Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway
most popular day trip in Northern
is the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway. Circling Wheeler Peak, this
84-mile trip connects
Angel Fire, Taos, and Red River. Mt. Wheeler is the tallest
mountain in New Mexico, rising to an altitude of 13,161 feet. The drive offers
spectacular scenery, rugged back country, mountain trails, camping
facilities, streams, lakes and a peek at New Mexico's history.
From Eagle Nest, take US 64 southwest through the Moreno Valley where you
are very likely to see vast herds of Elk peacefully grazing on the plains.
To the west, just before you get to the road to Angel Fire,
you will see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Chapel overlooking the southern
end of the valley.
South of the chapel, is the former town of Agua Fria, which was once home to a serial killer by the name of
Kennedy. His home, at the base of the Palo Flechado Pass was
a rest stop where he enticed travelers into his home, stole their
valuables, then murdered and buried them under his house. When
he was discovered, Kennedy was killed by a lynch mob led by
Above Enchanted Circle Map courtesy
Travel Books USA
Just past the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Highway 434 travels south from
Highway 64 to the Village of Angel Fire
and the Four Seasons Resort. A busy ski resort during the
winter, it also offers an 18-hole golf course for summer guests as
well as continuing to operate it's chairlift for hikers, mountain
bikers and sightseers during the summer. Another day trip presents itself here by
continuing on past the village of Angel Fire
and on to Mora,
on Highway 434. This history filled adventure is not on the Enchanted
Circle; but, is a great adventure when you have the chance.
returning to US 64 from Angel Fire, you will travel over the high 9,101 foot Palo Flechado Pass and down into the Canyon of the Rio Fernando de Taos. There are picnic areas, campsites and many trails through the canyon. Taos Canyon is home to many artist studios which are open to visitors
much of the summer and fall season. As you begin the descend the
mountain into the valley the canyon provides a spectacular view of the
sage covered mesa and the distant San Juan at the southern end of
You can spend at least a whole day just in
Taos, which provides visitors a world of varied experiences. Visit
Taos Pueblo, an ancient living Indian village that has stood
unchanged for centuries. Or, explore historic Taos Plaza and its side
streets. Many of the old adobe buildings that now house shops and
galleries were once the homes of some of Taos' leading citizens - Kit
Carson, among them.
You can set off on a mountain trail on
skis, horseback, bike or your own two feet. Or ride the bucking Rio
Grande in a raft or kayak.
With four seasons and five life zones, your recreational options are wide
open. The Native American, Spanish, and Anglo cultures are proudly
preserved through art and architecture, music and dance, and food and
festivals for all to enjoy throughout the year.
north from Taos the highway crosses the great alluvial apron at the base
of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which rise 5,600 feet above the
volcanic plateau. Stretching north into Colorado, the Sangre de Cristos,
Spanish for the blood of Christ, are one of the youngest mountain ranges
The Río Grande Gorge is a short drive west on U.S. 64 but well worth the
side trip. The Río Grande River passes some 650 feet below the highway.
Pedestrian walkways on either side of the bridge allow you to look
directly down into the yawning chasm.
The John Dunn bridge over the Rio Grande River Gorge,
Kathy Weiser, September, 2008.
This image available for prints and
other interesting diversions are available on this northward leg of
the Enchanted Circle. Taking a left in the lush Hondo Valley at the small
village of Arroyo Hondo will take you to the John Dunn Bridge across
the Río Grande River at the base of the gorge. John Dunn was an early
settler who made his fortune with the purchase of a bridge near this
spot, turning it into a toll bridge, where all passengers from the
Denver and Río Grande Railroad had to cross to get to and from Taos.
Dunn realized a handsome return on his original $5,000 investment.
Businessman, John Dunn, also ran a stagecoach and
ore wagon service to many of the towns in the Enchanted Circle and beyond
to Ute Park (located between Eagle Nest and
on Highway 64), where travelers and freight could catch trains east.
The road to the John Dunn bridge wanders beside the Hondo River, a
favorite of fly fishermen. On the western side of the Río Grande to
the right is a favorite swimming spot and to the left and up the hill
is the entry to the trail to Black Rock Hot Springs.
Continuing toward Questa is the D. H.
Lawrence Memorial and the towns of Lama and San Cristobal. The scar of
the Hondo Fire of 1996 marks the Sangre de Cristos north of Lama.
A stop at the New Mexico
Fish and Game's Red River Fish Hatchery is a must. On the west side of
the highway, just south of the Village of Questa, it provides free
self-guided tours, picnic facilities and good fishing on the Red River
just below the trout breeding ponds.
