20 Ways To Get Outside

Its Summer Time Get Out there

By Ellan Miller-Goins
Hike Columbine (Photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)


1: Take a Hike

Vistitors to the enchanted Circle don’t have to travel far to experience nature. Those with only a few days to explore could do little better than the alpine vistas provided by Wheeler Peak, myriad glacial lakes within the borders of the Wheeler Peak Wilderness, Latir Peak Wilderness, Columbine-Hondo Wilderness, or the prehistoric volcanic wonders of Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.

Wheeler Peak (Photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)

2: Soak It Up

Hot springs are widely beloved for their relaxing and healing properties. Soaking in warm, mineral-rich waters can increase blood flow, nourish the skin and ease a busy mind. Along the Rio Grande Rift that runs north-south through New Mexico, hot springs abound. For a luxurious stay, visit Ojo Caliente Resort and Spa west ofTaos. For a wilder experience, try favorites Manby or Black Rock Hot Springs, where you can cold-plunge in the Rio Grande and soak in the springs. Stay past sunset to unwind beneath a cool, starry night sky.

Ojo Caliente (Courtesy Photo)

3: Rise High

I spy … a deer! Chair lift rides – offered at Taos Ski Valley, Angel Fire Resort and Red River Ski Area – make it easy to take in beautiful views and maybe spot a few critters. With the addition of bike racks, specialized trails and other amenities like disc golf, summer lift rides give visitors plenty to do. Picnic at the top, then play, explore, bike or hike down.

Chairlift Ride (Courtesy Photo)

4: Saddle Up

Experienced guides can take riders  on trips near Taos, Taos Ski Valley, Red River and Angel Fire; a few offer horsedrawn wagon rides, and/or chuck wagon cookouts with authentic cowboy-style cuisine served inside or under the stars; some end their sumptuous dinners with Western entertainment; and one – Rio Grande Stables – offers a full-day trip that begins with a two-hour ride followed by lunch and river rafting!

Horseback at Bobcat Pass (Photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)

5: Toss Some Plastic

Disc golf changes a stroll in the park into an afternoon adventure with a flying piece of plastic. It’s a chance to get outside and get some exercise. The sport is relatively affordable and easy to get into. It’s one of the few games that families can easily play together. It’s a game that lends itself to group or solitary play. All four ski areas in Northern New Mexico – Sipapu, Angel Fire, Taos Ski Valley and Red River Ski Area – have disc golf courses, and there are also courses in Taos (the Roe Pit), Eagle Nest, Vadito (Two Gray Hares), Picuris Pueblo near Penasco, and Mallette Park in Red River.

Disc Golf (Photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)

6: Hit The Links

Why do golfers love to golf? They’ll tell you it’s fun, challenging and sometimes terrifically frustrating. One day you play like Scottie Scheffler, the next it’s like you’ve never swung a club. It’s those days of near perfection – sunny weather, swings that find that “sweet spot” good comrades, fabulous vistas – that keeps you going back. Check out Taos Country Club, a 7,300-yard, Scottish-link-style course with a four star rating from Golf Digest; Angel Fire Resort’s par 72, 6,600-yard, 18-hole golf course; or Valle Escondido’s 9-hole alpine walking course.

Aaron Hiemenz chips his way onto the green at Taos Country Club. (Gabe Toth / Taos News File Photo)

7: Ride Phat

Northern New Mexico is home to some world-class riding for all abilities. one route in the area- the popular South Boundary Trail – has an IMBA (international Mountain Bicycling Association) “EPIC” designation for being “technically and physically challenging, beautiful to behold and worthy of celebration.” Shuttle rides are an option for those who want to take in more mileage. Downhill enthusiasts can ride a lift for gnarly thrills at the renowned Angel Fire Bike Park, Taos Ski Valley or Red River Ski Area, while beginner/intermediate riders can find options at Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, Angel Fire’s GreenbeltTrails, and Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area. Find routes at mtbproject.com.

Mtn Bike AFR Bike Park (Courtesy Photo)

8: Climb high

Mountain Skills is based in Taos but will take clients almost any­
where they want to go around Taos and the Enchanted Circle.
Spend the morning climbing followed by a raft ride through the rapids on one of their “Rock n’ Raft” adventures. To find rock climbing routes on your own, see mountainproject.com/ area/105868955/taos-area.

Climbing Roadside Distraction off NM 38, east of Questa (Gabe Toth / Taos New file photo)

9: Go For A Rocky Road Adventure

We feel everyone should be able to access some of the spectacular scenery of Northern New Mexico and, for some, there is no better way than in a 4×4. Red River offers basic to ad­vanced off-road options like Goose Lake, Old Red River Pass and 4th of July Canyon, but the best destination is the 11,200-foot Greenie Peak, with spectacular views of the Rio Grande Valley, Red River Ski Area, Gold Hill, Wheeler Peak and the Moreno Valley. From there, you can drive around Midnight Meadows, where there used to be a historic mining town, then down Cabresto Canyon.

4×4 July RedRiver (Photo courtesy Town of Red River)

10: Run The Rio

We feel taking a guide, exhilarating whitewater rrafting trip or scenic float down the Rio Grande is a must for any bucket list! Within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, the river carves an BOO-foot-deep gorge through layers of volcanic basalt flows and ash. Professional and knowledgeable outfitters abound in Taos offering tours in the thrilling Taos Box, the more-sedate Pilar Racecourse and river trips further afield.

