The third day of our father-daughter new Mexico trip took us to Taos. My only previous visit to New Mexico was over 15 years ago, where I only saw Carlsbad Caverns (which are amazing) while on our way across the country. So getting to spend some time enjoying Albuquerque and spending a day in Santa Fe were both enjoyable. Visiting the historic Pueblo of Taos is something I’d wanted to do for a while, and I’d reserved our third day for this activity.
I also wanted to get in a hike. But my kids aren’t into hiking, especially my daughter. We were rained out during our attempt the day before, but I found what sounded like a decent trail we could enjoy during the morning, continuing on to Taos and Taos Pueblo in the afternoon.
Morning Hike to Rio Grande Gorge
The morning weather on the third day of our New Mexico trip was much more amenable to a 2-3 mile jaunt than the previous day’s intermittent rain. It’d be hotter, for sure, as the clouds had helped keep things cool. But that was part of the problem. They also brought the scattered precipitation.
I looked up a few different trails and settled on hiking to the Rio Grande Gorge at the confluence of the Rio Pueblo de Taos. It was right along the way to Taos, which made it an ideal stop. The trail was also gentle and easy.
The ease of the hike was not enough to convince my daughter, however. She was firmly against the idea. The kids aren’t keen on hiking, no matter how easy. It is never a question of capability. The older two have shown that they can do several miles in a day during city exploration. But the many breaks help disguise the real distance we cover.
The Rift Valley Trailhead is right off State Route 68, and you can see the Trader’s Trail stretching straight out in front of you. It is a very gradual and gentle descent through the sagebrush to the edge of the gorge and a gentle climb back. You have a beautiful vista of New Mexico landscape on all sides.
It’s an easy and fast hike. You can make it to the edge of the canyon in about half an hour, if you’re moving quickly. You’ll eventually end up at an overlook of the river confluence.
The canyon is cool, but the better view is honestly the majestic panorama of the New Mexico landscape that the trail provides near the beginning of the hike. You can see Taos off to the northeast beneath the hills, the gorge cutting through the land in front of you, and the mountains and hills far beyond. My photos cannot do it justice.
I love the desert every time I visit. There is great natural beauty where we live, and people from all over the world come to see the majestic redwoods. But the desert is truly enchanting. We stopped several times to examine cacti and other flora.
I enjoyed our outing. My daughter tolerated it. You can tell by the face.
But there was more and better to come that would hopefully interest her. She was all smiles when we made it back to the car.
Lunch in Taos
Taos is just a little ways down the road, and it was our pit stop before we continued to Taos Pueblo. Don’t confuse the two. Taos is a town known for skiing and tourism. Taos Pueblo is the Native American nation just down the road that is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site. The former was our pit stop for lunch.
We spent a little time walking the central plaza, enjoying a few shops and some more Pueblo Revival architecture. We’d see the real thing once we headed up to the pueblo itself.
We made our way to a hole in the wall restaurant called The Alley Cantina.
I asked for a smile when the nachos were delivered. Specifically, “smile for the great hike we just finished”. This is as much as she could manage.
With a more compressed schedule than anticipated, mainly due to an unexpected stop to handle some issues with work, we made our way onward to Taos Pueblo.
Taos Pueblo, A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Taos Pueblo is one of the few Native American sites in the United States that is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the only one that is a living village. Taos Pueblo is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in North America, with a history that reaches back over 1,000 years.
You do have to pay an entrance fee to visit the Pueblo. Adults cost $16 and students 11 and older cost $14. Kids 10 and under are free.
The pueblo is amazing. While all the other buildings you see are constructed in the Pueblo style, the actual Pueblo of Taos is in the only place (that we visited) where the structures are built and maintained using their original adobe construction. It was extremely cool to see the structures being maintained and repaired.
Taos Pueblo is divided into a north Pueblo and south Pueblo by a small stream. Both sections have at least one primary multi-story structure. You can also see the mud ovens at many of the dwellings.
The Taos Pueblo church is a mix of adobe construction and some more ornate wooden sections.
The multi-story structure of the north pueblo is my favorite. I loved the view from the creek, and the beautiful sky above.
We joined a tour of Taos pueblo, which is offered multiple times per day. Tours are free, and you are led to a few different points within the pueblo by a Native American guide from the Taos people. Our guide talked about the history of the pueblo, gave some insight into how the adobe structures are maintained year after year, and explained about how there are families who rotate dwelling the pueblo.
Taos Pueblo has no electricity and no running water, so living here is not ideal (based on modern standards). But this pueblo is a huge part of the history and culture of the tribe, and they make a point of maintaining and living in it to this day. It’s an amazing piece of history, and an excellent place to visit. I highly recommend adding Taos Pueblo to a visit to New Mexico.
Back to Albuquerque
We wrapped up our last day by making the drive all the way back to Albuquerque. There would be one more morning for the last of our sightseeing, with the Sandia Peak Tram as the highlight. Then we’d hop on a plane back to San Francisco. The trip was winding down, and I felt like we’d just scratched the surface at each of the cool places we visited.