Taos is an travel treasure for outdoor recreation enthusiasts. With a smorgasbord of scenery and a variety of activities, you can “choose your own adventure.” The Carson National Forest and Rio Grande del Norte National Monument provide ample options and opportunities for hiking, biking, skiing, fly fishing, horseback riding, rock-climbing, rafting, golfing, hot air ballooning, and llama trekking. In fact, the South Boundary National Recreation trail in Carson National Forest is considered one of the best mountain bike trails in New Mexico.

Rio Grande Gorge
Rio Grande gorge bridge by Kenneth Walter

Taos Terrain

The Taos Plateau is west of town, an expansive, flat, open valley with a few low hills, cut by the deep gash of the Rio Grande gorge. The eastern horizon is defined by the peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, including Wheeler Peak, the highest summit in New Mexico at 13,161 feet. The Picuris Mountains are south of Taos, a westward prong of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The boundary between the valley and the mountains is dramatic, often defined by tall, vertical cliffs.

TIP: Be prepared when heading to remote areas. Cell phone reception is often sketchy or sporadic and there are hazards. For example, weather is always a variable to consider, whether that involves afternoon thunderstorms or intense heat. Additionally, Mother Nature often enjoys flipping the seasonal script multiple times every day, so intense heat, cold, and rain can all happen in rapid succession. Take plenty of water, sunscreen, snacks, additional layers of clothes in case the weather changes suddenly, hat, etc.

Advice for Visitors to New Mexico

Taos Geology

Taos is a hotbed of geologic activity…literally. Buried beneath the Taos plateau is an enormous rift in the earth’s crust. It is several miles deep and 20-miles wide. This rift, known as the Rio Grande Rift, is geologically active, based on occasional earthquakes and geologists detecting the presence of molten chambers deep beneath the surface. To be clear, the earthquakes associated with the rift are usually small tremors and the volcanoes have been dormant for several million years.

The Taos volcanic field is the largest volcanic field within the Rio Grande rift, with a cluster of volcanic domes, shield volcanoes, and cinder cones. Over millions of years, the lava flows from this dense concentration of volcanoes gradually filled the basin, creating a broad valley. The volcanoes provide Taos’ breathtaking, mountainous horizon.

The Rio Grande Rift

The Rio Grande Rift spans 160,000 square miles, from Central Colorado to Texas, just shy of Big Bend. Five basins formed as the Colorado Plateau and Rocky Mountains lifted. The basins create a furrow, with mountains forming on the fault lines that define the boundaries. The Taos Plateau is part of the San Luis Basin, which is about 100-miles long and about 47- miles wide. In the Taos region, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are the eastern border to the Rio Grande rift and the Tusas Mountains are the western border.

The rift created a valley long before the Rio Grande arrived. As the Rocky Mountains formed, snowmelt and rain flowed downhill, following the path of least resistance, with several streams coalescing to form the Rio Grande about 400,000 years ago. The river followed the series of basins formed by the Rio Grande Rift, cutting through the thick layer of basalt in the Taos volcanic field over millions of years, ultimately carving the gorge we see today.

Taos Mountains

The mountains around Taos are part of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which is the southernmost range of the Rocky Mountains. The Taos Mountains run from Costilla Creek in the north to Tres Ritos in the south. Overall, there are 108 named mountains in Taos County. The highest and most visually prominent peak is Wheeler Peak at 13,161-feet. It is part of the Wheeler Peak Wilderness.

Taos Outdoor Recreation Options

Wheeler Peak Taos

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

New Mexico 68, Embudo, NM 87531
(575) 751-4899

Wild Rivers Visitor Center
1120 Cerro Road, Cerro, NM 87519
(575) 586-1150

Taos Field Office
226 Cruz Alta Road
Taos, NM  87571-5983
(575) 758-8851

The Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument is a swath of more than 240,000 acres of protected public land in northern New Mexico. Much of the monument’s land abuts fifty miles of the Rio Grande as it courses through a variety of high desert habitats, from sagebrush plains to pine-forested mountains. The monument is adorned with several steep volcanic cones, including the tallest, Ute Mountain (in Colorado) at 10,093 feet.

