There might be more opportunity for adventure in Pecos, New Mexico, than anywhere else in the Southwest. As the home of Pecos National Historical Park, the idyllic Pecos River, colorful aspen groves, and winding mountain trails, this area is the ultimate gateway to the outdoors. A weekend isn’t quite enough time to experience all that the Pecos area has to offer, but you can certainly get close. Here is your day-by-day guide to enjoying a weekend trip in Pecos, including all of the must-see attractions and suggestions on how to structure your activities.
Wake up to an iridescent New Mexican sunrise and get ready to tackle your first day in Pecos. You’ll need a hearty meal to fuel your adventures, so venture into the town center for breakfast at one of the area’s restaurants.
New Mexicans put green chile on everything, so you’ll see lots of it on the menu. Huevos rancheros—consisting of corn tortillas, beans, green chile, and eggs—is a fan favorite for many locals. (You’ll find the best huevos rancheros around at Frankie's at the Casanova.) After you’ve cleaned your plate, swing by Pancho’s Gourmet To Go to grab a picnic lunch before heading up the canyon.
Take your time on the idyllic drive along the Pecos River. If you enjoy casting a line every now and then, stop about six miles up NM 63 at the Upper Dalton Fishing Access Site for the chance to reel in a world-class trout. If fishing isn’t your thing, bring your binoculars to search the trees for some of the local bird species. You might spot the American Three-toed Woodpecker, Lesser Goldfinch, or Spotted Towhee. Any spot along the river will be perfect for a picnic lunch when you get hungry!
Since you’re heading up the canyon already, make a point to stop at the historic Tererro General Store for a nice selection of snacks and locally made trinkets. If you’re around during the summer or fall months, look for the hundreds of hummingbirds that crowd the store’s feeders that line the front porch.
Continue up the canyon to Cowles, about 22 miles from town, and stop at the Panchuela Campground. This is where you will hike the beautiful Cave Creek Trail (Trail 288) and enter the Pecos Wilderness. The trail crosses a bridge at Panchuela Creek and follows along an easy but spectacular path rising above the creek with stunning mountain views, then drops to a grassy meadow resplendent in wildflowers. At Cave Creek, cross a sturdy fallen-pine bridge and hike on to the trail’s namesake caves—where the creek plunges into the earth in two large adjoining caverns. The hike can be easily done in a couple of hours from start to finish, just be sure to leave time for taking pictures and bird watching along the way.
After your hike, head back to Pecos to finish your day where you started, at Frankie's at the Casanova. Start with chips con queso (with green chile of course!) and then choose from classic favorites like fish & chips or Northern New Mexican specialties like a tortilla burger or the green chile chicken enchilada casserole.
The next day, grab gourmet to-go goodies at Pancho’s and drive back up the canyon for a wonderful hike to Moro Flats. The six-mile round-trip hike is easy to moderate, and suitable for families if you take your time. People of all ages will enjoy the spectacular vistas that can be seen from 9,350 to 9,800 feet above sea level.
Start from the trailhead at Trail 249, which will take you to Hamilton Mesa. Walk gently uphill through the pleasant spruce-fir forest until you reach a ridge overlooking the canyon of the Rio Mora. Continue through stands of ponderosa pine (scratch the bark to get the aroma of butterscotch and vanilla), as well as groves of quaking aspens interspersed with meadows. Early in the season, wild iris—also known as blue flags—are abundant. Other flowers commonly seen are golden pea, wild rose, shrubby cinquefoil, harebells, blue columbine, and asters.
Reward yourself after the hike with authentic New Mexican cuisine at Casa de Herrera, a family-owned and operated restaurant that has maintained a stellar reputation for more than 30 years. They have a special kids’ menu and burrito plates with red or green chile (or ask for “Christmas” which has both!).
This is your final day in the Pecos Wilderness, so make it count. Schedule a guided horseback ride through the high mountains with Diamond E Stables, offering rides for an hour, two hours, half-day, full-day, dinner rides, or sunset excursions. You’ll be guided by an expert who will point out attractions along the way and the stables provide all the equipment you’ll need. Pull on your boots and get ready for spectacular views from the high Rockies!
For another fishing opportunity, check out Monastery Lake, a serene spot located 7,000 feet above sea level and surrounded by aspen trees. Owned by the Benedictine Monastery, the lake is well-stocked with trout. It’s a good place to go with your whole family or just spend a peaceful afternoon before heading home from a wonderful weekend.
Where to Stay
No trip to Pecos would be complete without overnight accommodations in a cozy cabin on the river. There are plenty of serene places in town to lay your head at night, including Pecos River Cabins, Hummingbird Cabin, Wilderness Gateway Inn, Pecos Cabins LLC, Los Pinos Ranch, and Pecos River Cabin.
Now that you’ve gotten a taste of the Pecos wilderness, you’ll see just how much there really is to experience in the area. Ready to plan your next trip? Visit PecosNewMexico.com for more resources and information.
Written by Sarah Strohl for Matcha in partnership with New Mexico Tourism Department.