TIME SLOWS TO a relaxing pace in Chama, making it easy to pause and take in the beauty of the surrounding mountains, rolling meadows, and sparkling Río Chama that runs along the east side of this former railroad boomtown.
“People say they come here because it’s quiet and peaceful,” says Chama Mayor Ernest Vigil. “We even have shirts that say ‘Living on Chama Time.’ ”
Chama is New Mexico’s stop on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, which takes passengers on a 64-mile journey through jaw-dropping scenery—high trestles, deep gorges, and the 10,015-foot Cumbres Pass, the country’s highest mountain pass reached by rail. It runs between Chama and Antonito, Colorado, from Memorial Day weekend through late October.
The treasured Edward Sargent Wildlife Area is a lesser-known gem with more than 20,000 acres of pristine meadows and trails for hiking and horseback riding. “We’ve got world-class hiking, no doubt about it,” Vigil says. Winter sports such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are also a specialty. “You can snowmobile for miles in 10 feet of snow and never stop,” he says.
Chama welcomes visitors with an array of lodging options, including summer rental cabins and the 1881-built Foster’s Hotel, Restaurant & Saloon.
The Western-style downtown offers locally owned shops filled with unique gifts. Visit Tierra Wools for handwoven masterpieces and the fascinating history of weaving in Chama. “There were 100,000 sheep in the area in the 1930s and 1940s,” Vigil says.
Kick back at the popular Rio Chama Espresso Kitchen & Wine Bar for a pastry or a latte. Like Chama itself, this is a place to feel tranquility sink in.