• Afoot in Taos: An Adventure Walking Tour

      Long inhabited by humans, Taos, New Mexico is an intriguing mix of history, culture and adventure. Exploring Taos and the nearby area on foot is an excellent way to see and appreciate the many choices that are here. From a leisurely amble through a labyrinth and walks through Native American and Spanish heritage to strolls through museums and galleries viewing vibrant artwork and hikes in the nearby Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Taos has walking to interest visitors of all abilities.

      Situated in a valley rimmed by peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Rio Grande River, Taos, in northern New Mexico, has drawn settlers from earliest times. Three cultures combine to make Taos what it is today.

      The Taos Pueblo has been occupied for more than a thousand years. Two of its structures are considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States. About 150 people still live in the pueblo full time. Tours are given most days, and ceremonial dances are open to the public.

      Tying Taos to an even older time are several labyrinths. Worldwide, the oldest labyrinths are over 4,000 years old and have spiritual significance. The labyrinth represents a journey to one's personal center and back again out into the world. Several labyrinths continue the tradition in Taos. Walking meditation helps many people feel centered and is very relaxing.

      The Spanish first discovered Taos in 1540, when conquistador Hernando de Alvarado followed the Rio Grande River to Taos Valley. Upon seeing the sun reflect off yellow straw in the adobe pueblos, he thought he had discovered one of the famed Cities of Gold! Under Spanish rule, more people came and settled the area in the 1600s and 1700s. The historic Taos Plaza marks the original town center. From the plaza, you can take a self-guided walking tour of 22 historic Taos landmarks. Pick up a brochure at the visitor center (or download it). The Kit Carson house, home of the famous mountain man, is one of the sights on this walking tour. Drive four miles south of town to visit St. Francisco de Asis, one of the colonial churches built of adobe in 1815 and still in use today.

      On your walking tour, you’ll find several art-related landmarks. Taos has been an art colony since the early 1900s, attracting well-known artists and writers. The Blumenschein House was an early gathering place for the Taos Society of Artists, founded by Ernest Blumenschein and several other artists in 1915. The museum gives a peek into that early time, showcases the art of Ernest and and his wife Mary, and continues to attract talent through its artist-in-residency program. Other museums like the Harwood Museum of Art have fine collections of Taos art. In addition, more than 80 galleries can also be found including The Taos Gallery, which features work by talented local artists.

      Besides plenty of walking in the downtown area, opportunities for moderate and strenuous hiking, mountain biking and skiing abound in the nearby mountains. Stop at the Carson National Forest office in Taos for information or check out this the list of trails.

      For a real adventure, go hiking or camping with llamas to carry your gear! Wild Earth Llama Adventures offers day hikes as well as several multi-day outings. For other active adventures, you can choose rafting or tubing on the Rio Grande River and horseback riding.

      In winter, several ski areas within driving distance are open -- snow permitting. You might also try your hand—or feet, that is—at snowshoeing! Wild Earth offers guided snowshoe tours. For both skiing and snowshoeing, visit Enchanted Forest Cross-Country Ski area.

      After all this walking, two Taos activities can help you relax as well as have another sort of experience. First, take a hot air balloon ride early in the morning. Pueblo Balloon Company offers trips that take you down into the Rio Grande Gorge for a unique ballooning experience. You’ll end your trip seeing the Taos Valley set against the backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and perhaps land on a local ranch. Of course, then there is the champagne toast as you find out the fascinating history of hot air ballooning. If hot air ballooning is on your bucket list, Taos is a wonderful place for the experience.

      On another day, head out of town about 45 minutes to Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa. It has four kinds of healing mineral waters in its soaking pools and tubs. Indulge in luxurious spa treatments for a truly relaxing day. Your day pass is good until 10 p.m. At night, you can look up to a star-studded sky as you unwind in the soothing hot waters. Dining and accommodations are also available.

      Taos welcomes visitors all year round, though the nicest weather for walking is May through October. At an elevation of 6,950 feet, Taos is a pleasant getaway during summer months. You’ll find plenty to do in Taos for all ages, interests and walking abilities. The various cultures, the art, and the setting combine to make Taos a unique experience indeed.

      Other resources:

      Taos Vacation Guide
      Taos Sacred Places