Select your starting point:
Taos | Questa | Red River | Eagle Nest | Angel Fire | Taos Ski Valley

Distance: 84 miles/136 KM
Driving Time: 2-1/2 to 3 hours
Route: From Main Street in Red River, Hwy. 38 east then south to Eagle Nest; Hwy. 64 west to Angel Fire; continue on Hwy. 64 west to Taos then north to Hwy. 522 north to Questa; take Hwy. 38 east to return to Red River.

The most popular tour in our area, this National Forest Scenic Byway circles Wheeler Peak, the highest in New Mexico at 13,161 feet. A drive along this famous route will introduce you to several of New Mexico’s unique ecosystems and a vibrant demonstration of her geology. Most popular during the summer, when the mountain passes are easiest to manage, the drive promises extraordinary views, abundant flora, and a unique perspective on New Mexico’s history and development, as well as a welcome respite from the summer heat. The famous loop passes through several towns, which are rich with recreational opportunities, including Taos, Taos Ski Valley, Questa, Red River, Eagle Nest, and Angel Fire. The trip can take a minimum of five hours, and up to several days, depending on how thoroughly one wishes to experience the plentiful offerings. Most drive the trip clockwise, starting in Taos and ending in Angel Fire before returning via Taos Canyon

Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway Driving MapRed River is famous for being a motorcyclists’ and outdoor enthusiasts’ dreamland. At 8,600 feet, Red River boasts a variety of unique alpine architecture and some of the best barbeque this side of New Braunfels. Red River’s beautiful scenery and quaint, easygoing nature is sure to please anyone looking for a snow and summer resort with lots of options for food, frolic, shopping, and exploring. 

Begin your Enchanted Circle exploration by heading east out of Red River on HWY 38. After passing by the Enchanted Forest cross country area, a steep canyon drive heads up towards Bobcat Pass, which crests the Sangre de Cristos at 9,800 feet. After reaching 8,900 feet, the evergreens give way to share space with aspen trees, and the tinkling of their deciduous leaves announces a new ecosystem of rolling hills and mountain meadows, colorful wildflowers, as well as abundant game and wildlife, including massive herds of elk.  After the pass, the road flattens out again as it leads towards the western-mountain hamlet of Eagle Nest, famous for fishing and windsurfing on nearby Eagle Nest Lake. The village lies just down the mountain from the popular ghost town Elizabethtown, located on the imposing Mt. Baldy and home to several thousand miners during New Mexico’s own “gold rush” in 1866.

While the drive is largely flat after Bobcat Pass, the loftiest mountains in all of New Mexico lay to the West of US64 leading to Angel Fire. The ecological/geological area, known as the Hudsonian zone, ranges from 9,500 feet to the tip of this East face of Wheeler Peak at 13,161 feet. Heavy snowfall, rain, and an abbreviated growing season make this a challenging place to live, and it is here that the hardiest species of flora and fauna survive – including bighorn sheep, mountain goats and elk, who live among the bristlecone pine, firs, and blue spruce.

Just down Highway 434, Angel Fire beckons visitors to take time to explore this scenic mountain town with abundant shopping, eating, and playing prospects. Summer and Winter lift service allows recreational opportunities on the mountain during the peak of the summer wildflowers - including biking and hiking, golf and fishing - as well as the peak of big snow. While Taos’ steeps are the place for many experienced enthusiasts, Angel Fire’s rolling slopes provide a perfect place to truly ‘play’ at winter and summer sports. The Vietnam Memorial located east of town was the first Vietnam memorial in the country, a loving tribute of a father to his lost son, and was ultimately dedicated to all of Americas’ sons lost during the conflict. The flowing white form is an architectural gem that should not be missed. 

Farms and pastures full of horses become more beautiful as the valley climbs up into the mountains heading West along the steep winding road through the Moreno Valley towards Palo Flechado Pass at 9,100 feet. The ecosystem changes yet again as we enter Taos Canyon, with her small snaking Rio Fernando de Taos river showing the way to Taos.  Passing through this place, it seems as if time slows down, as stone chimneys buttress ancient ruins, folk-style cabins and farmsteads. Evergreens and sage seem to try to find peace with one another here, as galleries and picnic areas provide plenty of places to stop and wonder at the diverse beauty of the area.  A visitor should not miss the enchanting Wheeler Gallery on the north side of the road just east of Taos, with its Gothic and Italian-inspired gardens providing a perfect backdrop of Taos artist Tom Wheeler’s incredible precious metal and stone craftings. Continuing west, the buildings become closer to the road, and closer to each other, indicating arrival in Taos.

Taos visitors will find a unique town whose history sets it firmly apart from Santa Fe. Taos was settled in the 14th century by ancestors of the indigenous people who inhabit Taos Pueblo today.  In the 16th century, New Mexico was explored by conquistadors and claimed as territory of the Spanish crown by Catholic missionaries as well as accompanying settlers, who were very often mercenaries from the Moorish wars in Spain and women bold enough to make the long overland journey from Mexico, which took up to 6 months to complete. By happenstance, Taos was bypassed in the 16th century by the trade routes from Mexico into the New World, in favor of a pass at Cimarron. This gave the town and her people a unique capability to resist cultural trends and a strong subculture of their own. Her remoteness renders Taos unique in a tangible way – when modern linguists wish to revive the dialects of 16th century Spain, which is tonally quite different from modern Spanish, they send their students to Taos to record the Spanish spoken there, because it is very nearly the same language spoken during Spain’s’ New Mexican occupation.

