As soon as you crest the last hill on the way north to Taos, you are struck with the jaw dropping phantasmagoria of the natural landscape. A vast mesa, shining in silver and gold, bisected by the jagged line of the gorge, with the Rio Grande rushing through the shadows under the canyon walls… Tall mountains studded with rock formations, streaked with snow and lush aspen groves… All while the Town of Taos sparkling in the foothills like a handful of mica spilled in the sand. The natural landscape of Taos county is so stunning there’s a rest area right there for visitors to pull over and catch their breath in the face of such overwhelming beauty. The only rational response to such beauty is to dive right in.
Taos County has far more adventure sports and activities than could ever be fit into a single visit. For the lucky ones who choose to move here, it offers enough thrilling and awe inspiring escapades to fill a lifetime.
Possibly the most accessible way to get out into nature is simply to strap on those hiking boots and hit the trails. A fabulous first hike in Taos is the Devisadero Loop Trail #108. This moderate 5 mile loop offers expansive views of the town and the mesa that stretches out into infinity beyond it. Aim to hit the summit at sunset for a truly breathtaking experience.
Easy hikes are available close to town, such as the West Rim Trail and the Rift Valley Trail. These hikes will guide you through the sagebrush to the edge of the Rio Grand Gorge with little elevation gain. Across the Rio, Vista Verde is another accessible trail that ends with a lovely view of the confluence of the Rio Grande and the Rio Pueblo de Taos. Along the way you can see seasonal cactus blooms, herds of bighorn sheep, as well as spectacular petroglyphs carved into the rocks.
There are many different directions to branch out as you hike in the local area. The road to Taos Ski Valley is littered with trailheads that lead you up into lush high mountain meadows along sparkling streams. The hike to Williams Lake is a local favorite. Southeast of Taos, Pot Creek Cultural Site is a gorgeous trail around the ruins of a 13th century pueblo. Across the gorge in Carson, there are a plethora of trails and forest roads to explore- and be sure to stop for a snack at the Carson Cafe and Grocery!
The many beautiful trails of Taos are generally open to mountain bikes as well as foot traffic. Far Flung Adventures offers guided bike tours around the rim of the Rio Grande Gorge that are friendly for the whole family. Cottam’s Ski and Outdoor is a great spot to rent bicycles and gear for shorter trips and folks who are interested in trying out the biking scene. For more seasoned enthusiasts, MTB Project has a comprehensive overview of local bike trails. You can also be sure to find downhill bike parks at any of the local ski resorts- Taos Ski Valley is naturally closest at hand, but Angel Fire Resort hosts the largest bike park in the Rockies, and Red River also has well maintained bike trails to get your thrills. Though farther afield, these areas are certainly worth the drive.
In terms of bike shops, Rift Cycles is the main hub for Taos cyclists to get their bikes cleaned and repaired, as well as to tap into the cycling community with events and workshops. Taos Mountain Bike Association (TMBA) advocates for local trails and riding opportunities and is backed by the International Mountain Bicycling Association. Like all aspects of creative and adventure life in Taos, tapping into the local community will expand and enhance your experience in Taos!
When it comes to river rafting in the Taos area, your two most accessible rivers will be the Rio Grande, which is right in our backyard, and the Rio Chama, which is farther afield but well worth it for the spectacular beauty of the untouched wilderness it runs through.
Founded by New Mexico storyteller and environmentalist Cisco Guevara, Los Rios River Runners is a great place to start when booking your river rafting adventures. Los Rios River Runners have the most permits for the most stretches of our closest rivers, and offers full day, half day, and overnight trips, as well as multi-sport trips that combine rafting with horseback riding, rock climbing, and biking for a day that leaves you totally exhausted and completely fulfilled.
Far Flung Adventures has been operating across the southwest since the 70s. They continue to offer excellent river adventures around the general region and even internationally, but as new ownership is based out of El Prado, they have a very rich selection of single and multi-day trips in our neighborhood, including excursions on the Rio Chama with local music legends such as The Foggy Memory Boys and Max Gomez to serenade you nightly around the riverbank campfire.
New Mexico River Adventures offers a veritable plethora of outdoor adventure activities, with a focus on rafting, kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding. Farther down the canyon in Pilar and Embudo respectively, you’ll find New Wave Rafting and Big River Rafts, which are smaller outfits who nonetheless provide excellent day trip experiences.
Our local electric company is even named after the infamous Kit Carson, so you can bet your boots that this is the Wild West. Our unique rugged landscape is truly best witnessed on horseback, and lucky for us, Taos County is home to some truly exceptional stables.
Partnered with the aforementioned Far Flung Adventures, Rio Grande Stables sets a gold standard in high desert trail riding, offering rides through the expansive hills of sage where the mesa tumbles into the gorge, as well as in the lush high alpine forests of Taos Ski Valley. Nancy Burch offers trail rides and lessons east of us in Angel Fire, while to the north, Bobcat Pass Wilderness Adventures runs an outfit out of Red River. Last but not least, consider visiting Equine Spirit Sanctuary, a non-profit horse rescue located in Ranchos de Taos. Equine Spirit Sanctuary offers equine therapy and lessons to all ages, but is especially great for kids. Their steadfast pragmatism and community oriented mission represents the essence of what makes Taos, Taos.
Get knee deep in local ecology with fly fishing opportunities in the Rio Grande watershed. The Solitary Angler, founded and owned by New Mexico born and bred Van Beacham, offers guided fly fishing experiences across the southwest, as well as accommodations for fly fishers. For particularly passionate anglers, memberships to the highly exclusive Solitary Anglers Club are available on a case by case basis. This club offers members and their guests unguided access to private, well rested fisheries with vibrant, healthy fish populations. ZiaFly is another option for guided tours for catch-and-release fly fishing in the Rio Grande watershed, founded by master fly tier Spencer Siem, whose work has earned mentions in This American Life, Smithsonian Magazine, and Outside Magazine. New Wave Rafting Co. also provides guided float and wade fishing trips in the Orilla Verde Recreation Area. Finally, Taos Fly Shop is a family- run full service fly shop that not only offers excellent guided trips, classes, and training- but also provides the high quality gear and supplies to make all your angling dreams come true!