The stretch of the Rio Grande running through the gorge is known for outstanding trout fishing, drawing anglers from across the country. The water supports an abundance of wildlife, including Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk, pronghorn, antelope, Gunnison’s prairie dog, ringtail, black bear, river otters, coyote, red fox, cougars, and bobcats.

Rio Grande Gorge

2873 NM-68, Taos, NM 87571
(575) 751-4899

The Rio Grande del Norte National Monument encompasses the awe-inspiring Rio Grande gorge, an 800-foot deep slash in the Taos plateau that dramatically reveals the depth of the lava flows in the area.

The gorge hosts some of New Mexico’s top trout fishing waters and there are hiking and mountain biking trails along the rim and deep into the recesses of the canyon. Each season offers a different experience: spring cactus blooms, mild summers, golden aspens and cottonwoods in the fall, and winters of snow-capped mountains.

At 650 feet above the river, The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is the second highest bridge on the U.S. Highway System and the fifth highest bridge in the United States. During construction of the bridge in the 1960s, funding did not exist to continue the road on the other side, leading to its nickname, the “Bridge to Nowhere.” The gorge bridge has appeared in numerous films, inlcuding Natural Born Killers, Terminator Salvation, Wild Hogs, and White Sands.

Wild Earth Llama Adventures
(800) 758-5262

Wild Earth Llama Adventures offers educational multi-day llama trekking adventures and gourmet lunch day hikes in the seldom visited wilderness areas of New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Rio Grande Gorge, near Taos and Santa Fe. What’s llama trekking? Llama trekking is hiking and camping in New Mexico’s pristine wilderness, with a woolly hiking buddy and a knowledgeable wilderness guide.

Outdoor Recreation | Taos Trails

Taos is the perfect base camp for outdoor enthusiasts, with an abundance of trails for bikers and hikers. From the rocky, stark high desert lava-scape around Taos to the streams and forests of the surrounding mountains, Taos is blessed with a smorgasbord of landscapes. The list of trails below is not all-inclusive, but it represents a good selection to choose from.

Taos Trails

Bernardin Lake Trail

Moderately challenging 10-mile out-and-back trail near Taos. Takes about 4.5 hours. Great trail for hiking and mountain biking. Light traffic. It isn’t unusual to have the trail to yourself for the day. Better in the late summer and early autumn. The trail follows a small mountain stream. The lake is more of a pond, but the surrounding landscape is beautiful and peaceful. The road in is bumpy, impassable in inclement weather without 4WD.

From NM 68 in Ranchos de Taos, turn south onto NM 518, drive 7 miles and turn left onto Forest Road 438. Park here and ride, or keep driving on the dirt road. At .4 miles stay right and continue another 5.3 miles as the road gradually ascends along a creek. Arrive at the trailhead where there’s a gate and an atv trail uphill to the left.

The Rito de la Olla trail is an old road, a continuation of 438, that has been closed to traffic for several years. Most of the trail is doubletrack that has overgrown and become decent singletrack, remnants of dirt bike jumps remain among the drainage control features and old prospecting camps where this road was built.

Black Rock Hot Springs

Black Rock Hot Springs is tucked in the Rio Grande gorge close to the John Dunn bridge outside of Arroyo Hondo. Located next to the Rio Grande, there are two walled pools, with mud and rock bottoms. Water temperature varies between 97°F to 101°F.

To get to Black Rock Hot Springs, cross the  one-lane bridge that spans the Hondo River. After that, cross the John Dunn Bridge over the Rio Grande. Park near the first switchback at the top of the hill beyond the bridge. The Black Rock Hot Springs are by the river, accessible via a 1/3-mile trail.

Devisadero Peak

Very popular 5.7 mile roundtrip trail a few miles outside of Taos. Somewhat challenging due to the ascent, but worthwhile as the switchback trail yields panoramic views of Taos Mountain to the north and Picuris Peak to the south.

The El Nogal Trailhead parking area is a large dirt parking lot off Highway 64. It can accommodate several dozen cars, and provides access to multiple nearby hiking and mountain biking trails.The trailhead is across the road. Watch for traffic. Same parking lot for South Boundary Trail and Ojitos Canyon trail below.

