Make frequent stops to gaze at rugged scenery and cultural treasures along the High Road to Taos.
Time moves slowly in northern New Mexico’s Hispanic highlands, where past and present, mountains and desert, overlap among rural villages. On the 70-mile High Road to Taos Scenic Byway from Santa Fe northeast to Taos, take in a string of old adobe churches, studios of noted weavers and woodcarvers, roadside produce stands and one of the state’s 19 Pueblo Indian communities.
- Chimayo Shortly after you leave Santa Fe, the High Road winds through high desert and cottonwood valleys to the town of Chimayo. Here, Hispanic weaving families fashion vividly colored rugs, blankets and clothing. At Ortega Weaving Shop, they work at traditional looms as they've done for generations. It's only a short distance to Santuario de Chimayo, a twin-towered chapel with a rustic wooden façade, built in 1856. Each year, thousands of believers flock to the sanctuary seeking cures from sacred earth scooped up inside the chapel. The hand-painted interior is a masterpiece of Spanish colonial religious decoration.
- Cordova Beyond Chimayo, the route climbs to the tiny, timeworn hamlet of Cordova, tucked into a green valley. Heralded for its woodcarvers who specialize in santos, images of saints, Cordova is home to several small studio-galleries. The George Lopez Studio, on your right as you enter town, is one of the best.
- Truchas Purchase summer produce or autumn chiles from roadside stands on your way to the Spanish village of Truchas, where aging adobe buildings cling to the cliff's edge. North of town, the resplendent Sangre de Cristo Mountains, with Truchas Peak towering above them at 13,102 feet, stretch along the horizon.
- Las Trampas The High Road goes through a heavily wooded section of Carson National Forest. In Las Trampas, the Church of San Jose de Gracia is one of the finest 18th-century church buildings in the Southwest. (The church itself dates to the 1500s.) Hours are irregular, so you may have to track down the village mayordomo. Hint: Try his little store across from the church.
- Picuris Pueblo Picuris Pueblo, one of New Mexico's oldest, was built around 1300. Its adobes once soared up to six stories high, but only a few single-story dwellings remain today. You can tour the pueblo and its church for a modest fee. Your final destination—the artsy cultural hotbed and ski resort, Taos, a 30-minute drive north.
Photography courtesy of Bobak Ha'Eri/Wikipedia
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This article was first published in September 2012 in Traveler. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.