skiers will also want to hit up the West Basin area, where there are several steep avalanche chutes to try. For a less daunting ride, check out Porcupine, a blue groomer that runs from top to bottom.
A few years ago, new owners sunk 300 million dollars into improvements, and today the skier experience is much better, with new lift infrastructure and a reimagined base area with top-end hotels.
Official site: https://www.skitaos.com/
3. The Millicent Rogers Museum
Millicent Rogers was the granddaughter and heiress of one of the original founders of Standard Oil. Escaping what she felt was the drudgery of her East Coast existence, the socialite came to Taos and put her money into the Taos art colony, supporting both struggling artists and also many of the impoverished Native American children of the region. Originally opened in the 1950s, the museum initially boasted Rogers' impressive personal collection of Southwestern art.
Today, galleries feature an extensive, quality collection of Native American and Hispanic Art, as well as Anglo-European works. Items on display include jewelry, textiles, pottery, and tin-work, as well as contemporary arts and crafts. Among the represented artists are Maria and Julian Martinez. The Millicent Rogers Museum also boasts an impressive view of both the snow-capped peaks to the east and the expansive plateau and volcanic structures to the west.
Address: 1504 Millicent Rogers Road, Taos, New Mexico
Official site: http://millicentrogers.org/
4. Kit Carson Museum
Just a hundred yards east of the plaza is the house of the legendary and controversial pioneer/scout/fighter and settler Kit Carson (1809-68). The home was built in the 1820s and purchased by Kit Carson in 1843.
Carson raised his family here, and the home served as one of the centers of life in Taos for decades. The museum is small but offers valuable insight into the history of Carson's life, the history of Taos, the settlement of the Southwest, and the varying regional cultures.
Address: 113 Kit Carson Road, Taos, New Mexico
Official site: www.kitcarsonmuseum.org
5. The Rio Grande Gorge and The Gorge Bridge
Northwest of Taos lies the 900-foot-deep Rio Grande Gorge. The river gouged this impressive feature from a great volcanic plain over millions of years. Along US Route 64, the gorge is spanned by a boldly engineered bridge that towers impossibly high above the river far below.
The stunning views can be accessed from the parking and picnic area on the rim of the gorge, along the rim's nine-mile hiking trail or by simply walking out onto the bridge along the raised sidewalks for a breathtaking experience. For photographers and painters, viewing a sunrise or sunset along the rim offers up amazing artistic opportunities.
Location: Highway 64, El Prado, New Mexico
6. Taos Plaza
Located right in the center of Taos, the historic plaza still serves as the center of cultural life in this little town. The plaza is not only an attraction for visitors, but a place where locals come to gather and host community events.
During the summer, numerous musical events are held on the plaza. Small shops, galleries, and restaurants can be found on the edge of the plaza, but it does not have an overwhelming tourist feeling. This is a top place to find good food, meet locals, and get a feeling for the town.
Another great place to look for one-of-a-kind art is the tiny village of Arroyo Seco, just about a 15-minute drive north from the Plaza on the main road to Taos Ski Valley. The picturesque village has just one main street, filled with adobe buildings, that can be strolled in under an hour.
Along it, you will find locally owned shops, boutiques, and galleries selling everything here from hand-crafted pottery to unique pieces of jewelry. There are also a handful of restaurants, should you wish to stop for a nibble or an iced latte.
Official site: http://taos.org/art/taos-plaza
7. Ojo Caliente Hot Springs
If you are a fan of soaking in hot mineral springs, then you need to make a trip to Ojo Caliente, about a 45-minute drive from Taos. One of America's oldest health spas, opened in 1868, Ojo Caliente has a gorgeous high desert locale with nine communal pools set beneath sandstone cliffs.
The springs at Ojo Caliente feature four minerals (arsenic, lithia, soda, and iron) with supposedly healing powers. In fact, this is one of just a handful of places on the planet where you'll find these minerals naturally occur in conjunction in sulfur-free waters.
The resort is super tranquil, and the staff enforces a quiet policy to ensure it stays that way. Each pool is unique with a different temperature and setup. The iron pool is this writer's favorite. It has a pebble bottom that gives you a foot massage while you soak in the iron-rich water, which is believed to aid the immune system. The mud pool is another favorite. Here, you cover yourself in a special clay blend and then lay out in the sun to purify your pores.
Ojo Caliente also has a spa onsite and a health-focused restaurant. If you want to spend the night, there are cabins.
Official site: https://ojosparesorts.com/
8. San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church
About four miles from the center of Taos in the central plaza of the sibling town of Rancho de Taos is the San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church. The church is purported to be the most photographed church in North America. It is also known as the Mission Dolores.
Construction began in 1772 on this adobe church, which is a fine example of Spanish Colonial architecture in the area. Take note of the impressive buttresses on each side and the absolute lack of a sharp edge anywhere in the adobe. The mission is a World Heritage site and is listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.
The cool and quiet interior of the mission is a perfect place to visit for reflection. At the front of the church is a very impressive altarpiece, which was fully restored in 1981. The mission is a functioning Catholic Church, and services take place on a regular basis.
Official site: https://www.missiondolores.org/
9. Taos Art Museum
The Taos Art Museum has a collection of more than 600 works of art, including drawings, prints, and paintings, with the body of work concentrating on local artists.
