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Taos is New Mexico True
Taos, NM
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A women walking through downtown Taos

Taos may be off the grid, but it’s definitely on the map!

Whether it’s a ranking of “best mountain towns” or “coolest towns in America,”  Taos routinely finds its way onto “best of” lists. For those folks lucky enough to live here, this is never a surprise. Looking up during your morning commute and taking in the ever-changing, glorious aspect of Taos Mountain never gets old, nor does the rich culture of art, cuisine, and history that makes Taos unique.

But if you’re new to Taos and are not certain of what you’ll find here, the best advice is this: drop all expectations and come with an open mind. Taos is many things to many people: a world-class outdoors destination, a place of ancient history and long tradition, and a hub of creativity, innovation, and sustainability. 

With so many directions to go in (both literally and figuratively), Taos can be overwhelming to the first-time visitor. And although this is by no means an exhaustive list of all the possibilities, here is a field guide to Taos, highlighting a few of the things that make Taos so special.

The Art of Taos

Our field guide to Taos starts with our unique history as a community of artists. Dating back to before the turn of the 20th century, Taos has attracted and inspired artists from across the country and even the globe. Taos artists take inspiration from the mythic and magical light, the sweeping vistas of ochre and sage, and the snow-capped peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the distance. The mountains turn red in the evening light, hence their name, which translates to “blood of Christ.”

Taos Pueblo

This multistory adobe village has been continuously inhabited since pre-Columbian times and continues to house families that have been there since the beginning. Although many of the living spaces have been converted into shops, showcasing the Pueblo’s talented artists and artisans, don’t assume that this is a kitschy tourist trap; the Pueblo natives have diligently protected and preserved their culture. Parts of the Pueblo are off-limits to visitors, and strict visiting hours are in place for those that are open. A visit to the Taos Pueblo is a step back in time and a stop in our field guide to Taos that is not to be missed.

Hiking

You’re probably not surprised to hear that Taos has great hiking. Between the mountains, the mesa, and the Rio Grande Gorge, you can traverse mile after mile of breathtaking scenery. One of the most popular trails is Devisadero Peak, which offers sweeping views of the town and beyond. Or you can head up to Taos Ski Valley, where a number of high-country hikes await, including Italianos and Gavilan Canyon or, if you have the stamina, the trail to the highest mountain in New Mexico, Wheeler Peak. You’ll feel like you’re on top of the world.

If the Rio Grande Gorge is calling your name, walk along its west rim starting at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge or head up to Wild Rivers Recreation Area near Questa where you can hike down into the canyon for a close-up view of the mighty river. 

Soaking

After a day of hiking, our field guide to Taos naturally takes us to the area’s natural hot springs. Ojo Caliente, a spa resort less than an hour’s drive west of Taos, has outdoor mineral pools of various temperatures open to the day tripper as well as guests who book multiday stays in the historic hotel. The hot springs have drawn fans for centuries, long before bathrobes and lockers were provided, but today Ojo has all the modern amenities you could hope for, including a fantastic restaurant. An easy hiking trail takes you to the ruins of an ancient pueblo on the cliff above the resort, with countless pottery shards scattered about in mute testimony to the history of the land.

Local undeveloped hot springs offer the option to soak with an adventure.

Architecture, New and Old

Neither Mad Max nor Star Wars was filmed at the Earthship community outside Taos, but they could have been. A visiting European architect once described this collection of buildings as environmentally friendly but ugly. We disagree!

An inspiring example of creative recycling and upcycling, the edifices of earthships sparkle with multicolored bottles and cans, hiding a core of used tires for insulation. You know that old saying, “If you have lemons, make lemonade”? In this case, if you have a pile of used materials, make a house (rather than sending everything to the landfill). The Greater World Earthship Community is actually a major attraction, bringing people here from all over the world, hence its inclusion in this field guide to Taos. Founder Mike Reynolds, in turn, exports Earthship Biotecture far and wide, helping people across their globe turn their refuse into a refuge!

For some more traditional architecture, don’t miss the San Francisco de Asis church in Ranchos de Taos, made famous by the artworks of Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams, among others. Built beginning in 1772, the church is still a house of worship today as well as a destination for lovers of sacred art and history. While you’re in the Ranchos Plaza, take time to visit the surrounding buildings housing some of our finest shops and galleries in town as well as the Ranchos Plaza Grill for some authentic Mexican and northern New Mexican dishes. Speaking of restaurants . . .

Eating

Any self-respecting field guide to Taos has to talk about food. Whether your palate craves the chiles that Taos is famous for, fine dining, or something altogether different, you won’t go hungry in Taos. 

Serious Mexican food aficionados can head to the Guadalajara Grill (there are two, one on each side of town) for seafood (yes, seafood), including oysters on the half shell, ceviche, and yummy shrimp tacos. Antonio’s The Taste of Mexico features new takes on classic Mexican dishes, like blue corn enchiladas with blue crab and shrimp, and chile relleno en nogada. And La Cueva Cafe, Orlando’s, and Jalapeño’s Tacos & More are just a few of the many tasty options in Taos for Mexican and New Mexican cuisine.

For fine dining, the choices are myriad. The Love Apple is right up there with what you’ll find on either coast, with a seasonal farm to table menu featuring local ingredients and a northern New Mexico spin on classic bistro food. The ambiance (the restaurant is located in a former chapel) doesn’t hurt either. Lambert’s of Taos is a fine dining institution whose quality has stood the test of time. Dine indoors in one of four cozy dining rooms, on the intimate patio, or make the trek upstairs to the trendy TreeHouse Bar. The steak tartare with house made potato chips and bone marrow is not to be missed. medley. is a relative newcomer on Taos’ fine dining stage, but has made a splash with new twists on classic comfort food, like green chile shepherd’s pie and a juicy grass-fed burger topped with aioli and pulled pork (no, seriously, it’s amazing).

Music

Naturally, along with the visual artists and writers who call Taos home, musicians make up our numbers as well, and these days Taos is earning a reputation as an event destination thanks to the Paseo Project and frequent music festivals in and around town.

Live music every night in several different venues makes Taos a hip hangout for those who live here as well as those just passing through. From the historic Taos Inn, where live music is as much of a tradition as the margaritas, to the Alley Cantina, the Seco Live stage in Arroyo Seco, and the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, with many more to boot, Taos rocks. Pun intended.

Speaking of the Mesa, our airport is located just across from the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership. Taos Air flies directly between Taos and Austin, Dallas, Los Angeles, and San Diego, providing you the perfect opportunity to discover why Taos is one of the coolest towns to visit in America. When you arrive, use our field guide to Taos as a starting point and see where the Mountain takes you.