Three free things to do in Taos
Río Grande Gorge Bridge
The second highest bridge on the U.S. highway system is a steel-deck arch expanse completed in 1965. It spans one of New Mexico’s most scenic vistas and is the fifth highest bridge in the country. About 10 miles northwest of Taos on U.S. 64, the famous bridge crosses hundreds of feet above New Mexico’s sister to the Grand Canyon. Exactly how high, however, varies depending on who you ask or what web site you click. The New Mexico Department of Transportation lists it at a towering 600 feet above America’s fourth longest river (1,896 miles). Other numbers range from 565 feet to 650 feet — but, really, what’s the difference when you’re talking about that kind of elevation? The adjacent park offers plenty of parking for those who want to walk across the bridge, visit vendors or walk trails that offer stunning views of the gorge, the river below and the expansive mesa. The bridge also features several platforms that jut out from the walkway like scaffolding, allowing pedestrians to stand several feet out into space. Big horn sheep make their home amongst the sagebrush and rocky slopes. In 1997, the bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Hollywood has taken notice of it, too. The bridge has made cameo appearances in the films “Terminator Salvation,” “Natural Born Killers,” “Twins,” “She’s Having a Baby,” “Wild Hogs” and the 2005 remake of “The Longest Yard.”
For more information: taos.org
San Francisco de Asís Mission Church
Four miles south of Taos on State Road 68 in the village of Ranchos de Taos, sits one of the most painted and photographed churches in the world. Coming into town from Santa Fe, it is the first landmark you’ll come across.
Built between 1772 and 1816, this traditional adobe, mud and straw Spanish mission structure is synonymous with New Mexico, made famous by painter Georgia O’Keeffe and photographers Ansel Adams and Paul Strand. O’Keeffe described it as “one of the most beautiful buildings left in the United States by the early Spaniards.” Spanish colonists began to settle permanently in the village of Ranchos de Taos in the mid-18th century. They moved from the larger Spanish and Pueblo community at Taos Pueblo to farm the fertile land, where they grew wheat and corn. To defend themselves against Comanche raiders, who were attracted to the rich Taos Valley, the settlers built their adobe homes and other buildings close together around a common plaza. The church sits on this plaza.
The church is a National Historic Landmark and a World Heritage church. It is open Mon.-Sat, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information: (575) 751-0518, taos.org, nps.gov
Mabel Dodge Luhan House
Just a five block walk from Historic Taos Plaza and you’re at the home of the unofficial founder of Taos’ artistic and intellectual community.
A salon hostess, writer and art patroness married to a Taos Pueblo Indian, Mabel Gansen Evans Dodge Sterne Luhan moved to Taos in 1919. The domineering and endearing self-appointed savior of humanity is credited with luring writers, artists and some of the most influential minds of the 20th century to the Land of Enchantment by sending invitations to people she barely knew. O’Keeffe and Adams were among those who accepted and came to hang out at the now historic inn, along with novelist Willa Cather, painter John Marin, dancer/choreographer Martha Graham and writer D.H. Lawrence.
The adobe home is warm, charming, early century elegance that wreaks of historic relevance. From the outside, look up at the bathroom windows, colorfully painted over by Lawrence. He also took a brush and paint to one of the home’s bathrooms.
This piece of history in the heart of town was once owned by actor Dennis Hopper. It is now a B&B and conference center. Complimentary coffee, tea and cookies await every visitor. Guided tours are available.
For more information: (575) 751-9686, mabeldodgeluhan.com