El Salto Falls

These falls are located in the El Salto area, just outside of Arroyo Seco. The hike itself is only a 1/4 mile, but the route includes dramatic views of several waterfalls. There is a $5 fee to the El Salto de Agua Land Grant — instructions can be found on the trail marker. You can also pay in advance online via PayPal or Venmo. North out of Taos on US 64 to NM 150, then continue straight all the way to the end of El Salto Road to find the parking lot.

Forest Road #5

Stroll through mountain forests on this easy-going, 3.6 mile out-and-back trail. Ideal for walking the dog or hiking. Very light traffic on this trail.

Forest Road 437

Give yourself some time for this one. It is a challenging 13.8 trail, ideal for hiking or mountain biking. Dogs are welcome, but keep them on a leash. Best times to visit are May through October.

Gavilan Falls

This steep trail is not for the faint of heart and will be a welcome challenge for experienced hikers.  After the falls, the Gavilan Trail continues to a lovely meadow and wonderful views at Lobo Ridge.  The entire out-and-back journey is 2.8 miles. Start at Forest Trail #60 (Gavilan Trailhead) near mile marker 13 on NM 150.

Italianos Canyon Trail

This beautiful 3.5-mile trail follows a creek through Italianos Canyon. Waterproof shoes are useful, because the trail crosses the stream a few times.

There are other trails branching off from this one, including Lobo Peak, Flag Mountain, and Gold Hill. The trailhead is on NM-150 (road to Taos Ski Valley). It is about 3 miles east of Cuchilla Campground.

Manby Springs/Stagecoach Springs

Manby Hot Springs, aka Stagecoach Hot Springs, are thermal springs located near Arroyo Hondo. The spring fills three rock pools next to the Rio Grande. The springs are located near the ruins of an old bathhouse and a historical stagecoach stop. There is a parking area, with a trail that is about a mile long. Moderate traffic. Both Manby and Black Rock springs tend to vanish INTO the Rio Grande during spring runoff.

Mondragon Trail

Mondragon is a challenging 9-mile, out-and-back trail. It takes 4.5 to 5 hours, depending on pace. Moderate traffic. It is a popular trail for cross-country skiing, hiking, and mountain biking.

The entrance to the trailhead is at mile marker 264 on Highway 64. The trailhead is clearly marked as Mondragon Trail. A small parking area is located opposite the entrance on the north side of the highway.

#16 North Boundary Trail

This trail will keep you busy all day. It is a challenging 17.2-mile out-and-back trail for hikers and mountain bikers. Wonderful trail, with very little traffic. Dogs are welcome and can be off-leash in some areas. Best time to visit is between May-December.

The North Boundary Trail goes from the Devisadero trailhead to the upper trailhead. The former logging road has been restricted to non-motorized vehicles and is a moderately easy hike or a moderate bike ride.

The trailhead is easy to reach in a low-clearance 2WD car. There’s some parking on the road shoulder at the upper trailhead. The parking area is next to a dry creek.

Ojitos Canyon Trail

The Ojitos Canyon Trail (#166) is 6.8 miles long and makes a loop when combined with the South Boundary Trail (#164).

Hikers have the option to access the trail from two different trailheads. The first is the El Nogal Trailhead parking area (the same one used for Devisadero Peak) or via a smaller trailhead off Paseo del Cañon.

This 11.2-mile loop trail takes you deep into Ojitos Canyon, where piñon pines, aspens, and juniper trees flank the trail. Beautiful views in the autumn, when the trees are turning. Good trail for mountain bikers.

Osha Pass Hike

Moderately challenging 12.5-mile out-and-back trail. Good for hikers or mountain bikers, with relatively little traffic. Take plenty of water. Most of the trail is through the forests, so there’s ample shade most of the time.

Taos Trails West Rim Trail
West Rim Trail, running next to the Rio Grande gorge.
Rio Grande Gorge West Rim Trail

The trailhead is across from the visitor center and bathrooms at the Rio Grande gorge. 3.5 miles round trip, though the trail continues if you want to go further.

