Published in Elevation Outdoors July 2016
Point the grill south and feast on green chile (and a big menu of adventure) in these three New Mexico hot spots.
Plan to spend at least a few days in and around Santa Fe, the shining star of New Mexican history, bursting with museums, galleries and local artisans. The Inn of the Governors is conveniently located, and sports a happening locals’ bar that also doubles as a destination on the city’s new Margarita Trail (santafe.org/margaritatrail). Want to go hiking? Bandelier National Monument (nps.gov/band) is easily accessible, and it offers a chance to visit ancient cliff dwellings. If you are looking to hit the dirt within city limits, ascend the Atalaya Mountain Trail, a Santa Fe classic, or mountain bike the Dale Ball Trails (sfct.org/trails/dale-ball-trails), which offer 22 miles of dog friendly hiking and biking paths. For dinner, take a break from the green chile, and try one of the city’s innovative culinary spots: Il Piatto (ilpiattosantafe.com) specializes in Italian fare (and happy hour), and offers a nightly menu emphasizing local produce. Or head to local, organic Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen (sweetwatersf.com) Wednesday through Friday for the fantastic Thai Night.
Take the High Road from Santa Fe to Taos (or vice versa), and take in the high alpine vistas and small-town charm of New Mexico’s quintessential ski town. Camping options abound in the National Forest accessible from nearly every outlet from town, or try booking a room at the Taos Inn (taosinn.com), which has live music every night in the hotel bar. The West Rim Trail offers stunning views of the Rio Grande Gorge, and is accessible to both bikers and hikers. Williams Lake is another scenic option accessible from the ski resort. Taos Mesa Brewing(taosmesabrewing.com) is a must.
For those willing to go way down south, Carlsbad Caverns National Park (nps.gov/cave) is the largest cave system in North America. While that may sound impressive on paper, seeing it in person is otherworldly. Take the elevator 80 stories below ground, or huff it via a paved path, to the 1.2 mile loop around the cave’s big room. Opt for a National Park Service tour; they have options fit for even the most adventurous of visitors. The closest camping is near the park entrance at Whites City.