Taos Feature

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The Enchanted Circle

The Enchanted Circle—an 84-mile scenic loop drive that begins and ends in Taos and rings 13,161-foot Wheeler Peak—curves through lush alpine valleys, climbs over Carson National Forest’s towering mountain passes, and accesses the swift currents and steep trails of the Wild Rivers Recreation Area, one of the two main components of Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument. You can see all the major sights as an ambitious one-day side trip, or take a more leisurely tour and stay overnight in Red River or Angel Fire.

From Taos, head north about 15 miles via U.S. 64 to NM 522, keeping your eye out for the sign on the right that points to the D.H. Lawrence Ranch and Memorial. You can visit the memorial, which is well marked from the road, but the other buildings on the ranch are closed to the public. Continue north a short way to reach Red River Hatchery, and then go another 5 miles to the village of Questa. Here you have the option of continuing north on NM 522 and detouring for some hiking at Wild Rivers Recreation Area, or turning east from Questa on NM 38 and driving for about 12 miles to the unpretentious, family-friendly town of Red River, a noteworthy ski town in winter and an increasingly popular summer-recreation hub during the warmer months.

From here, continue 16 miles east along NM 38 and head over dramatic Bobcat Pass, which rises to just under 10,000 feet. You'll come to the sleepy, old-fashioned village of Eagle Nest, comprising a few shops and down-home restaurants and motels. From here, U.S. 64 joins with NM 38 and runs southeast about 15 miles to one of the state's fastest-growing communities, Angel Fire, an upscale ski resort that's popular for hiking, golfing, and mountain biking in summer. It's about a 25-mile drive west over 9,000-foot Palo Flechado Pass and down through winding Taos Canyon to return to Taos.

Leave early in the morning and plan to spend the entire day on this trip. Especially during ski season, which runs from late November to early April, but in summer as well you may want to spend a night in Red River, which has a number of mostly rustic lodges and vacation rentals, or in Angel Fire, which is becoming increasingly respected as a year-round resort. Watch for snow and ice on the roads from late fall through early spring. A sunny winter day can yield some lovely scenery.

Updated: 2014-03-26

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