Albuquerque to Taos Road Trip: Things to Do

Taos Pueblo

Northern New Mexico is a breath of fresh air – literally. The air is clean, the skies are bright, and the mountains are majestic! While visiting Taos you will be able to learn about its historic past, see world class art, and enjoy great food, all in a casual, laid-back atmosphere! Taos is also a year-round hub for a multitude of outdoor sports, and opportunities for sightseeing abound.

Taos is:

  • The perfect road trip destination for a long weekend.
  • A great get away for couples.
  • Best visited: anytime. We like September and October. Snow sports enthusiasts will love Taos in the winter months.
Rio Grande and Sandia Mountains, Albuquerque -Photo by Stephanie Klepacki

This airport-to-destination road trip is going to start from the closest major airport which is in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Miles between Albuquerque and Taos: 133 via Santa Fe.

Things to do in Albuquerque:

  • Old Town
  • Sandia Peak Tramway
  • Albuquerque BioPark – zoo and aquarium
  • Petroglyph National Monument
  • New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science
  • Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum
  • Breaking Bad RV tour
  • Casinos
Albuquerque’s Sandia Peak Tramway – Photo by Federated Art

*Recommended hotels in Albuquerque: Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express. Both hotel chains have several locations to choose from.

*Recommended restaurant in Albuquerque: Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, 5011 Pan American Freeway NE

Travel tip: We highly recommend the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta which takes place every October. Here’s a link: Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Photo by Lad Fury

Getting There

From Albuquerque, there are two options for driving to Santa Fe. The I-25 route is the fastest. Highway 14 aka The Turquoise Trail is much more scenic but requires a longer drive.

From Albuquerque, take I-25 north to Santa Fe. Drive time between Albuquerque and Santa Fe: 1 hour

Recommended route: via the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway. From Albuquerque, take I-40 east to Highway 14 north toward Madrid.

Bonus stop: Madrid.  Once a mining town turned ghost town, Madrid (pronounced mad´-rid)  is now a thriving artist community. Drive time between Albuquerque and Madrid: 1 hour.

Continue on to Santa Fe via Highway 14. Drive time between Madrid and Santa Fe: 40 minutes.

Bonus Stop: Santa Fe.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Santa Fe, New Mexico

 Travel tip: If you can’t spend a few days in Santa Fe, try to stop for a few hours to explore the plaza. Plan a trip back when you can spend some time enjoying everything the historic city has to offer.

Things to do in Santa Fe:

  • Santa Fe Plaza
  • Palace of the Governors
  • Loretto Chapel
  • San Miguel Chapel
  • Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
  • Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
  • Santa Fe Railyard
  • Meow Woof

*Recommended hotel in Santa Fe: Inn on the Alameda. Within walking distance of the plaza and Canyon Road galleries. Free breakfast. Click this link for Inn on the Alameda

*Recommended restaurants in Santa Fe: The Shed – 113 E Palace Avenue, on the plaza, and The Pink Adobe – 406 Old Santa Fe Trail, off the plaza.

Side trip: Pecos National Historical Park. From Santa Fe, take I-25 toward Glorietta, then Highway 50 east to Pecos, and follow the signs to the park. View the ruins of a pueblo that was built around 800 AD. Allow at least two hours to see the site via a self-guided walking tour. The visitor center museum is extremely interesting. Drive time between Santa Fe and Pecos National Historical Park: 40 minutes. We highly recommend a visit to this park! Here is a link for more information:  Pecos National Historical Park

From Santa Fe there are two options for driving to Taos: the High Road to Taos Scenic Byway, which we recommend, and the Low Road to Taos, which is faster. Timing will determine which road to choose.

High Road to Taos – longer but most scenic

From Santa Fe take Highway 84/285 north toward Pojoaque, then take Highway 503 east via Highway 98 to Chimayo.

 Bonus stop: historic Santuario de Chimayo. Learn about El Posito, a hole in the floor of the church that is believed to have healing powers in its dirt.

Bonus stop:

The Church of San Jose de la Gracia

Low Road to Taos – not as scenic but faster

At Santa Fe, take US 84 West, then 285 North toward Espanola, then take Highway 68 to Taos. Drive time between Santa Fe and Taos: 1.5 hours.

Destination: Taos, New Mexico

Ruins of the San Geronimo Mission church and cemetery at Taos Pueblo

*Recommended hotel in Taos: El Pueblo Lodge, 412 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Here is a link: El Pueblo Lodge. There is also a Hampton Inn.

There are too many good restaurants in Taos to list, but our advice is to ask the front desk at the hotel for their recommendations. Locals always know the best places to eat.

