New Mexico North: View Purple Peaks, Meadows, and Flaming Skies at Dusk

from The Most Scenic Drives in America | 217

8. Taos This picture-perfect town, with its tan adobe architecture, sits in a charmed landscape of snowy peaks and turquoise-blue skies. No wonder it has lured artists for well over a century — and continues to do so today. Saturated with painters and writers, the town sports such cultural trappings as galleries, craft shops, bookstores, and museums.

At the heart of town, Taos Plaza is lined with an eclectic mix of eateries and boutiques. The plaza itself is a legacy of the Spaniards, who came in the 1600s searching for gold and stayed to colonize the valley and convert the Pueblo Indians to Christianity. Their strategy did not altogether succeed; though they left behind such imposing structures as the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, located in a nearby village, they did not thoroughly convert the Indians, whose descendants still reside north of town at Taos Pueblo. Today, you can wander among the pueblo’s twin multitiered adobe dwellings, nestled at the base of Pueblo Peak, and watch shawl-covered women prepare bread in large hornos (outdoor beehive ovens), just as they have for generations.

9. Enchanted Circle A stunning patchwork of pine — covered peaks, picturesque valleys, and deep-blue lakes accounts for the poetic name of this scenic 80-mile detour north of Taos on State Rtes. 522 and 38. The centerpiece is lofty Wheeler Peak, a popular ski center that, at 13,161 feet, is New Mexico’s highest mountain. Near San Cristobal lies the D. H. Lawrence Ranch where, in the 1920s, the British author wrote some of his most celebrated works. As the route swings around the mountain, you can pause at Red River, a ski resort with Texan flair; Elizabethtown, a gold-mining ghost town; and Eagle Nest Lake, where windsurfers fueled by fierce gusts from the mountains skitter across the whitecapped expanse of blue.

10. Cimarron Canyon State Park Zigzagging down from the Sangre de Cristo (“Blood of Christ”) Mountains — at sunset they have a scarlet glow — Rte. 64 winds between the red granite palisades of narrow Cimarron Canyon. Blue spruce and the rushing Cimarron River complete the idyllic scene, considered by many to be the route’s prettiest stretch.

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