Rafters navigate the Souse Hole, a large rapid on the Racecourse section of the Rio Grande on Friday (March 25). Guided by Los Rios River Runners Pirozak-Lillick and James Collins, two guide interns and Taos News writer Cindy Brown enjoy their first time on this section of the river in early Spring. (Nathan Burton/Taos News)

11: Test Your Balance

Tagged “the world’s fastest-growing water­sport” on multiple websites, stand-up pad­dling is a fun water sport you can try on the Rio Grande, Eagle Nest Lake in Eagle Nest, or Monte Verde Lake in Angel Fire. Afford­able, family-friendly, relaxing, and relatively easy-to-learn the sport, well-known for working your core, is also great for improv­ing balance, burning fat and losing weight.

Paddle boarding Cattail Falls (Photo courtesy Far Flung Adventures)

12: Lure a Lunker

Northern New Mexico has an abundance of great fishing spots. From the rushing waters of the Rio Grande, to lakes such as cabresto and stone near Questa, to streams splashing their ways down from the Sangre de Cristo Mountain highlands, there are plenty of ways to wet your line and give you the joy of a fish-on. New Mexico Game and Fish often stocks rainbows, but you may also find cutthroats, brook, brown and lake trout. Along the Rio Grande you may even catch a northern pike or two. At Eagle Nest Lake in the Moreno Valley, you’ll find rainbow trout, brown trout, cutthroat trout, kokanee salmon, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, common carp, white sucker, channel catfish, sunfish and northern pike.

FlyFishing (File Photo)

13: Soar Above

Hot-air balloon rides offer a unique view of the world below that can’t be seen from anywhere else. Drift past ancient basalt formations, fly over the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, the second highest bridge on the U.S. Highway Sys­tem, dip down into the Rio Grande Gorge at altitudes as high as 4000 feet above the Taos area. One TripAdviser reviewer gushed, “Our sunrise balloon ride was the ultimate highlight of our trip to Taos!”

Hot air balloon flying over the Rio Grande Gorge (Karen Geswein photography)

14: Delve into mystery

Petroglyphs are not just rock art nor are they ancient graffiti. Made by laborious-ly chipping off the black patina on the surface of the rock to reveal a lighter layer beneath, each petroglyph tells a story and all are respected for belonging to the peo­ples who lived on these lands for millennia. Visitors can find several petroglyph sites in the Rio Grande del Norte National Mon­ument. For an rare treat, arrange for a tour at the Mesa Prieta Petroglyph Project and Wells Petroglyph Preserve, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and the State Register of Cultural Properties.

Petroglyphs near Big Arsenic Trail at Wild Rivers Recreation Area (Photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)

15: Swim the Rio

Summers in Northern New Mexico uniquely offer the delicious contrast between hot, dusty, high desert and refreshing, snow-fed rivers. The Taos Junction Bridge past the quaint river-side community of Pilar and the John Dunn Bridge at the confluence of the Rio Hondo and Rio Grande offer excellent opportunities for a day spent river-side. Bathe, swim, picnic and even fish in the cool waters of this historic river alongside beavers, Rio Grande cutthroat trout and river otters deep in the bed of the Rio Grande gorge.

Taos Junction Bridge In Pilar (Courtesy Photo)

16: Go Bird Watching

The story “Birding the Rio Fernando Wetlands” by Jim O’Donnell notes, “Taos County … has on record 276 bird species. The Río Fernan-do wetlands hot spot has 186 species — two-thirds of the species that have been record-ed in the whole county.” Read the story and find a list at bit.ly/rio-birding

Blue Grosbeak (Photo by James T. O’Donnell II)

17: Observe Wildlife

Wild things abound in the Enchanted Circle! Take the 86-mile road tour and look for bighorn sheep, bear, bald eagle, coyote, deer and elk. Evening-time cars can be seen inching along the highway, binoculars poised, maybe pulling over to get a closer look at something they’ve spotted. In early sum-mer, look for bighorn sheep in the canyon between Red River and Questa, wild horses in the San Luis Valley north of Questa, and hundreds of elk grazing on hillsides in the Moreno Valley. (Around the second or third week in June, mothers typically return with their elk calves.)

Elk (Courtesy Photo)

18: Dig It

Do you like hunting, and maybe digging, for unique or pretty, shiny rocks? Northern New Mexico is a rockhound’s paradise! For advice on where to go, start with Taos Rockers Mineral & Fossil Outlet. Our insider’s tip: Visit the store on a Monday and ask for Jesse. An avid amateur mineralogist and field collector for over 30 years, Jesse Kline particularly enjoys mentoring younger collectors who are eager to learn. The state also offers information on where to go at bit.ly/nm-rockhound

Rockhound (Photo by Adam LeDoux)

19: ‘Bathe’ in Nature

Forest bathers seek a deeper connection with the natural world. The practice can be as simple as walking in any natural environment and consciously connecting with what’s around you. For a more structured experience, Johanna DeBiase, a Taos-based certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide, offers guid-ed nature walks that invite participants to engage with the natural world using their senses. Bathe in Northern New Mexico forests of aspen, fir and spruce and return with calm, focus, creativity and a deeper connection to your Taos stay.

Guide Johanna DeBiase ends her forest bathing immersions with a cup of forest tea. (Photo courtesy Johanna DeBiase)

20: Capture an Epic Sunset

When the Spanish first came to this region, the mountains framing the valley to the east were bathed in a deeply slant-ed winter light that illuminated the snow on the towering peaks. The whole range was red just before the sunset. And, so, the Spanish named the mountains the Sangre de Cristo or “Blood of Christ” range. Photographers love golden hour in Taos for capturing stunning landscape images. That half-hour before and after sunset is the best time to capture the amazing scenery of Northern New Mexico.

Sunset (Photo by Ellen Miller-Goins)