Southwest Adventures: The Enchanted Circle, New Mexico

Rio Grande, Taos

Rio Grande, Taos    Photo: courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management

BEST: SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER: GOLDEN ASPENS, GREEN CHILE

Rolling meadows, pine-and-aspen forests, and funky mining towns make this loop around 13,161-foot Wheeler Peak our favorite drive in New Mexico. The route starts in Taos and heads north through Carson National Forest for 24 miles before hitting the town of Questa. Look right and you'll see Wheeler's overhanging face. About a mile into town, Highway 38 forks right, splicing the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and climbing up to the Old West–meets–Alpenhaus ski town of Red River (elevation 8,750). Continue for 18 miles alongside the river and meadows full of grazing horses. Just before hitting Eagle Nest Lake, turn right on Route 64, which loops back to Taos and the chicken-and-green-chile enchiladas at the Guadalajara Grill (575-751-0063). A worthy detour: Bypass the Route 38 turnoff in Questa and head three miles north until you see signs for Route 378 and Wild Rivers Recreation Area. This road ends at the confluence of the Rio Grande and Red River gorges, surreal 800-foot gouges in the earth.

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