The easy trail follows the western rim of the Rio Grande gorge, with incredible views into the canyon. Though the hike itself is easy, there are no barricades running along the ledges of the canyon. Take necessary precautions with pets, children, and yourself.

Sierra de Don Fernando

A short side trip off the South Boundary Trail towards the summit of Sierra de Don Fernando. Excellent route for mountain bikers, with an open meadow and expansive views.

Garcia Park has several dispersed campsites. This route allows a nice 4+ mile ride to the summit of Sierra de Don Fernando and a fun descent along a segment of the South Boundary Trail.

Slide Trail

The Trail was named after a landslide buried a section of NM 570 decades ago. Most of the trail is a dirt road. As it descends into the canyon, it follows the Rio Pueblo de Taos just before it converges with the Rio Grande. There are two trailheads, one is close to the Taos Junction bridge in the gorge. The other trailhead is at the end of County Road 110.

South Boundary 164 to First Peak

3.3 mile, moderately challenging, out-and-back trail. Popular trail for hiking, mountain biking, and running, but you can still enjoy some solitude during quieter times of day. Dogs are welcome and may be off-leash in some areas.

Traders Trail

3.3-mile, moderate, out-and-back trail near Taos. It takes about an hour and a half to complete. Not much traffic. Great for hiking, running, and walking. Wear a hat and take plenty of water, particularly on warm days. There is no shade.

Wheeler Peak Trail

Bureau of Land Management
(575) 525-4300

The Wheeler Peak via Williams Lake Trail leads up to the tallest summit in New Mexico. The trailhead is near a large parking area at the Taos Ski Valley. There are restrooms in the parking lot.

The trail is challenging, consisting of an 8.7-mile out-and-back route that takes about 6 hours to complete. Additionally, it is a popular trail. You will probably encounter other hikers on the trail. The best time to visit is between June and October. Watch for afternoon storms. They are common at high elevation. Dogs are welcome, but they have to be on a leash.

Williams Lake

3.7-mile, moderately challenging out-and-back trail from Taos Ski Valley. It takes a little more than 2 hours, best to allot 3 or more though. Again, watch for storms. This is another popular trail, so you will probably encounter several other people. The best times to visit is between May and September. Dogs are welcome and can be off-leash in some areas. Take a warm shirt. It it inevitably chilly and/or windy when you get up to the lake.

Taos Fly Fishing

Taos is a prime location for fly fishing, with both shops and guides available to help anglers navigate the area. Unlike well known destinations, Taos provides anglers with the opportunity to find solititude and serenity, with the Rio Grande providing world-class trout fishing waters through the gorge. Red River, a tributary of the Rio Grande, is also a popular place to catch trout.

Streams that have flows controlled by dams, like the Costilla and the Cimarron, are typically good in the spring regardless of snow melt. The streams that drain the melt-off to the Rio Grande are also good options in the spring: Rio Chiquito, Rito de la Olla, Rio Hondo, Red River, and Rio Grande del Rancho.

Other than the Rio Grande gorge around Pilar, access can be tricky, because some of the best waters are remote and relatively inaccessible, involving long, often steep, hikes on rough trails. However, there are numerous local guides to help you navigate the area.

Additionally, fishing is also decent at Eagle Nest Lake for both fly-fishing and conventional tackle, with trout, yellow perch, and northern pike up to 4-feet long.

Taos Fly Shop
338 Paseo Del Pueblo Sur Unit B, Taos, NM 87571
(575) 751-1312

Taylor Streit has been guiding anglers in Northern New Mexico for 30 years and is a “Legendary Guide” in the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. He has written three acclaimed fly fishing books. Several experienced guides who have been hand-picked and trained by Taylor on fishing New Mexico waters.

The Solitary Angler
204B Paseo del Pueblo Norte
(575) 758-5653

Flyfishing guides, guide service and fishing club.

Whitewater rafting Los Rios River Runners
Whitewater rafting the Rio Grande box with Los Rios River Runners.

Taos Rafting

Rafting in Taos is wonderful, with easy access to rafting the Rio Grande Gorge, one of the most beautiful canyons in New Mexico. The rafting season starts in the early spring when the snow starts melting and ends in the fall. Whether you are looking for a half-day float trip or a full day of white water, you can enjoy incredible views, with experienced guides, through exhilarating rapids.

