Epic excursions: Heavy rapids, holes in one, heat, heights, horizons and hooves

DISCOVER AVENTURA

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WHITEWATER RAFTING

Whether it’s your first time rocking and rolling through the lively waters of the Río Grande or you’re a seasoned rafter/kayaker, the thrill never fades. Taos has a number of experienced and reputable whitewater rafting outfitters who will provide a family-friendly excursion you’ll never forget.

Matthew Gontram of New Mexico River Adventures is one of those outfitters: “The beauty of rafting and kayaking in New Mexico is that no matter the season — whether the water level is high or low — there is a trip for everybody.”

The most popular trips are half day and full day. And some outfitters offer two- and three-day trips from the Río Grande to Río Chama. For the die-hard adventurers wanting a more extreme whitewater experience, Gontram recommends the inflatable kayak. “That ups the ante as far as adventure,” he says.

Rafting requires no experience and participants can choose whether to paddle or not, and it doesn’t take a tremendous amount of effort to get down the river. Each raft holds two to six people, not including the guide.

Water temperatures are typically warmer in New Mexico than other western rivers. The rafting season is from March to October.

Big River Raft Trips

bigriverrafts.com

1-800-748-3746

Cottam’s Río Grande Rafting

cottamsriogranderafting.com

(575) 758-2822

Far Flung Adventures

farflung.com

(575) 758-2628/800-359-2627

Los Rios River Runners

losriosriverrunners.com

(575) 776-8854

Native Sons Adventure Company

facebook.com/pg/Native-Sons-Adventure-Company

(575) 758-9342

New Mexico River Adventures

newmexicoriveradventures.com

1-800-983-7756

New Wave Rafting

newwaverafting.com

1-800-984-1444

ALPACA RANCH TOUR

Feed, pet and interact with the friendly Donde Viven alpacas at the Victory Ranch in Mora, New Mexico. The year-round educational and hand-feeding tours typically last about 45 minutes to an hour. Admission for adults and children is $6. Hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tours are Fridays through Mondays every month at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. A 24-hour reservation is appreciated. Mora is about an hour’s drive from Taos. Take Paseo del Pueblo to State Road 518. Turn left on State Road 434 north.

Call (575) 387-2254 or Visit victoryranch.com for more information.

HOT AIR BALLOON RIDES

Yes, a ride in a hot air balloon is as cool as it looks. To witness a sky full of colorful orbs, the 36th Annual Taos Mountain Balloon Rally will be held Oct. 26-28. Featured are tethered rides for kids, mass ascensions, a parade and the ever popular nighttime “Balloomenshine.” For more information on the rally, visit taosballoonrally.com or call (575) 758-9210.

Eske’s Paradise Balloons

taosballooning.com

(575) 751-6098

Pueblo Balloon

puebloballoon.com

(575) 751-9877

Taos Hot Air Balloon Rides

taosballoonrides.com

(575) 224-6022

HORSEBACK RIDING

See the Sangre de Cristo mountains from a whole new perspective. Area horseback rides are suitable for riders of every experience level, including first-time cowboys and cowgirls.

A.A. Taos Ski Valley Wilderness Adventures

aataosskivalleywildernessadventures.com

(575) 751-6051

Bobcat Pass Trail Rides (Red River)

bobcatpass.com

(575) 754-2769

Cieneguilla Stables (Embudo)

facebook.com/people/Cieneguilla-Stables

(575) 751-2815

Nancy Burch’s Roadrunner Tours (Angel Fire)

nancyburch.com

(575) 377-6416

Red River Stables

redriverstables.com

(575) 754-1700

Río Grande Stables

riograndestables.com

(575) 776-5913/888-259-8267

Taos Indian Horse Ranch

Taos Pueblo

recreation-t.nm-unlimited.net/Pages/Stables/IndianHorseRanch

(575) 758-3212

LLAMA TREK

Wild Earth Llama Adventures

Educational and memorable day hikes and multi-day treks with naturalist guides and gentle llamas through some of the area’s most beautiful backcountry. The llamas are not ridden; they are “wooly hiking companions” and gear carriers. Gourmet meals are prepared and served fresh in the great outdoors. Join Wild Earth for their popular, “Take a Llama to Lunch!” Day Hike, or take a Multi-Day Wilderness Expedition with opportunities to camp near hidden alpine lakes and climb New Mexico’s tallest peaks.