The most beautiful parts of Taos are spread out, and unlike Santa Fe, Taos is not a place for “one-stop shopping.” Visitors should not miss one of America’s most photographed and painted churches, St. Francis of Assisi in the Ranchos de Taos plaza some 10 miles south of town. The Taos Plaza is a great place to start your explorations of the town, and the old county courthouse in the second floor of what is now the North Plaza Art Center boasts some excellent murals constructed by some of Taos’ most favored sons during FDR’s New Deal. Taos’ best shopping is on the streets north and west of the Plaza, including the John Dunn shops just northwest of the plaza, Bent Street which is the first street to the north of the plaza, and from the plaza parking areas on Paseo del Pueblo Norte north along Paseo for approximately ¾ of a mile. Visitors will enjoy visiting the shops west of the plaza on Doña Luz Street, and get a taste of life in Taos as it once was on the street just west, called Padre Martinez. The most famous street in Taos is probably Ledoux, located southwest of the plaza, which is most famous for the lighting of thousands of farolitos at Christmas, but whose museums and galleries are par excellence throughout the year. Visitors who love the history of the “wild west” will find themselves at the Kit Carson Home and Museum and Doc Martins at the Taos Inn, among other places made famous for their murders, intrigue, and rich tales of 18th century trappers and traders. Those with a passion for the Taos Society of Artists can make their way to the Mabel Dodge Luhan house and the Couze-Sharp Historic Site east of town. A visit to Taos is not complete without going to Taos Pueblo, to view the stunning architecture and artisans of Taos’ indigenous people, who have inhabited this site for nearly 7 centuries.

Continue on Paseo del Pueblo Norte to enjoy the incredible mountain vistas north of Taos, preserved by the Taos Pueblo people and the Taos Land Trust. The finest public garden in all of Taos can be discovered at the Overland Sheepskin Company just outside of town.

At the famous “Old Blinking Light” intersection (which is no longer blinking) of US 64, NM 522, and NM Route 150 north of Taos, visitors can and should venture all three ways. A short jaunt of 6 miles West on NM 64 is New Mexico’s answer to the Grand Canyon - the Gorge Bridge - spanning the 650-foot deep Rio Grande gorge, which appears as a great fracture of the earth from above and while traveling north to Taos from Santa Fe. Returning back to the Old Blinking Light and heading East on NM Route 150, visitors can travel 15 miles through the exceptionally charming hamlet of Arroyo Seco and continue on to the village of Taos Ski Valley, which despite its success remains a quaint mountain town of personable people. Williams Lake, a popular destination, lies beneath this western face of Wheeler Peak and stuns hikers willing to make the several mile traverse with columbines the size of salad plates in summer, as well as snowshoeing and skinning for unsurpassed scenic beauty in winter. Snowboarding is now allowed on Taos Ski Valley, after years of being banned, and abundant snows helped Taos have its best year in over 20 years this past season.

Returning on NM 150 south to the Old Blinking Light and turning north NM522 and heading over the Garapata Ridge, a visitor can enjoy some of the most beautiful vistas in all of New Mexico. The mountains rise 5,600 feet up from the alluvial aprons upon which Taos rests, to greet the sun on the East, as the desert lies out like a blanket on the West. Additional side trips (and great picnic spots) can be found at the D.H. Lawrence shrine on the San Cristobal Road just south of Lama, and the Red River Fish Hatchery on NM 515 to the northwest. The mountains on the east begin to resemble a sleeping dragon, as the scars from the Lama Fire of 1996 leave exposed mountain where vast stands of evergreen trees once stood, and the village of Questa comes into view. 

Questa marks the turn East onto Highway 38 into the mountains towards Red River. At 7,500 feet elevation, Questa marks what was once the end of the Spanish trading route El Camino Real and is geologically distinguished by remnant volcanic cones that surround the village, which itself erupts in a profusion of folk architecture and vintage cars, interspersed between yucca blooms and stands of sage. The people of this village are kind and strong – their church partially collapsed several years ago, and they are standing up to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe to preserve its remains in lieu of tearing it down. Questa is special because of her tenacity, and offers visitors a unique experience of small-town New Mexico.

Entering the Red River valley to the east, visitors begin an easy climb through a young forest along a powerful river that leads the way to the year-round resort at Red River.  Cream, yellow, orange, and red colored volcanic stone outcroppings of ash and granite intrusions protect abundant camping and picnicking spots, snaking past the Chevron molybdenum mine which produces materials used for the hardening of steel. The geology of this valley is unique, with massive piles of stone remaining from the easily fractured mountains that once were, recreating the mountains in loose stone, which are then covered in opportunistic wildflowers and beautiful trees, providing an oasis of cool in the typically hot New Mexico summer climate.

All Tours

 • Enchanted Circle Tour
 • Chama Valley / Railroad
 • Valle Vidal