Tucked away in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the charismatic town of Taos is a historic gem in New Mexico’s high desert. Named for the indigenous village of Taos Pueblo, the town is famous for its beautifully preserved historic adobe buildings. But there’s so much more to discover as you ply through the wealth of things to do in Taos, New Mexico.
From the spectacular scenic byway leading into Taos to the World Heritage Site of Taos Pueblo, you’ll be amazed at the depth of culture and history in this tiny hamlet. The 400-year-old town has a vibrant arts and culture scene and several excellent art galleries and museums. It’s also home to the ranch of the famous novelist D.H. Lawrence.
Ready to hit the High Road to Taos for an adventure? Make the most of your visit to the Soul of the Southwest with this guide to all the best places to visit in Taos, NM!
Must-see places to visit in Taos, NM
Nestled on the banks of a small tributary of the Rio Grande River, Taos Pueblo is an ancient Pueblo Indian settlement. The inhabited community is one of the oldest in North America and a designated World Heritage Site.
Also known as the place of the red willows, Taos Pueblo features beautifully preserved abode dwellings, reflecting the rich culture of the Pueblo Indians of Arizona and New Mexico. Dating back to the 13th century, the pueblo also boasts ceremonial kivas and the ruins of the Spanish-Era San Geronimo de Taos Mission.
Wander around this incredible National Historic Landmark and admire the traditional Native architecture that has survived for centuries. Learn about the cultural interactions between the American Indians and the Spanish.
Discover how the people of Taos Pueblo maintain their traditional tribal beliefs and practices while at the same time honoring its Catholic/Spanish past.
To really get a feel for the desert town and meet some locals, head to the beating heart of Taos – the Taos Plaza. Set in the bustling Downtown Historic District, the Taos Plaza is home to a variety of gift shops and boutiques, art galleries and museums, and casual cafés and restaurants.
The historic plaza was established in 1796, and some of that rich history still exists in elements like its shape. Originally designed for defense, today, Taos Plaza acts as the historic center of the city and is a popular travel destination for both locals and tourists.
You’ll find a wealth of fantastic shops selling everything from striking artwork to handmade jewelry. Lunch at one of the cafés and watch the goings on around the plaza. Enjoy a host of cultural events and live music in the summer.
Pop into the Hotel La Fonda de Taos and step back in time to 1820 when it was once the St. Vrain Mercantile Store and a hotel and saloon on the side.
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
If you’ve seen Natural Born Killers, you’ll undoubtedly recognize the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, which is featured in the cult film. Located 10 miles northwest of Taos, the steel deck arch bridge spans 1,280 feet across the mighty Rio Grande Gorge and stands 650 feet above the river below.
Construction on the Rio Grande Bridge began in 1963 and took two years to complete. The bridge was known then as the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ as there was no funding to continue the road on the other side of the gorge.
Visiting the overpass is worth it for the views alone – peer over the railings and marvel at the dramatic cliffs of the gorge and the tumultuous river below. Meander around the rim of the gorge on a spectacular walking trail that leaves from the parking lot.
Kit Carson Home & Museum
Take a journey back in time to life on the frontier in the early 1800s at the Kit Carson Home & Museum. Situated a block away from the vibrant Taos Plaza, the house museum offers a wonderful insight into the life and times of the Carson family during the mid-19th century.
Dating back to 1825, the historic house was bought by Carson in 1843 and is an exquisite example of regional and Spanish Colonial architecture. With two-foot-thick adobe walls, a lovely courtyard, and an adobe-style baking oven called a horno, you can imagine how the family spent their days.
Enjoy a guided or self-guided tour through the Kit Carson Home & Museum and admire the collection of artifacts dating back to the 1800s, like Carson’s U.S. Army Civil War saber and scabbard and his Masonic hat. A territorial flag dating back to 1862 flies over the entrance of the house, and several farm tools are exhibited outside.
On entering the museum, watch a 20-minute documentary about Carson before exploring the museum’s collections and exhibits. Pop into the gift shop for a few unique souvenirs on your way out.
Taos Ski Valley
New Mexico tends to conjure images of scrubby desert-scapes and searing temperatures rather than powder-white slopes and world-class skiing. But the Taos Ski Valley puts paid to those thoughts and is an untamed haven of outdoor adventure in winter!
Situated 50 miles south of the Colorado border, the alpine village and ski resort boasts almost 1,300 skiable acres of land with a great variety of runs for all skill levels. The rugged peaks of the surrounding Sangre de Cristo Mountains offer some of the wildest bowls, glades, and ski chutes in the country.