Big River Raft Trips

13 Cam del Rio Grande, Pilar, NM 87531
(575) 758-9711

Big River Raft Trips introduces guests to the thrill and adventure of whitewater rafting.

Far Flung Adventures

15 NM-522, El Prado, NM 87529
(575) 758-2628

Far Flung Adventures has a legacy of providing high-quality and safe experiences, introducing countless people to the joys of floating, camping, and exploring.

New Mexico River Adventures

2217 NM-68, Embudo, NM 87531
(800) 983-7756

New Mexico River Adventures offers a variety of Outdoor experiences in and around the Santa Fe/Taos area of northern New Mexico. Whether you’re looking for a wild whitewater run through the Class IV rapids of the world famous Taos Box or a scenic float through the azure canyon of the Rio Chama.

Los Rios River Runners

2884 NM-68, Peñasco, NM 87553
(575) 776-8854

No rafting company in New Mexico has more experience whitewater rafting in the Santa Fe and Taos area than Los Rios River Runners. The guides are fun-loving individuals, trained far beyond federal requirements in river safety, first aid and CPR. The entire staff is dedicated to providing guests with a fun, memorable experience.

Winter Sports

Skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, sledding, and more. Taos has options for anyone looking to enjoy a winter wonderland.

Skiing & Snowboarding Around Taos

Angel Fire Ski Resort

10 Miller Ln. Angel Fire, NM 87710

Angel Fire resort features 80 runs for all skill levels. Enjoy family-friendly activities year around, including skiing, snowboarding, night skiing, tubing, snowshoeing, ziplining, downhill mountain biking, golf, and more!

Enchanted Forest XC Ski and Snowshoe Area

29 Sangre De Cristo, Red River, NM 87558
(575) 754-6112

Enchanted Forest focuses on cross country skiing and snow shoeing rather than downhill. They offer miles of groomed, 12 – 16 foot wide trails for both classic and freestyle skiing. Eight miles of trail are devoted to snowshoes and a couple of miles are dog friendly. Enchanted Forest is three miles east of Red River.

Red River Ski Area

400 Pioneer Rd, Red River, NM 87558
(575) 754-2223

Red River Ski Area is a short drive from Angel Fire and Taos. Red River makes getting to the slope ridiculously easy, with a chair lift heading up the mountain from Main Street. The terrain is mostly beginner and intermediate slopes. Though not as challenging as Taos, Red River ski area offers affordable vacation packages for families.

Sipapu Ski & Summer Resort

5224 NM-518, Vadito, NM 87579
(575) 587-2240

Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort offers mountain terrain perfect for all skill levels. From green and blue groomed cruisers to the steeps and powder stashes found above Lift 1, this mountain has something for everyone. Sipapu is south of Angel Fire, near historic Chimayo. The resort is family friendly and more affordable than Taos, Angel Fire or Red River. They provide free lift tickets and there usually isn’t a wait.

Taos Ski ValleyTaos Ski Valley

Taos is known for Taos Ski Valley, a world-class resort, with 110 trails and 14 lifts, catering to all skill levels. The resort is a skiing and snowboarding paradise.

Located in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, with access to 1,294 acres of terrain, Taos Ski Valley has trails for all ability levels and interests. Furthermore, there is rarely a wait at the lift line, allowing more adrenalin inducing runs in your day.

Taos Ski Valley is known for light, dry powder and 12,481 foot Kachina Peak offers skiing and snowboarding to entertain the most experienced. With one of the top ski schools in the country, they have runs to challenge the advanced skier and facilities to train people new to the slopes.

Ski New Mexico


Big Al’s Snowmobile Tours

P.O. Box 2, Taos Ski Valley, NM 87525
(575) 751-6051


Guided snowmobile tours to the peaks and ridges above Taos Ski Valley. Exquisite views. Tours are available November through April, based on weather.

Camping northeast New Mexico K-R

Camping & RVs

Looking for a place to camp for the weekend (or longer)? Here are some of the options in close proximity to Taos, where you can combine the peace and serenity of the great outdoors with the amenities and sight-seeing options available in Taos.

