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Taos Travel Guide

Sports and the Outdoors

Whether you plan to cycle around town, jog along country lanes, or play a few rounds of golf, keep in mind that the altitude in Taos is higher than 7,000 feet. It's best to keep physical exertion to a minimum until your body becomes acclimated to the altitude—a full day to a few days, depending on your constitution.

Ballooning

Hot-air ballooning has become nearly as popular in Taos as in Albuquerque, with a handful of outfitters offering rides, most starting at about $240 per person.

Eske's Paradise Balloons. This reliable company thrills participants with a "splash and dash" in the Rio Grande River as part of a silent journey through the 600-foot canyon walls of Rio Grande Gorge. Taos, NM. 575/751–6098. www.taosballooning.com.

Pueblo Balloon Company. This is one of the most popular outfitters in town for balloon rides over and into the Rio Grande Gorge. Taos, NM. 575/751–9877. www.puebloballoon.com.

Bicycling

Taos-area roads are steep and hilly, and none have marked bicycle lanes, so be careful while cycling. The West Rim Trail offers a fairly flat but view-studded 9-mile ride that follows the Rio Grande canyon's west rim from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge to near the Taos Junction Bridge.

Gearing Up Bicycle Shop. You can rent or buy bikes and equipment at this full-service bike shop. Staff can provide advice on the best routes and upcoming group rides. 129 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, Taos, NM, 87571. 575/751–0365. www.gearingupbikes.com.

Fishing

Carson National Forest has some of the best trout fishing in New Mexico. Its streams and lakes are home to rainbow, brown, and native Rio Grande cutthroat trout.

Blue Yonder Fly Fishing. Reasonably priced and with very knowledgeable guides, Blue Yonder can customize anything from a casual half-day outing for beginners to an extensive all-day adventure for experienced anglers—gear, instruction, and meals are included. Taos, NM. 575/779–9002. www.blueyonderflyfishing.com.

Taos Fly Shop & Streit Fly Fishing. Well-known area fishing guide Taylor Streit of the well-stocked Taos Fly Shop & Streit Fly Fishing takes individuals or small groups out for fishing and lessons. 308-C Paseo del Pueblo Sur, Taos, NM, 87571. 575/751–1312. www.taosflyshop.com.

Golf

Taos Country Club. Views from the course at the Taos Country Club are some of the most dazzling in northern New Mexico. The layout is stunning and quite hilly, and water hazards are few. 54 Golf Course Dr., Carville Bourg, Taos, NM, 87557. 575/758–7300. www.taoscountryclub.com. 18 holes. 6123 yds. Par 72. Green fee: $75. Facilities: driving range, putting green, golf carts, pull carts, rental clubs, lessons, pro shop, restaurant, bar.

Hiking

Wheeler Peak. Part of a designated wilderness area of Carson National Forest, travel to this iconic mountain summit—New Mexico's highest, at 13,161 feet—is by a rigorous hike or horseback ride. The most popular and accessible trail to the peak is the Williams Lake Trail, which is about 8-mi round-trip and begins in Taos Ski Valley just east of the Bavarian lodge and restaurant. Only experienced hikers should tackle this strenuous trail all the way to the top, as the 4,000-foot elevation gain is taxing, and the final mile or so to the peak is a steep scramble over loose scree. However, for a moderately challenging and still very rewarding hike, you take the trail to the halfway point, overlooking the shores of rippling Williams Lake. Numerous other rewarding hikes of varying degrees of ease and length climb up the many slopes that rise from the village of Taos Ski Valley—check with rangers or consult the Carson National Forest Web site for details. Trailheads are usually well-signed. Dress warmly even in summer, take plenty of water and food, and pay attention to all warnings and instructions distributed by rangers. Parking area for Williams Lake Trail is along Kachina Rd. by the Bavarian lodge and restaurant, Taos Ski Valley, NM, 87525. 575/758–6200. www.fs.usda.gov/main/carson/home.

Llama Trekking

Wild Earth Llama Adventures. Specializing in one of the more offbeat outdoor recreational activities in the area, this company offers a variety of llama treks, from one-day tours to excursions lasting several days in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Llamas are used as pack animals on these trips. Day hikes start at $99 and include gourmet lunches. Longer trips feature comfy overnight camping and delicious meals. Taos, NM. 575/586–0174 or 800/758–5262. www.llamaadventures.com.

River Rafting

The Taos Box, at the bottom of the steep-walled canyon far below the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, is the granddaddy of thrilling white water in New Mexico and is best attempted by experts only—or on a guided trip—but the river also offers more placid sections such as through the Orilla Verde Recreation Area (one of the two main parcels of newly christened Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument), just south of Taos in the village of Pilar (here you'll also find a small shop and café called the Pilar Yacht Club, which caters heavily to rafters and fishing enthusiasts), and the Rio Grande Gorge Visitor Center, a font of information on outdoor recreation in the region. Spring runoff is the busy season, from mid-April through June, but rafting companies conduct tours from March to as late as November. Shorter two-hour options usually cover the fairly tame section of the river.

Big River Raft Trips. In business since 1983, this respected outfitter offers dinner float trips as well as half- and full-day rapids runs (with picnic lunches included). Pilar, NM. 575/758–9711 or 800/748–3746. www.bigriverrafts.com.

Los Rios River Runners. The experienced guides here will take you to your choice of spots—the Rio Chama, the Lower Gorge, or the thrilling Taos Box. Taos, NM. 575/776–8854 or 800/544–1181. www.losriosriverrunners.com.

Rio Grande Gorge Visitor Center. The Bureau of Land Management operates this visitor center in Pilar and can provide lists of registered river guides, information about running the river on your own, and plenty of other guidance on hiking and exploring the area. This is one of two visitor centers that make up the new Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument (the other is north of Taos, at the Wild Rivers Recreation Area). NM 68, at Jct. of NM 570, Pilar, NM, 87553. 575/751–4899. www.blm.gov/nm.

Skiing

Taos Ski Valley. With 113 runs—just more half of them for experts—and an average of more than 300 inches of annual snowfall, Taos Ski Valley ranks among the country's most respected, and challenging, resorts. The slopes, which cover a 2,600-foot vertical gain of lift-served terrain and another 600 feet of hike-in skiing, tend to be narrow and demanding (note the ridge chutes, Al's Run, Inferno), but about a quarter of them (e.g., Honeysuckle) are for intermediate skiers, and another quarter are (e.g., Bambi, Porcupine) for beginners. Taos Ski Valley is justly famous for its outstanding ski schools, some of the best in the country. End of NM 150, 20 mi north of Plaza, Taos Ski Valley, NM, 87525. 575/776–2291 or 866/968–7386. www.skitaos.org. Lift tickets $77. Late Nov.–early Apr.

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