Classic Roads: New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway

May 15, 2020 View Comments by

Rio Gorge at Route, New Mexico

This scenic byway in North Central New Mexico consists of a series of connected two-lane roads that encircle 13,161-foot Wheeler Peak, the highest mountain in New Mexico. This area was the destination of feverish prospecting in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Over millions of years, volcanic activity had deposited gold, silver, copper, and lead, but hard-rock mining made extraction difficult and largely unprofitable.

The mapped route begins and ends in Taos, NM, at Taos Plaza, in the center of the town’s historic district. Following the route, riders travel through high-walled canyons, over mountain passes, and across expansive valleys. Although there are ski resorts and other visitor attractions in some of the villages, much of the area consists of remote, rugged, mountainous terrain. Be sure to fill your gas tank before the ride and at any available locations along the way. While the Enchanted Circle drive is about 84 miles, the total distance of our loop is about 105 miles. Jaw-dropping scenic vistas and other inviting stops will make it a full, daylong motorcycling adventure via US 64, SR 522, and SR 38.

New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway

Points of Interest

  1. Taos, NM
    Taos was established after the Spanish conquest of Pueblo Indian villages, including nearby Taos Pueblo. Mexico ceded the region to the U.S. in 1848 after the Mexican-American War. Taos has remained a vibrant artist colony and compelling tourist destination since the dawn of the 20th century. For more, see www.taos.org.
  2. Kit Carson Home & Museum
    Before leaving Taos check out this museum, a short walk from Taos Plaza. Carson arrived in Taos in 1826 and became perhaps the most famous frontiersman in America. Find it at 113 Kit Carson Rd, Taos, NM, (575) 758-4082, www.kitcarsonmuseum.org.
  3. Taos Pueblo
    A couple of miles northeast of town is Taos Pueblo, which is one of the longest continually inhabited places in America. Built between A.D. 1000 and 1450, the adobe structures appear virtually unchanged today. Find it at 120 Veterans Hwy, Taos, NM, (575) 758-1028,
    www.taospueblo.com.
  4. Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
    Known locally as the “Gorge Bridge” or the “High Bridge,” this structure is a visually stunning steel deck arch bridge. It is 1,280 feet long and spans the Rio Grande Gorge approximately 600 feet above the river. Find it about 12 miles northwest of Taos on US 64, www.tinyurl.com/gorge-bridge.
  5. Red River, NM
    This resort town in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is an attractive destination for skiers in the winter and whitewater enthusiasts during the warmer months. The charming small town is also an excellent lunch stop for motorcyclists riding the Enchanted Circle. Find it 36 miles northeast of Taos via SR 522 and SR 38, www.redriver.org.
  6. Eagle Nest, NM
    Situated at an elevation of 8,200 feet near the shore of Eagle Nest Lake, the village of Eagle Nest has a colorful Wild West history but today is a tourism hot spot for fishermen, outdoor enthusiasts, and anyone who enjoys gazing at expansive mountain landscapes. Main street shoppers will find locally made arts and crafts and Native American jewelry. Find it along SR 38, about 17 miles from Red River, www.tinyurl.com/eagles-nest.

 

 

 

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