The museum is housed in the Fechin House, which is an equally impressive work in its own right, having been designed by Russian artist Nicolai Fechin. Fechin incorporated Native American, Spanish, and Russian elements from his home country, resulting in a unique and fascinating home. The structure's aesthetic elements complement the artwork displayed within, from the softly-textured whitewashed walls and ornately carved woodwork to the stunning views through strategically placed windows that face the Sangre Cristo Mountain Range.
The collection includes paintings by members of the Taos Society of Artists, which existed between 1898 and the mid-1930s, as well as many of Nicolai Fechin's own works.
Address: 227 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Taos, New Mexico
Official site: www.taosartmuseum.org
10. Hacienda de los Martinez
On the banks of the Rio Pueblo in Taos is the Hacienda de los Martinez, a fully restored Spanish Colonial building from 1804. Strategically located at the terminus of the Camino Real, the Martinez home became an important trade center in the early 1800s. Known throughout the region as a large and well-established cattle ranch run by a trusted family, the imposing structure was originally built by Severino Martin - a name that was later changed to Martinez.
Today, the home serves as an outstanding historical museum with 21 rooms and two courtyards highlighting life in Taos before the New Mexico territory was taken over by the United States. Check the museum's calendar to see about upcoming exhibitions and craft demonstrations, which change regularly throughout the year.
Address: 708 Hacienda Road, Taos, New Mexico
11. El Rio Grande del Norte National Monument
Looking north from Taos all the way to the Colorado border, pretty much everything you can see is part of the vast El Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, which was established in 2013. The monument encompasses nearly 250,000 acres of public land. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the monument covers a wide range of ecosystems from the rugged, wide-open grasslands and sage-dominated range to the alpine slopes of 10,093-foot Ute Mountain and the 900-foot depths of the Rio Grande Gorge.
Located between the San Juan Mountains and the Sangre de Cristo range, the monument highlights the great Rio Grande Rift system. It offers a wealth of outdoor recreational activities, including rafting, camping, hunting, hiking, fishing, mountain biking, and wildlife viewing. Be sure to stop in at the Wild Rivers Recreation Area and the Orilla Verde Recreation Area for more information, spectacular views, and trails.
Official site: https://www.blm.gov/visit/rgdnnm
12. Harwood Museum of Art
Located on historic Ledoux Street, the Harwood Museum of Art contains an impressive and wide-ranging collection of art from northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, including works from Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo-American settlers and artists. The collection of sacred carved figures known as "santos" and the nearly 20,000 photographic images dating to the 1800s are particularly impressive.
The Harwood collection includes famed landscapes and portraiture works from the well-known Taos Society of Artists (1915-1927) as well as contemporary pieces. The museum also serves as a research center, holding vast quantities of prints, letters, photographs, and drawings highlighting the outstanding art history of the region.
Address: 238 Ledoux Street, Taos, New Mexico
Official site: www.harwoodmuseum.org
13. Hot-Air Ballooning
One of the most unique, and beautiful ways, to experience the landscape surrounding Taos, is by floating high above it in a hot air balloon. Given the location of Taos on a vast high-altitude plateau between two mountain ranges, the area is also well known among ballooning aficionados as one of the world's best places to fly.
Taking off from the edge of the Rio Grande Gorge, Taos-based pilots fly visitors down into the bottom of the great gorge to dip the basket in the river, look for wildlife, and explore ancient petroglyphs from the air. After that, tours lift over the great volcanic plains of the west mesa for a view that reaches well into Colorado and to the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains.
Official site: http://taosballooning.com/
14. Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Study Area
Covering 30,500 acres, the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Study Area is the largest roadless area and one of the most ecologically significant pieces of land in the southern Rocky Mountain ecosystem. With peaks reaching over 11,000 feet, clear mountain streams, spruce-fir forests, alpine meadows, and expansive high-altitude grasslands, the region offers outstanding opportunities for non-motorized outdoor recreation.
Located just a 15-minute drive north of Taos, the area is crisscrossed by a 75-mile trail system that is well-developed and diverse enough to offer a spectacular hiking experience for any fitness level. At 12,115 feet, Lobo Peak is New Mexico's 33rd highest peak - though you might think you were on top of the world thanks to the stunning view of Wheeler Peak, the surrounding mountains, and the Rio Grande rift valley below.
15. Ernest Blumenschein Museum
Just next to the Harwood Museum of Art on Ledoux Street is the adobe house of the artist Ernest Blumenschein, one of the iconic figures of the early Taos art colony. This is one of the most beautiful collections of art in the entire Southwest.
As the story goes, on September 3rd, 1898 while driving the famously muddy roads of northern New Mexico, the wheel on his wagon slipped onto a deep rut and broke. Burt Phillips and Blumenschein tossed a three-dollar gold piece to determine who would carry the wheel to the nearest blacksmith for repair. Blumenschein lost the toss and so made the 20-mile trek to Taos with the broken wheel. Thus began a great experiment in American art.
Blumenschein and Phillips spread the word about the beauty of Taos and urged other artists to come and see for themselves. In July of 1915, Joseph Sharp, Blumenschein, Phillips, and fellow artists Oscar E. Berninghaus, E. Irving Couse, and W. Herbert "Buck" Dunton created the Taos Society of Artists. The entire home is open to the public, with artwork by Blumenschein and other Taos artists.
Address: 222 Ledoux Street, Taos, New Mexico
Map of Attractions & Things to Do in Taos
Taos, NM - Climate Chart
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