Note: This is the first in a continuing series about top regional destinations featured in New Mexico Magazine throughout the year.

Content provided by the New Mexico Tourism Department.

There is something about the landscape of North Central New Mexico that challenged Georgia O’Keeffe, motivated Taos Ski Valley founder Ernie Blake, and inspired travelers to trek the Santa Fe Trail. Today, the region offers an impressive list of attractions for those in search of adventure and culture—from the endless recreational activities and great cuisine, to the world-renowned art galleries on Canyon Road. The “something” that inspired O’Keeffe and others, lives on in the ancient Native American ruins, ghost towns, cliff dwellings, wagon trails, and distinctive museums, telling a story that spans millions of years—one documented by the area’s evolving culture and geography.

Scenic routes in North Central all lead to adventure. The High Road to Taos passes historic churches, Indian artworks, and high country scenery; the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway features 100 miles of mountain beauty as it winds past Taos, Angel Fire, Red River, and Eagle Nest Lake; and the Jémez Mountain Trail offers mountain vistas and volcanic plains.

Perhaps it is the magic in the sunshine that warms the high mesas, mountains, and valleys of northern New Mexico. Filtered through the thinnest mountain air, the sun’s rays throw crisp-edged shadows, paint the seasons, dance off snow-crested adobe walls, shimmer on the autumn aspen leaves, and set summer storm clouds aflame.

The dramatic light and landscape has inspired generations to fill their lives with outdoor activities; whether it’s skiing on powdery snow at Taos Ski Valley, or Sipapu; exploring mountain trails; rafting the rapid Río Grande; snowmobiling in the vast Chama Valley; or hiking rugged Bandelier National Monument, home of 12th-century Ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings.

The region offers an impressive list of attractions for travelers in search of adventure, including the world-class museums and galleries of Santa Fe; Taos’s longest continually inhabited Native American Pueblo; and the historically significant Los Alamos.

In Santa Fe, visit three of the oldest buildings in the United States: The Palace of the Governors on the Historic Plaza, San Miguel Mission, and a house that dates back to the 13th century. Enjoy the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, El Rancho de las Golondrinas (in nearby La Cienega), the Museum of Fine Arts, the New Mexico History Museum, and the Museum of International Folk Art.

In Taos, see the home of famous frontiersman, Kit Carson; discover the works of the Taos Society of Artists at the Ernest Blumenschein House, the Harwood Museum, and the Taos Art Museum; and fall in love with the Wheeler Peak Wilderness at 13,000 feet. Another hidden historical gem you’ll find nearby: America’s longest narrow-gauge railroad, the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, which winds its way out of Chama. Go back in time and visit the Santuario de Chimayó, a legendary shrine often described as the Lourdes of North America.

Mesas and sheer-walled canyons near Los Alamos offer great back-country hiking, while the Valles Caldera National Preserve, one of the world’s largest caldera valleys, features self-guided and specialty hikes, wagon rides and fishing and photo excursions.
Today, North Central New Mexico boasts more artists per capita than any other region of comparable size in the United States. The painters, sculptors, poets, musicians, dancers, and filmmakers keep coming, and it’s no surprise why they do: North Central New Mexico is filled with wonder, unspoiled wilderness, spectacular views, and an easy-going, New Mexico True way of life.

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