If you head south on Highway 434 past the Village of Angel Fire, you will see little Coyote Creek meandering through the Black Lake Valley, This area, originally settled by the homestead act of 1861, was once home to a thriving farm community which had a general store, a church, and a school. Some of those buildings remain.
Black Lake itself lies on the UU Bar Ranch at the foot of Dancing Cat Mountain. It was the setting for the Montana scenes in the movie “Lonesome Dove.”
Just after passing the remains of the old village, Highway 434 takes a sharp right, where there are several pull-offs beside the road, which will allow you to take in the scenery.
Only 37 miles from Black Lake is the small village of Mora, but the drive is slow as the narrow paved road twists beside Coyote Creek. Coyote Creek State Park is a few miles before the small village of Guadalupita for which the narrow canyon is named. The state-run park lies in a broad area of the valley through which Coyote Creek flows. The beautiful park has both picnic and camping facilities, including electrical hookups for trailers. At the south end of the park, the roaring creek is slowed into quiet ponds by beaver dams, which are great for fishing.
On the second Sunday in August, the park is host to an annual fiesta, which features music, food vendors, an auction and a talent show.
South of Coyote Creek State Park, the canyon continues to open into the broad Mora Valley, where sheep and cattle graze peacefully. The picturesque village of Guadalupita with its bright yellow adobe church sits at the foot of the Rincon Mountains to the west.
Below Guadalupita and two miles above Mora is the Mora National Fish Hatchery and Technology Center. One of only six fish technology centers in the nation, it does DNA tracking and research on several endangered New Mexico fish.
The drive from Black Lake to Mora drops almost 3,000 feet in altitude and the scenery changes dramatically.
The Donde Viven Alpaca Victory Ranch lies on the west of the highway on 1,100 acres of the beautiful Mora Valley. The Victory Ranch has one of the largest herds of Alpacas in the United States. The ranch features a visitor center and a gift shop, which are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily with tours given at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. The shop features fine Alpaca products and artwork created by Mora Valley artisans. Visitors can pet the soft alpacas and spinning and weaving demonstrations are popular.
The Town of Mora lies at the junction of State 434 and 518 where the Cleveland Roller Mill, which is now a museum, features Mora County history and culture. The old mill was the last flour mill to be built in New Mexico. It ground 50 barrels of flour a day from 1901 to 1947.
Just six miles south (left) on N.M. 518 is the La Cueva National Historic Site and the Salman Ranch famous for its raspberries. La Cueva has a wonderfully restored church and old mill, and the Salmon Ranch gift shop and café are housed in restored buildings of the ancient town. La Cueva is definitely worth the side trip, especially during raspberry season from mid-August to October.
The road rises coming out of the western end of Mora Valley and tops out near Sipapu Ski Area, whose base is 8,200 feet above sea level. It offers 20 holes of disc golf, as well as horseback riding, lodging, art shops and 300 miles of dirt bike trails.
You can then turn north and continue on N.M. 518 to Ranchos de Taos, 16 miles north, or continue east on N.M. 75 through the sandstone bluffs which border the Embudo River as it heads to the Río Grande through the orchards and art studios of Dixon and the surrounding area.
The community Ranchos de Taos was first founded in 1718. The famous mission church of Saint Francis was completed in 1815 and is one of the best-known churches in New Mexico. The church is an inspiration for artists, travelers, and natives alike. Its mysterious sculptural form of adobe and wood ash been portrayed by more artists than any church in the United States. Here, you can find an interesting painting of Christ, with a cross that can be seen in the dark, which does not appear in the light.
If you choose to take the Dixon route, you will find an artistic community that is known for its apple orchards and is home to the La Chiripada Winery. This is a great place to stop and reflect or head on to Embudo Station beside the roaring Río Grande. Taos lies 23 miles north of the riverside restaurant on N.M. 68.
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. Our 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.
Return to the Moreno Valley via Highway 64 East, where you will travel through the beautiful Kit Carson National Forest.