Taos, New Mexico Shamrock Tour®

Taos, New Mexico Shamrock Tour®
The Sangre de Christo Mountains tower like a wall above the Taos Plateau. This will be my playground for the next few days. The sceneis particularly impressive when approaching the range in the late afternoon, when it is lit by the sun from the west—a beautiful sunset is almost guaranteed.

Day 1 Northeast (142 miles)
Around New Mexico’s Highest Mountain

In the morning, I just have to turn right out of the campground and I’m on my way up Palo Flechado Pass. It’s not a challenging ride, just a steady climb up to 9,100 feet. Once at the top I turn left, and Eagle Nest Lake soon comes into sight. A small dam toward the Cimarron Valley catches the water. In the village of Eagle Nest, I spontaneously opt for a detour and take the turnoff toward Cimarron Canyon. This route looks promising on the map—and the paper does not exaggerate. After a ridge with a fine view over the entire lake, the road dips into the canyon and accompanies the Cimarron River. Protected as a state park, there are some day-use areas and a couple of campgrounds along the river but no other signs of civilization. It gets really spectacular when the road leads along the vertical cliffs of Palisades Sill. Soon though, I turn around, because as I crest the horizon it becomes obvious that the road soon leaves the canyon for the plains toward the east. I’m right at the southeastern corner of the Rocky Mountains.

Back up at Eagle Nest, I enjoy the cool mountain air again, which stays with me for a while as Highway 38 takes me through high ranch land further north up to Bobcat Pass. Behind the summit, it gets exciting as the road drops quite steeply toward Red River. The town generates its main income from skiing, but it also offers some lively outdoor activities in the summer. Some of the cafés and small restaurants look inviting, but I decide not to stop. I reach the town of Questa, a completely different world, and I already start regretting that I didn’t have something to eat in Red River. Apart from the rather rough looking Wildcats Den, there doesn’t appear to be any place for food. But sometimes facades deceive. Inside, I get one of the nicest meals in New Mexico, with perhaps some of the best tacos the state has to offer.

I head south again, going as far as Arroyo Hondo. A road to the left grabs my attention. I follow it up a green valley to Arroyo Seco, a very small but pretty village. I opt to save a stop here on the way back. For now, I’m keen on riding this lonely road into Taos Ski Valley. Perfect corners take me up while a lively creek runs down the mountain. Towering rocks above the road look as if they would tilt down the slopes any minute, but thankfully, they don’t. Finally I end up in the famous ski area at Wheeler Peak. At 13,161 feet, it’s the highest mountain in New Mexico.