Things to do in Taos:

Stroll the plaza. Walk the square, check out the unique shops and boutiques, pick up a box of chocolates at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and stop in at one of the plaza’s restaurants for drinks and a meal. We recommend The Gorge Bar & Grill. Try the tequila-lime chicken street tacos along with the fried green beans and sip a margarita while people watching from the second-story patio.

Travel tip: there are some great shops and restaurants outside of the plaza too.

Visit Taos Pueblo. Take a guided walking tour of the pueblo. Learn the history of the site and the people who have called this sacred ground home for over one thousand years. Taos Pueblo is one of only 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the U.S. A visit is very well worth the price of the tour and a tip for the tour guide. Plan to spend two hours. Check the site for Covid-19 restrictions and availability here: Taos Pueblo

Get up Early for a Hot Air Balloon Ride. For the thrill of a lifetime, take an early morning hot air balloon flight. Dip into the Rio Grande Gorge, touch down on the river, then float high above the plateaus for spectacular views of the gorge and the mountains with volcano cone vistas of the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument. There are a few hot air balloon companies to choose from, and we recommend booking ahead for this popular activity.

Walk across the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Take US Highway 64 West from Taos. Park on the west side, and walk across the bridge, which sits 650 feet above the river! Look for desert big horn sheep on the rocks along the gorge. Located at the edge of Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, the scenery is spectacular. Adjoining the national monument is Rio Grande Gorge State Park – we thought it was more of a rest area – where there are places to picnic while enjoying the scenery. There are great photo ops, and it is just a few miles east of the Earthships Biotecture Visitor Center. For anyone who has not seen the Taos Earthships, they are definitely worth a visit or an overnight stay. Some of the earthships are now Airbnb vacation rentals. Here is a link: Taos Earthships  

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Spend an afternoon fishing. Or spend the day enjoying most any other outdoor sport. Outfitters in Taos can arrange whitewater rafting or a float trip on the Rio Grande. Stop by Taos Fly Shop for some great fishing gear, a license, or tips on where the fish are biting. Head for the Taos Ski Valley for great hiking and mountain biking trails, and of course skiing and snowboarding in the winter.

Fly fishing on the Rio Pueblo

•Step into the past. There are no less than 10 museums in Taos, featuring the personal homes of past Taos residents, Native American history, Northern New Mexico history, and of course, art. As art lovers, we recommend learning about the Taos Society of Artists which made Taos the art colony it still is today. Be sure to check the museums’ websites for operating days and times as well as Covid-19 restrictions.

Browse or buy world class art. With approximately 20 galleries in town, Taos is an art lover’s paradise. From Native American art, pottery and jewelry to modern art and funky sculptures, there is a gallery collection to suit every taste.

Kick back. Grab a good book and find a cozy spot in the sun or curl up in front of a fireplace with a warm drink and that box of chocolates you bought at the plaza. Take a leisurely stroll then stop in at Parcht (on the plaza) for a glass of wine and a bite. Or get back on the road for a drive through the mountains and Carson National Forest. The possibilities for rest and relaxation in the Taos area are endless.

Looking for more ideas? Click on the links below to find out about these other exciting weekend road trip destinations:

El Paso to Ruidoso Road Trip: Things to Do

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

Abilene, Texas Road Trip: Things to Do

Thank you for joining us! Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

22 thoughts on “Albuquerque to Taos Road Trip: Things to Do

  1. What a great road trip! The Turquoise Trail is definitely the way to go. I drove that route with family about 25 years ago. The view from Sandia Crest is one of the best in the U.S.. I missed some of the activities you highlighted so there will be new things to do if I get back. Thanks for rekindling memories with your wonderful photos.

  2. What a wonderful road trip from the country that invented iconic road trips. I think many travellers outside The U.S. wouldn’t be able to tell you much about Albuquerque, myself included beyond perhaps the obvious. Thanks to you I now know a little more. I remember very clearly the first time I heard of the place: in an episode of The Wonder Years where Kevin (Fred Savage) falls for a girl from Albuquerque and is left wondering “Where the hell is that!?” Great post with such a wide range of activities and landscapes.

  3. Thank you, Leighton! I lived in Albuquerque for a few years when I was a kid, and I remember those years as some of the best of my life. Mike and I have a fondness for New Mexico that many people don’t share. I guess all places have their not-so-pretty sides. There are parts of our city that I wouldn’t venture into during daylight hours, but I’m naive…

  4. My husband and I definitely have a big US road trip on our bucket list so I love these recommended stops. I had heard of the hot air balloon festival in New Mexico and now definitely want to check it out. Plus the puebla in Taos looks like a cool stop too.

  5. Really interesting and not a part of the States we’ve ever visited. Never knew anything about Albuquerque apart from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Area now on our list. Thanks

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