Capulin Campground

Camino Real Ranger District
15160 State Road 75, Penasco, NM 87553
(575) 587-2255

Tent camping and camping trailers. Picnic tables, toilet available. 7 miles east of Taos on US 64 towards Angel Fire. 10 double sites available. Max size trailer = 12-feet.

Cebolla Mesa Campground

Questa Ranger District
184 State Hwy 38, Questa, NM 87556
(575) 586-0520

Camping/Picnicking. Fishing -1 mile down on the Rio Grande River and Red River. Hiking – Trailhead for Rio Grande wild and Scenic River, Trail #102. 5 campsites at elevation 7,300, open May through October. RVs up to 32′.

8.3 miles Southwest of Questa. Take State Highway 522, 4.9 miles south from Questa to Forest Road #9. Drive west for 3.4 miles to campground. Forest Road #9 is a dirt/gravel road and is hazardous in muddy conditions.

Cuchilla Campground

Questa Ranger District
184 State Hwy 38, Questa, NM 87556
(575) 586-0520

One of three small sites on the paved road to Taos Ski Valley. No trailers over 22′. It provides access to Rio Hondo fishing and hiking in Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Study Area and Wheeler Peak Wilderness. 13 miles northeast of Taos via NM 522 & 150.

El Aguaje Campground

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument
(575) 758-8851

The El Aguaje Campground is the last of 5 small campgrounds (all first come-first serve) in the Rio Del Norte National Monument. Tent and RV sites, with picnic tables, and toilets. Pets are allowed, but you have to keep them on a leash. Fires are usually allowed. Close to the Rio Grande for fishing.

El Nogal Recreation Area

Camino Real Ranger District
15160 State Road 75, Penasco, NM 87553
(575) 587-2255

El Nogal Campground is a primitive campground, with few amenities. There are vault toilets available and campsites for tents. This is more of a wilderness experience than other campgrounds in the area. The El Nogal Nature Trail is 1.0 miles long. The trail is open for the following uses: Hiking, Horseback Riding, and Mountain Biking.

Las Petacas Campground

Camino Real Ranger District
15160 State Road 75, Penasco, NM 87553
(575) 587-2255

Set in a beautiful canyon quite close to Taos, there is good access to Rio Fernando de Taos for fishing. The campground opens in late May. There are a total of 9 double sites, with a vault toilet. No electric or water. No reservations accepted, $6/night. The campground is located four miles east of Taos along US Highway 64.

Rio Grande del NorteLittle Arsenic Spring Campground

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument
(575) 758-8851

Primitive campground with 6 tent-camping sites available. Quiet hours are observed from 10 PM – 6 AM. Pets are not permitted on Big Arsenic Trail or in springs.

Lone Juniper Campground

NM-570, Carson, NM 87517
(575) 758-4060

One of seven campgrounds are located at the Orilla Verde Recreation Area. Equipped with tables, grills, and restroom facilities. Camping is permitted at designated sites only.

Montoso Campground

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument
(575) 758-8851

Near San Cristobal, this campground offers 4-camping sites available. Tables, grill, water, toilets, restrooms and store available. The area around Montoso Campground is rich in natural beauty, with hiking trails, fishing spots, and scenic drives nearby.

Rio Bravo Campground

NM-570, Carson, NM 87517
(575) 758-4060

One of seven campgrounds are located at the Orilla Verde Recreation Area. Equipped with tables, grills, and restroom facilities. RV sites with water, shelters, and electric hookups (no sewer). Camping is permitted at designated sites only.

Taos Monte Bello RV Park

24819 US-64, El Prado, NM 87529
RV sites are 70′ pull thrus with picnic tables. 30/50 amps, clean restrooms with showers, a pavilion with tables and BBQ grills, walking trials, dog walk, dump station and security patrolled. Beautiful sunsets, sunrises, view of mountains all around and stars at night.

Taos Valley RV Park

120 Este Es Rd, Ranchos De Taos, NM 87571
(575) 758-4469

Taos Valley RV Park offers water, sewer and electric hookups, as well as regularly cleaned on-site bathrooms, coin operated laundry and free Wi-fi.

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