Southwest Adventures: The Enchanted Circle, New Mexico

Oct 1, 2009
Outside Magazine
Rio Grande, Taos

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

Strange Love

Outside didn't relocate from Chicago to Santa Fe in 1994 because of the spectacular obscura in the area. (It was the breakfast burritos.) But alien museums and top-secret military doings keep things interesting. Here are our favorite regional oddities.
Best Atomic-Bomb Test Site: Trinity Site Zero, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico
Best Rattlesnake Museum: The American International Rattlesnake Museum, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Best Rowdy Bar in a Mormon Town: The Other End Bar and Grill, Heber City, Utah
Best Eiffel Tower Replica: The one with the cowboy hat in Paris, Texas
Best Store Hawking Remnants of the Manhattan Project: The Black Hole, Los Alamos, New Mexico


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.

Filed To: Nature, New Mexico, Taos