Questa, at the end of the Camino Real, is
known for its local woodworkers, tinsmiths and other traditional
artists and artisans. The San Antonio del Río Colorado Church, renamed
St. Anthony's, was founded in 1842 and displays many fine examples of
traditional santos (carved or painted images of saints) and retablos
(devotional paintings for displays.) Artesanos de Questa is
continuing these cultural traditions and has a gallery shop on Highway
Village of Questa was formerly named Cuesta, which means "the lowering." It
was named this by early Spanish settlers because if its location in a
mineral-rich caldera formed 25 million years ago. The town is ringed by
several steep-sided volcanoes and offers views of many near perfect
volcanic cones, including Ute Peak and Ortiz and San Antonio Mountains to
the north and west. Questa has a couple of excellent cafes that
serve traditional Mexican cuisine, some with great green-chile.
The Enchanted Circle continues east from Questa, but, just 11 miles north at the
town of Cerro is the entry to the Wild Rivers Recreation Area. You may
want to devote an entire day to this Bureau of Land Management park, which
is situated at the conjunction of the Río Grande and the Red Rivers, and
offers guided and self-guided walks to the bottom of the gorge. Picnic and
campsites are available both on the rim and beside the Río Grande.
Continuing on, the road runs through the narrow valley of the Red River.
The mountains to either side are volcanic and a composite of ash and
granite intrusions. The area was the scene of feverish prospecting at the
end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s. Miners found gold,
silver, copper and lead deposited by the many volcanic eruptions in the
Tertiary era. It was hard-rock mining and soon abandoned because of
difficulties extracting the minerals from the rock. Only the molybdenum
mine is still operated sporadically. The Red River is bordered by several
camp and picnic grounds.
Town of Red River offers a chance to stretch your legs and shopping
skills. This family-oriented town with an
feel has saloons,
daily staged gunfights, a 20-year-old melodrama at the Red River Inn, a
fine mining museum, and all the souvenir shops you ever wanted.
The Red River Ski Area in the center of town operates it main ski lift
during the summer and fall months. The 10,250 top gives the sightseer a
view of the entire valley and the hiker access to several easy to
challenging trails dotted with old mining camps.
Continuing east on Highway 38, the road tops 9,820-foot Bobcat Pass and
then twists its way down into the Moreno Valley. The pass offers some of
the best scenery on the trip, including a vista of the north face of
Wheeler Peak. Several turnouts give photographers a chance to record their
passage for friends back home.
the eastern rim of the Moreno Valley, Mt. Baldy dominates the horizon.
Gold was discovered on its slopes in 1866 and the gold rush was on.
to the west of the highway, built up quickly to accommodate the rush of
miners, and was dubbed "E-Town" by the locals.
has long since become a
ghost town; however, at one time it was the county
seat of Colfax County and the largest settlement in Northern New Mexico.
Early settlers and miners were "squatters" because
everything that could be seen for miles was part of the
Maxwell Land Grant, the largest ever recognized
by the United States government.
quickly became the epitome of the
complete with range wars, lynchings, claim jumping and land scams and was
ripe for such characters as
Black Jack Ketchum and
Later, when a European company purchased Maxwell's Land Grant, they tried to sell parcels of "St. Louis of the
Southwest" to easterners, picturing a Mississippi-style paddleboat on
the tiny Cimarron River. Today, there are just a few original
buildings remaining, but a small museum tells the story of its rich
Return to Eagle Nest by continuing on
Enjoy your trip!!!
of America, updated March, 2017.
Nest Lake from the top of Mt. Baldy, June, 2006, Kathy Weiser.
This image available for prints and downloads
of Angel Fire
Eagle Nest Lake - Angler's Paradise
- Gone But Not Forgotten
La Cueva and
Mora Less Traveled & Worth the Trip
Taos Pueblo -
1,000 Years of History
Museum, photo by Kathy Weiser, September, 2008.
Enchanted Circle Slideshow:
All images available for photo prints &
From Legends' General Store
New Mexico Historic Book Collection - 33
Historic Books on CD - The New Mexico Book Collection is a collection
of 33 volumes relating to the history of New
Mexico and its people primarily in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Several of the volumes have great period illustrations and portraits of
relevant historical figures.
titles such as the Illustrated history of New Mexico By Benjamin
Read (1912), The Spanish Archives of New Mexico, Volumes 1 & 2 by
Ralph Emerson Twitchell (1914), Historical Sketches of New Mexico: From
the Earliest Records to the American Occupation (1883), and dozens
Made in the USA.