The Enchanted Circle (Taos, NM)

Our first night in Taos, we spent the morning and early afternoon on The High Road To Taos, had some New Mexican cuisine with Scott’s friend Daniel for dinner that night, and the next day, we set out for some more scenic driving on The Enchanted Circle.

The Enchanted Circle runs about 110 miles through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Carson National Forest. On the way, it goes through the towns of Eagle Nest, Red River, and Questa.


Note that points C through F aren’t actual parts of the Enchanted Circle, but are side trips mentioned below.

A Better Idea

We had originally planned to head north from Taos, check out the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, drive up into the Taos Ski Valley, then continue clockwise around the Enchanted Circle through Questa and Red River. Daniel, however, advised that we go counter-clockwise, aiming first for Angel Fire and Eagle Nest. Since he’s the local, we followed his advice.

Eagle Nest

Eagle Nest, NM is 20-25 miles from Taos, heading out east-bound on US-64. Much of the elevation gained is along this stretch of road. Along the way, you skirt alongside the Angel Fire ski area and come to the first of three stops we made in and around Eagle Nest: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial. There wasn’t much going on at the Memorial while we were there, so we walked around, checked out the model Huey chopper, let Knox play in the snow, admired some scenery, and moved along.

Our second stop was an impromptu stop at Eagle Nest Lake. We saw this frozen mountain lake and decided to swing in. There wasn’t much to do other than stretch our legs, though Knox and Scott did step out onto the lake where a guy was ice fishing. They didn’t go too far though before they saw some cracks running through the ice and decided to step back onto dry ground before it became a cold, wet drive.

And our third stop was at Comanche Creek Brewing Company on the north side of Eagle Nest, another of Daniel’s suggestions.

Red River

After driving through Eagle Nest, we continued northward to Red River, a town that looks like it’s straight out of a movie set. On parts of the drive, the mountains and green pasture made it felt more like we were driving through Irish or Swiss countryside.

Red River is basically just one road with all of these perfectly perfect log cabins with bright red roofs lining the street. There’s a ski slope, some restaurants and bars, and a few houses. We spent an inordinate amount of time in this tiny town where we had nothing to do. It was just too cool to drive straight through without admiring it a bit.

Wheeler Peak

Daniel advised us to take a side trip up NM-578 to Wheeler Peak, the highest peak in New Mexico at 13,161 feet. He warned us though that the highway ends 6 miles up the mountain…as does the pavement. At that point, we turned back because the roads from that point were covered in snow and we didn’t want to end up stuck on a mountain. We assume you can actually drive those forest roads in the summertime to get to the historical marker at the peak. The 6 miles up NM-578 are most certainly worth driving though, with log cabins, thick snow, and views overlooking deep gorges all along the way.

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

While not technically on the Enchanted Circle, the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge lies about 8 miles off of the route and is definitely worth the stop. Flying 650 feet above the gorge floor, this is the fifth highest bridge in the US.

Taos Ski Valley

We ended our scenic drive with a quick jaunt up to Taos Ski Valley. This is another of those side trips that’s worth it, with the little mountain creek beside the road, the snow covered pine trees, the ski lodges, and everything else your mind conjures up when you think of a ski resort.

On the way up, we took the alternate route through Valdez, which is so small it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry. You know that’s small! While the roads are narrow, the view is incredible from one road in particular. It borders on being 2 lanes wide and flies a good 500 feet up with nothing holding the cars onto the road should they decide to get a little close to the edge. The road looks out over the area known as Valdez, but keep your eyes on the road. Sorry, no picture of this one!

At A Glance

From: Taos, NM
To: Taos, NM
States: NM
Length: 110 miles
Nearby Cities: Taos, NM
Bonus Side Trips: Taos Ski Valley, Wheeler Peak, Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Pictures

Here are some of the pictures we snapped on our day-long drive around the Enchanted Circle.