Taos Ski Valley also delivers in summer with excellent trails for hiking and mountain biking and scenic lift rides with breathtaking views. If you’re looking to stay for a few days, the resort’s slopeside Blake Hotel at Taos Ski Valley offers all the bells and whistles, including a deluxe spa.
La Cueva Cafe
When it’s time to eat, there’s no better spot around Taos for fresh homemade Mexican and New Mexican cuisine than La Cueva Café. Based in a traditional adobe building in the historic Casa Baca Plaza, the tiny, family-run Pueblo-style eatery oozes authenticity.
Grab a table on the laid-back patio or in the brightly colored dining room. Everything on the menu ar La Cueva Café is prepared from scratch and cooked to order; don’t expect frozen fast food here!
Tuck into Huevos Rancheros for breakfast, ceviche, and chimichanga for lunch, and shrimp tacos and steak a la Tampiqueña for dinner.
A traditional Mexican meal wouldn’t be the same with an eye-wateringly strong frozen margarita or a glass of agave wine. Buen provecho!
San Francisco de Asís Catholic Mission Church
Standing sentry on the main plaza of Ranchos de Taos, San Francisco de Asís Mission Church is an exquisite example of adobe architecture. Built in the early 1800s, the historic church is a National Historic Landmark and is still active today.
Built from mud and straw sun-dried adobe bricks, the San Francisco de Asís Catholic Mission Church boasts a unique blend of traditional building techniques of the Taos Pueblo people and Spanish colonial architecture. One of the few original buildings still standing in Taos, it’s a testament to the strong faith and devotion of the Hispanic Catholic community.
Admire the intricate details of this earthen temple of God, like the hand-carved corbels and hand-hewn vigas (ceiling beams). Beautiful oil paintings framed by hand-painted reredos (altar screens) adorn the interiors. Don’t miss the rare and valuable ‘Mystery Painting’ that is unique to the church.
Taos Mesa Brewing
Based in what has to be the coolest spot in town, Taos Mesa Brewing is a laid-back brewpub in the heart of historic downtown Taos. Also known as ‘The Mothership,’ the funky building which Taos Mesa Brewing calls home is a concert venue-cum-community hub with stunning mountain views.
The locally owned brewery used state-of-the-art brewing facilities to produce a range of handcrafted brews, including a flagship beer using local grains. Head to the Mothership or the new taproom and pizza joint on Paseo del Pueblo Sur for an afternoon of brew-tasting.
From top-selling Three Peaks Ale and the summery Wheeler Peak Wheat to the somber Superstitious Stout, you’re in for a treat. Order a wood-fired pizza when you need to fill the gap.
Taos Art Museum at Fechin House
Spend a few hours in the presence of artistic mastery at the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House. Dedicated to the art of the early 20th-century Taos, the museum is based in the home of famous Russian Adobe building artist Nicolai Fechin.
The asymmetrical, adobe Pueblo and Mission Revival house is an artwork itself. Designed and built by Fechin, the house features 24-inch textured ‘terra bayeta’ walls and arched bay windows of rolled and beveled glass.
The interior spaces of the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House are adorned with architectural ornaments, sculptures, furniture, and artworks created by the painter. Wander around the museum on a self-guided tour, explore Fechin’s studio, and relax in the beautifully manicured gardens.
Lambert’s of Taos
If you’re looking for an extra special dining experience, Lambert’s of Taos won’t disappoint. Located on Bent Avenue near Kit Carson Park, the charming restaurant has been a mainstay since 1989. A tree-shaded patio is a perfect spot for romantic alfresco dining under the stars (or twinkling fairy lights).
Chef James Crowther has put together a provocative menu of contemporary American fare. Using ingredients sourced from local farmers and vendors, he has created a mouthwatering selection of dishes. Start with Bison Relleno with Oaxaca and red chile jus, followed by Black Angus Petit Filet Mignon with roasted garlic chive potato mash.
Enjoy a drink in the Treehouse Bar on the second floor before dinner. The casual lounge is stylish and hip and serves a light bar menu if you aren’t in the mood for anything heavy.
Journey back in time to the frontier with a visit to the Martinez Hacienda. Nestled on the banks of the Rio Pueblo de Taos, the late Spanish Colonial-era hacienda is a living museum that offers a look into the rugged frontier life and times of the early 1800s.
Also known as La Hacienda de los Martinez, the striking fortress-like building was built in 1804 and is one of the few remaining ‘Great Houses’ of its time. Massive adobe walls protect 21 rooms and two vast courtyards where trading for the northern boundary of the Spanish Empire took place.
Don’t miss one of the regularly scheduled demonstrations that present the arts & crafts of the region. Meet the artists and watch how they make exquisite bultos, retablos, quilts, and vividly colored hand-woven textiles.