llamaadventures.com

1-800-758-LAMA (5262)

OFF-ROAD TOURS

The phrase “off the beaten path” is exemplified where the pavement literally ends. Take a ride through aspen groves, abandoned gold mines and ghost towns in a 4×4 vehicle. For Red River trail information and maps, visit redriver.org/things-to-do/summer-recreation/ohv-jeeps.

Bobcat Pass Wilderness Adventures

Check out their family-friendly ATV/UTV two-hour tours and famous Cowboy Evening in Red River. Call (575) 754-2769 or visit bobcatpass.com for prices and reservations.

Jeeps R Us

Rent a 2012-2015 Jeep Wrangler 4×4 and set off on your own Red River off-road experience. Rentals are for 4 or 8 hours. Must be at least 25 years old to drive and have full insurance coverage on your personal vehicle. For more information, call (505) 310-0451.

New Mexico Adventure Co.-Bighorn Sports & Rentals

Three-hour Jeep tours and ATV/UTV tours in Red River around Greenie Peak, Goose Lake, Cabresto Lake or The Old Pass. You can also pan for gold during the Jeep tours. Call (575) 754-2721 or visit bighornsports.us.

Red River Mountain Adventures

Family-friendly Jeep and OHV rentals for sightseeing and exploring the mountainous area surrounding Red River. For more information, call (575) 754-6363 or visit redriverohv.com.

Red River Offroad

Offering guided Jeep tours on mountain roads around Red River. For more information, call (575) 754-6335 or go online to redriveroffroad.com.

Weezie’s Wild Rides

Self-guided UTV tours. Four- or 6-hour rentals before June 15. After June 15, 6-hour rentals only. Renters can utilize Goose Lake Trail, Cabresto Lake Trail and Greenie Peak. Call (575) 754-1726 or email weezieswildrides@gmail.com for more information.

HOT SPRINGS

Black Rock Hot Springs

This clothing-optional spot just north of Taos in Arroyo Hondo is pretty well known and easy to get to — don’t expect to be alone. From State Highway 522 north, turn west onto County Road B007. You’ll take a hard right after about 2.5 miles; stay to the left and go down hill to the John Dunn Bridge that crosses the Río Grande. Go left up the hill and park at the first switchback. You’ll walk about 5-10 minutes downstream to a pair of mud-bottomed rock pools on the Río Grande’s west bank. Water temperature is typically around 97 degrees contingent on water levels.

Manby Hot Springs

These two natural, clothing-optional hot pools were named for a seedy business man who immigrated from England to New Mexico in 1883. During his land-grabbing days, Arthur Manby stumbled upon natural hot springs just south of the Black Rock Hot Springs in Arroyo Hondo. Even though the area was Indian country, his arrogance drove him to claim the springs. His plan was to build a resort hotel on the site. He never got the financial backing. Years later, Manby was found beheaded in his Taos hacienda in 1929.

To get there, take State Highway 522 toward Questa north of Taos. Turn west onto County Road B007. The road takes a hard right after about 2.5 miles and turn left onto another dirt road just before B007 makes a hard turn to the right. This stretch of road to the Manby Hot Springs parking lot needs to be taken slowly — a high clearance vehicle is recommended. Continue past the Dobson House sign and take the next left at the fork in the road. Continue staying to your right until you reach the large parking lots for the Manby Hot Springs. At the left side of the parking area, take a 15-20- minute walk on a dirt and rock path to the river. Water temperature is typically in the neighborhood of 97 degrees depending upon water levels.

Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa

The only geothermal springs in the world with four different minerals: Lithia, iron, soda and arsenic. Public and private pools are open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. This secluded, top destination resort and spa also features hiking and biking trails. From Taos, drive north out of town on Paseo del Pueblo Norte/U.S. Highway 64 west 10 miles to the Río Grande Gorge Bridge; approximately one half-mile past the bridge, turn left (south) onto the West Rim Road. There is an Ojo Caliente sign on the right side of the road pointing left. Continue south for 8.5 miles until you reach a road junction for State Road 567. Turn right (west) onto SR 567; continue through the village of Carson for 9 miles until you reach U.S. Highway 285. Turn left (south) at the stop sign onto U.S. 285. Continue south 10.4 miles to Ojo Caliente. Turn right onto 414 (Los Baños Drive) at the Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs sign. This turn is before mile marker 353 on US 285. The springs’ entrance is approximately one-quarter of a mile at the end of the road. Visit ojospa.com or call 800-222-9162.

DISC GOLF

Angel Fire Resort

Cast your first throw at Hole No. 1 and continue the scenic course up to 10,000-plus elevation. The 18-hole course at the summit of the mountain has amateur and pro tee pads. It is free to play, but a lift ticket or season pass is needed to use the chairlift. Course maps, disc rentals and scorecards are available in the Ticket Office at the base of the Chile Express chairlift. Call (575) 377-4320 for any additional information.

Picuris Pueblo

A world-class, 20-hole course set on tribal land featuring many obstacles and unique pin locations. To get there, take Paseo del Pueblo Sur (south) to State Road 518. Follow signs to Peñasco. For more information, call (575) 587-2519

Red River

This small mountain town with an Old West feel has two disc golf courses: one on the back side of the Red River Ski and Summer Area apex and the other is a 9-hole course in Mallette Park. The course at the ski area has 18 holes and last September hosted the first annual Drew Judycki Memorial Tournament. Added this season are amateur tee pads making the course more beginner friendly. Free to play if you bike or hike to the top or you can purchase a chairlift ticket.

Sipapú Ski & Summer Resort

Named by Disc Golf Digest as one of the top five scenic courses in the country, Sipapu features a 20-basket disc golf course that’s free to all visitors. Every hole has three sets of tees (pro, advanced and recreation). To get there, take Paseo del Pueblo Sur (south) out of Taos to State Road 518. Follow the signs. For more information, call 800-587-2240. For tournament info, go online to sipapunm.com.

Taos Roc Pit

This in-town course was designed around an old gravel pit. There are presently 17 baskets on the course that traverses three clockwise spirals, has some short steeps and blind holes. Free, public course. From Taos, off Paseo del Pueblo Sur, turn west at Chamisa Road near the Sagebrush Inn. The course is about three blocks on the right.

Two Gray Hares

Just 5 miles from Sipapú off State Road 518, this 18-hole course amid high desert trees and sagebrush is on a private “farm” that covers 12 acres and has three sets of tees. Cost is $3 a day to play. Call (575) 587-2087 for more information.

GOLF

Taos Country Club

Taos Country Club sits at 7,000 feet in elevation and holes range from 5,336 to 7,300 in yardage. This par-72 layout’s Bermuda fairways route their way through low sagebrush. Frequent sand traps guard the undulating Bent grass greens. The course, designed by Jep Wille, was awarded a four-star rating by Golf Digest. The Terrace serves drinks, craft beers, snacks and gourmet dishes. Next door is a full-service pro shop, and the expansive patio affords stunning views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Río Grande watershed. TCC is located south of town. Take State Road 68 and turn right on County Road 110. For green fees, tee times and more information, go online to taoscountryclub.com or call (575) 758-7300.

Angel Fire Resort

The meeting of mountain and meadow at 8,500 feet produces 18 holes as varied as any. With yardage from 4,868 to 6,645, the bluegrass fairways wind through tall stands of Ponderosa pine and across rich, wet bottomland. Plenty of elevated tee boxes, blind shots and leave-the-driver-in-the-bag shots. Hole No. 18 climbs up a hill to the clubhouse, where two eateries, bar, pro shop and locker rooms await. Opening Day is May 16. For more information, go online to angelfireresort.com or call (575) 377-4488.

