With spectacular scenery, a vibrant culture, quirky shops, and plenty of opportunities for adventure, Taos is a top-notch travel destination for people from all walks of life. The town is located on a colorful mesa at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range and is often regarded as a staple town in the Land of Enchantment.
Because there is no shortage of things to see and do in this beautiful area, sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start. We chatted with some locals about what makes the place so special, and how to make a Taos vacation memorable.
1. Get Outside
"Visitors know that they are supposed to come here and that they are supposed to do something absolutely incredible, but they aren’t exactly sure where to start," says Andy Lynch, owner of popular Taos restaurant Common Fire. “Once people get outside though, it starts to make sense.”
Indeed, embarking on outdoor adventures morning, noon, and night is what makes Taos locals thrive. Even at 6 a.m. on a Tuesday, you will find the mountains filled with early-bird hikers, backcountry skiers, and mountain bikers looking to get a workout in before their day begins. There are plenty of trails in Taos, as well as up in the Taos Ski Valley, so make sure to take advantage of them while you're here.
One of our favorite outdoor adventures is hiking or mountain biking on the South Boundary Trail, an epic 25-mile stretch boasting incredible views. Turquoise Tours will happily shuttle you to the trailhead.
2. Hike Wheeler Peak
Avid hikers should also make the trek to Wheeler Peak. Sitting at just over 13,000 feet, the mountain is the tallest in New Mexico and offers spectacular views. The terrain itself isn’t that hard, but the elevation might be difficult. Once you get on the Wheeler Peak Trail, you have some options — either a 4-mile round-trip hike to the scenic Williams Lake or a 7-mile trip to bag the peak (according to locals, the extra miles are well worth it). Reward yourself after your trek with a cold drink and a meal at The Bavarian Lodge, conveniently located at the trailhead.
3. Indulge in a Hearty Bowl of Green Chile Stew
New Mexican cuisine is as flavorful as the city of Taos itself. One of Taos’ most popular ingredients? Green chile, of course. From eggs to enchiladas, most things in local restaurants are smothered in a flavorful green chile. One of the best ways to eat green chile stew is straight out of the bowl, scooped with a warm tortilla. Locals love seeking it out at local haunts including Ranchos Plaza Grill, Michael’s Kitchen, and Stray Dog Cantina.
4. Make a Trip to the Nearby Hot Springs
Mention Taos once, and almost any New Mexican familiar with the area will ask if you managed to visit Ojo Caliente on your trip. These legendary hot springs are situated just 40 minutes outside of town and offer a little slice of paradise. The resort showcases its surrounding natural beauty with stunning views in every direction, but also boasts top-notch spa amenities for those looking for a taste of luxury.
If you are not willing to make the drive, fear not! There are also two incredible natural hot springs close to town worth checking out: Black Rock Hot Springs and Stagecoach Hot Springs. These two spots are a bit off the beaten path, and at a toasty 97 degrees, are perfect for soaking tired muscles after a long hike or bike ride.
5. Experience the Community Atmosphere
One of the main reasons that Ashley Arabian, owner of the Wanderer Boutique, moved to Taos is because she experienced a community here that was unlike any of the other places she had visited. She made her home in the Southwest after moving from San Francisco, and her boutique has already established itself as a must-visit destination off the Taos Plaza.
New Mexicans are friendly, passionate people, and are always willing to share their stories with travelers, so go ahead and spark a conversation with your bartender or a fellow hiker on the trails.
6. Get the Cowboy Buddha at the Taos Inn
This margarita is the most famous drink in the state, and it seriously deserves the praise. The refreshing cocktail is made with Patron, Cointreau, and fresh-squeezed lime juice, and it packs a serious punch. Additionally, you’ll be able to enjoy it in one of the most historic spots in town — The Taos Inn has been housing visitors since 1936, and Arabian names it one of her absolute favorite places to go for a bite after a long day.
7. Seek out the Live Music
Filled with cozy bars and outdoor venues, Taos is one of the best cities in the Southwest to find a live show. On any given night, local kick it with independent artists, lively bands, and upbeat DJs, drawing crowds from all walks of life to enjoy a night out on the town. Not sure where to start? Check out KTAOS Solar Center and the Mothership at Taos Mesa Brewing.
8. Simply Hang Out
Taos is one of the absolute best places to simply be. "It’s at least as good a place to hang out as it is a place to do things," says Andy Lynch. As for where to hang out, Lynch says that anywhere outdoors is the best place to start, but we also recommend sitting down for a refreshing beer on the upstairs deck at The Gorge Bar & Grill or stopping in for a leisurely dinner at Lynch’s restaurant, Common Fire.
These are just eight ideas of the best things to do on your next trip to Taos, straight from some locals. The best part about this Southwestern town is that there is no shortage of experiences, so you’re sure to find many more as you explore for yourself!
Originally written by RootsRated for New Mexico.