If you are visiting in September, check out the annual Taos Trade Fair, which celebrates Spanish colonial life and trade between the Native Americans and Spanish settlers.
Millicent Rogers Museum
Marvel at more than a thousand years of Southwestern arts and cultures at the Millicent Rogers Museum. Founded in 1956 by the family of Millicent Rogers, the art museum celebrates the arts and cultures of the American Southwest.
Following a break-up with movie legend Clark Gable, Rogers moved to Taos and began collecting local art in the form of blankets, rugs, and Native American jewelry. On her passing, the Millicent Rogers Museum was created to honor her interests and her love of Taos.
The museum is home to the multi-cultural collections of fashionista Millicent Rogers and her mother, Mary B. Rogers. It also boasts an outstanding collection of pottery, tools, and treasures owned by the famed potter of San Ildefonso pueblo, Maria Martinez.
Wander through the 14 galleries of the museum and admire the vast range of objects on display, from Native American jewelry to Hispanic folk art. Don’t miss the impressive collection of Santos folk art carvings of religious figures from the 1700s.
Red River Ski & Summer Area
Head to the Red River Ski & Summer Area for some year-round outdoor adventures. Surrounded by the Southern Rockies along the famed Enchanted Circle, the alpine village is a ski haven in winter and a cool mountain retreat in summer.
Hit the slopes when the snow falls for some exhilarating skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing without the crowds. Summer’s spectacular weather is ideal for hiking, mountain, and climbing. Venture out on an aerial adventure ropes course, zipline across the treetops, or enjoy peaceful scenic lift rides.
A little over one mile long, the charming town of Red River is home to quaint shops, cozy cafés, and laid-back restaurants. Stroll around the idyllic village and enjoy all it has to offer.
Legs tired from a day on the slopes? Hop on the Red River Miner’s Transit, a free shuttle that trundles around town and takes you to your destination.
Far Flung Adventures
Hit the water for some river rafting fun. Far Flung Adventures offers a range of outdoor adventures for the whole family. Enjoy half and full-day river-rafting trips on the Rio Grande. Hit some of the spectacular trails on a mountain bike and soak up the scenery.
Why not combine the bikes, horses, and rafts on a multi-sport adventure? Have fun on a fly-fishing and rafting combo or a paddle-and-saddle experience. Sleep under the stars on a camping trip on the banks of the Rio Chama or Rio Grande rivers.
Far Flung Adventures provides everything you need, from expert guides and safety gear, so all you have to worry about applying sunscreen!
Earthship Biotecture Visitor Center
For a completely off-the-grid experience (in every way), head to the Earthship Biotecture Visitor Center in Tres Piedras, 15 minutes northwest of Taos. The visitor center is at the core of the Greater World Earthship Community. Sound like something otherworldly? It’s the world’s largest off-grid community where residents live in Earthship homes!
Learn all about this fascinating community at the Earthship Biotecture Visitor Center. Take a self-guided tour through the gallery-style Education Facility and discover how Earthship homes are built. Find out how the community relies solely on renewable energy and integrated water systems. Watch slideshows and videos on different components of the Earthship concept.
You can also enjoy guided tours of the Earthship Visitor Center, along with other educational facility buildings, including the first sustainable test build known as the E.V.E. project.
Devisadero Loop Trail
The Devisadero Loop Trail is an ideal way of soaking up the spectacular scenery around Taos. Meaning ‘lookout place,’ the trail features several vista points en route with beautiful views of the Rio Grande and San Antonio Mountain. To the north, you can also see the Taos Pueblo and the Wheeler Peak Wilderness area.
Beginning at the El Nogal Picnic Area, a moderately challenging five-mile loop passes through juniper, gambel oak, and pinon trees on the south-facing slope. As you head over to the north slope, you’ll encounter Douglas and white firs.
The Devisadero Loop Trail can be enjoyed during all seasons. Hike, bike, and horseback ride in summer amongst carpets of pretty wildflowers and hit the trail for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter.
Harwood Museum of Art
The Harwood Museum of Art is one of the best places to go in Taos to enjoy a wide range of Hispanic art. Located on historic Ledoux Street, the museum features an impressive collection of artworks ranging from Pueblo and Hispano to the Taos Moderns.
Browse the museum’s 12 well-appointed galleries and admire pieces from the Taos Society of Artists. Wander through the Agnes Martin Gallery to see works by the famous artist, including her signature grid paintings.
Enjoy outstanding cultural programming, films, and events in Harwood’s Arthur Bell Auditorium. Pick up some hand-crafted jewelry and art objects in the museum gift shop.