Valle Escondido

This golf course at about 8,500 feet — whose name means “hidden valley” in Spanish — is a throwback (no carts). Owned and operated by the Valle Escondido Homeowners Association, this nine-holer sprawls across mountain pastures and cat-tailed wetlands, and around inconveniently situated ponderosa pines to postage-stamp greens. Fairways tend toward the “natural state,” so clean-and-place is acceptable at all timesThe humble clubhouse serves as a community hangout with cold beer, cocktails and bar food. To get there, take U.S. Highway 64 from Kit Carson Road or Paseo del Cañon toward Angel Fire. Take a right on County Road past the Enchanted Moon RV Park and Campground. For green fees, tee times and more information, go online to taosgolf.org or call (575) 758-3475.

MOUNTAIN BIKING

No matter your level of skill, Taos Ski Valley, Red River Ski and Summer Resort and Angel Fire Resortconvert trails into downhill, so-called “gravity” trails during the summer that appeal to speed merchants on two-wheelers. Taos Ski Valley has its Berminator Trail from the top of Lift 1, and separately owned Northside at Taos Ski Valley can get riders to 12,000 feet elevation. The Red River Ski Area chairlift runs all summer with bike carriers and maintained trails.

Angel Fire Resort (opening day May 18, Demo Days May 26-27) has become a mecca for competitive mountain biking. The mountain’s Bike Park hosts world and nationally ranked events in downhill racing — including the USA Cycling Gravity Mountain Bike National Championship. And if you really want to test your skills, the Scott Enduro Cup Mountain Bike Race will be held June 9-10 at the Angel Fire Resort Mountain Bike Park and on surrounding trails (endurocupmtb.com). Throughout the summer, both locals and visitors flock to its 60-plus miles of trails.

Turquoise Tours offers two pickup and dropoff tours to New Mexico’s No. 1 ranked bike trail, the South Boundary. For more details, go online to turquoisetours.us.

The South Boundary Trail tops many riders’ lists. Nationally renowned, the 22-mile single track begins at about 7,000 feet elevation in the opening of Taos Canyon on U.S. Highway 64 east. The first 5 miles climb 2,400 feet to where the trail crests, setting up about 20 miles of level riding and descent to a parking lot along Forest Road 76 above Angel Fire at about 10,000 feet. The trail winds through evergreens, aspens and meadows, with spectacular views both east and west peaking near 11,000 feet at Osha Mountain.

Here are a few other prominent rides in the Taos area:

The West Rim Trail is a relatively flat beginner route beginning at the Río Grande Gorge Bridge and runs about 9 miles along the rim of the gorge. It’s mostly a single track that is shared with day hikers and meandering visitors. The paved West Rim Road provides an excellent opportunity to drop-off-car return.

Devisadero Loop is located across from the South Boundary trailhead. This 5-mile loop is steep with uneven terrain — termed “brutal” by even expert riders. Almost all of its 5 miles is uphill, so both ascent and descent are gnarly. Look out for hikers and trail runners since this is one of the most popular trails around Taos.

The Amole Canyon trailhead is on the south side of U.S. Hill on State Road 518. The moderate trail is perfect for families and weekend riders who are looking to get into the forest without getting too serious. There are 7 miles of dirt trails and logging roads through piney woods.

ROAD BIKING

Organized century rides

Fans of riding the Enchanted Circle should check out the Rough Riders 200 and Enchanted Circle Century Tour. Both rides incorporate the Enchanted Circle loop, which takes riders through Taos, Angel Fire, Eagle Nest, Red River, Questa, Arroyo Hondo and back down to Taos.

