Skip to content
Taos is New Mexico True
Taos, NM
Array ( [ID] => 36776 [url] => https://taos.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/header_sheep_multi-season-1920x350.jpg [alt] => Taos, NM ) 1
A group of hikers near the Taos Gorge

Taos is known for being home to the oldest continually inhabited building in America: Taos Pueblo. It is also known for fine art and artists, a deep and rich culture, adobe architecture, and those ubiquitous chile peppers, all things that attract visitors from all over the world to Taos.

Here are 5 free things to do in Taos, New Mexico (with or without kids.) Free attractions are great money savers so later you can pick up art, jewelry, and pottery that you fall in love with and splurge on all the delicious food available, guilt free! Be careful, the green chile is addictive!

Walk around Historic Taos Plaza

Taos Plaza is the historic center of the town of Taos. The Plaza dates back to 1796 when the Don Fernando de Taos Land Grant was ceded to Spanish settlers. Taos Plaza and the Taos Pueblo were the terminal points of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, or King’s Highway, from Mexico City.

Later a Spanish, fortified, walled plaza with houses and businesses, it now has a park with shady trees, benches, and a gazebo surrounded by shops in the old adobe buildings. It’s a great place to relax and provides several options for free things to do in Taos. The Hotel La Fonda de Taos is known for its small collection of D.H. Lawrence’s paintings. Window shopping includes contemporary fine art galleries, Native American art and jewelry, and home goods as well as the obvious souvenir shops. Check out the old courthouse for some ghostly vibes.

Visit San Francisco de Asis Mission Church

For another free thing to do in Taos, don’t pass up a visit to this iconic structure, made famous by artists like Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams.

Named after the patron saint of animals, San Francisco de Asis Mission Church is a historic and architecturally significant church on the main plaza of Ranchos de Taos. Built between 1772 and 1816, it is one of the finest extant examples of a Spanish Colonial New Mexico mission church and remains a magnet for artists and photographers.

Every June, the community gathers to replaster the adobe church. This annual “Enjarre,” or “mudding,” of the church involves mixing clay, sand, straw, and water into thick mud, which is applied to the surface, layer upon layer, until the entire adobe structure becomes resilient to the elements once again.

See the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

One of America’s highest and most famous bridges, the route 64 crossing of the Rio Grande was completed in 1965. A well proportioned cantilever truss with a curvilinear profile, the bridge received the American Institute of Steel Construction’s award for “Most Beautiful Long Span Steel Bridge” of 1966. In 1997, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Rio Grande is America’s 4th longest river, stretching 1,885 miles from its headwaters in Colorado south to the Gulf of Mexico. Located 10 miles west of Taos, the deep gorge of the Rio Grande is an impressive rift across an otherwise flat expanse of land.

The bridge is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the region and is one of the best free things to do in Taos. There are several viewing platforms on the bridge that cantilever out from the roadway, allowing visitors a staggering (and vertiginous) view of the geological layers of the gorge and the river flowing at the bottom. 

Hike and Explore

With 320 sunny days a year, is it any wonder that just being outside is one of the most popular free things to do in Taos? From miles of scenic hiking trails to our lovely parks, it’s easy to be outside most of the time in Taos.

If you’re already taking in the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, hang around for a hike on the West Rim Trail, which leaves from the Gorge Bridge parking lot. The Wild Rivers Recreation Center north of Taos affords you the opportunity to hike down into the gorge to take in the meeting place of the Red River and the Rio Grande. You can witness another river junction, that of the Rio Grande and the Rio Pueblo, south of Taos. A short, spectacular hike down the Slide Trail (so named because the trail used to be a highway, which was wiped out in a landslide) takes you to the Taos Junction Bridge, a popular put-in spot for river rafting. Just don’t forget, if you hike down into the gorge, you have to hike back out, too!

The area around Taos Ski Valley is full of great hiking options, too. As you approach Taos Ski Valley on Highway 150, look to your left for the trailheads of Gavilan Canyon, Yerba, Italianos, and Manzanita. Or head further up the mountain for hiking access to Williams Lake, Bull of the Woods, Gold Hill, and much more, including the highest point in New Mexico, 13,161-foot Wheeler Peak.

DIY Art Stroll

Taos is New Mexico’s premier art colony and was the first significant art colony in the American West. Taos Society of Artists founders Ernest Blumenschein and Bert Phillips were on a painting expedition together when their carriage broke down in the vicinity in 1898. Awed by the beauty of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range and intrigued by the mix of Taos Pueblo and Hispanic cultures, they soon spread the word, starting Taos on the road to the artistic center it is today.

In addition to the Taos Society of Artists, Mabel Dodge Luhan was highly influential in promoting Taos to artists and writers within her international circle. During the early 20th century, modern artists infused the area with a new artistic energy, followed in the 1950s by abstract artists. Today, browsing at some of the more than 80 galleries is a great free thing to do in Taos, and if you’re willing to shell out a little cash, there are great museums as well. There are a number of organizations that support and promote the work of artists on the Taos Pueblo and in the Taos area, but for constantly updated information, check out the Taos Gallery Association as well as Taos.org.