The Rough Riders 200, part of the Gran Fondo, is June 23-24 and starts from Angel Fire making a loop to Mora, Sipapú and Taos. Brave riders complete back-to-back century rides during the two-day event. Shorter options are also available, including the new 150, ride 100 miles on Saturday and 50 miles on Sunday. For riders new to endurance cycling, the 50-mile Sunday ride is called the Bobcat Pass 50. (granfondoguide.com).

On Sept. 9, avid cyclists embark on a 100-mile ride around the Enchanted Circle Century Tour that takes you to Taos, alongside two state parks, the Vietnam Memorial, Eagle Nest Lake and the Palo Flechado and Bobcat passes. The tour starts in Red River at 8,750 feet, with a low point of 7,000 feet and a high point of 9,820 feet at the top of Bobcat Pass. Riders can also opt for shorter treks of 25 and 50 miles (redriverchamber.org/enchanted-circle-century-bike-tour or granfondoguide.com).

Cruising routes

If you are looking for a long-distance ride outside the Enchanted Circle or the Mora Loop, try the Ojo-High Road 125. You’ll start your trek near the Río Grande Gorge Bridge and ride on to Ojo Caliente. From the high desert of Ojo Caliente, you’ll ride through Española and onto the High Road to Taos. From the High Road, you’ll go through the small communities of Chimayo, Truchas and Peñasco before journeying back to Taos.

Tres Piedras is another good place to start your long-distance ride. An out and back from Tres Piedras to the Brazos Overlook is 54 miles and features 4,400 feet of climbing. Add on a stop to Tierra Amarilla to make it even longer. Riders eager for a 150-mile ride should try the Tres Piedras, Tierra Amarilla, Chama, Antonito, Tres Piedras loop.

For easier rides closer to the town of Taos, park your car at the intersection of State Roads 150 and 230 and cycle up State Road 150 all the way to Taos Ski Valley. The Hondo-Seco-Valdez loop is another local road favorite.

STEAM TRAIN

Built in 1889, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is a piece of living history. The railroad’s scenic steam train trips begin its 48th season May 26.

The trains depart daily from both Antonito, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico through Oct. 21.

The train follows 64 miles of tracks that cross the borders of Colorado and New Mexico 11 times, skirts along canyon walls through Toltec Gorge, burrows through two tunnels, steams over Cascade Trestle 137 feet above a roaring river and climbs to the top of 10,015-foot Cumbres Pass, the highest point reached by any steam railroad in North America.

On June 17, join U.S. Geological Survey’s emeritus scientist Peter Lipman for a ride through one of the most unique, varied geologic areas in the U.S. Stop at many outcrops and rail cuts along the right of way to collect photographs and samples only accessible on the train route.

For details and pricing, go to cumbrestoltec.com or call (888) 286-2737.

ZIPLINE

What a rush! Angel Fire Resort features one of the highest-altitude, six-line, adrenaline-educing outdoor adventures in the state that take you from the top of the mountain, soaring over the Moreno Valley from 120 to 1,600 feet long during the Rocky Mountain Zipline Adventure Tour. New this year, the resort unveils the Family Flyer, which is made up of two ziplines offering younger kids — who don’t weigh enough for the full adventure tour — a chance to experience the excitement of mountain-top ziplining. Children weighing as light as 50 pounds – 250 pounds will be able to join in the fun. Those weighing 90 pounds and above can participate in the full six-line tour. The tours take on average of two to three hours. Call 844-218-4107 for availability. Ziplines open May 18, weather permitting. For details on what to wear and weight restrictions, go online to angelfireresort.com/activities/summer-activities/zipline-adventure-tours/.

Down the road a piece, the Pioneer Flyer zipline awaits at Red River. Aboard this double-seated zipline, you and a family member or friend sit side-by-side in padded seats with dual seat belts. Together, your seats ride up the line to the towers situated at the Red River Ski and Summer Area, which is U.S. National Forest land. In fact, this is the first seated zipline on Forest Service property in the U.S. The zipline begins running June 10. For more information, visit the summer activities page at redriverskiarea.com.

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