In the winter Taos Ski Valley attracts thousands of thrill-seekers looking for challenging slopes and dry, powdery snow. But skiing, while amazing, is far from the town’s only attraction: Taos is also a center of Native American culture, beautiful desert landscapes, iconic art, and great Southwest-inspired food. These are our top five favorite things to do in this magical New Mexican town:
1. Ski, Of Course
After a half dozen trips here to hit the slopes, I’m still nowhere near tired of it. The views from the southern range of the Rockies are nothing less than epic. Boasting 305 inches of snow a year, the Taos Ski Valley Resort offers 110 trails, half of which are designed for beginner and intermediate levels. If you ski only once every year or two, you’ll feel right at home here. The resort has a great staff who teach both skiing and snowboarding on runs that won’t freak you out. And its 15 ski lifts mean you’ll never wait for very long.
2. Try Something Brand-Spanking-New
Never been on a snowmobile? Put it on your bucket list. Big Al’s Wilderness Adventures offers snowmobile tours that are full of high-speed fun, with breathtaking views of the Taos Ski Valley. In the summertime the paths become horse-riding trails.
3. Take a Hike
Snow-shoeing is another great option. Taos offers some beautiful hikes through its canyons, and the learning curve on snow-shoeing is—well, there is no learning curve. It’s just walking in the snow wearing special shoes that make the impossible possible. A number of outfits, including Taos Snowshoe Adventures, lead tours; shoes are inexpensive to buy or rent; and you can combine your walk with a trip to one of the numerous canyon hot springs. Popular choices include Manby and Black Rock, which are both free, open to the public, and fairly easily accessible.
4. Wander Taos Pueblo
Located just north of the city, Taos Pueblo provides a fascinating look into the region’s Native American history. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this community of adobe dwellings, thought to be over 1,000 years old, has been inhabited by locals continuously since its construction. It’s a living museum and a photographer’s paradise, with turquoise doors and colorful strings of red chiles hanging from the windows—but remember to follow the rules and avoid taking photos of tribal members without permission. Spend an afternoon exploring the pueblo and popping inside its adobe shops, which offer handicrafts by local artisans.
5. Get to Know Kit Carson
Carson was a frontiersman of the Old West—a fur trapper, guide, and soldier whose exaggerated stories of his exploits inspired a score of dime novels and made him a household name. He eventually settled in Taos, living in a circa-1825 Spanish-style home, purchased as a wedding gift for his third wife, Josefa. The two lived there for 25 years, until Carson’s death in 1868. Today the Kit Carson Museum is a national historic landmark with a park and a small cemetery where Kit, Josefa, and a few other Taos residents are buried.
- Historic Taos Inn has an uber-cool, quirky pueblo style. Whether or not you stay here, you’ll want to stop in for a delicious margarita with the locals next to the fireplace at the lively bar. There’s a reason they call it “the living room of Taos,” after all. From $135/night.
- The Blake at Taos Ski Valley is a great choice to hang your skis for the night, only a short walk from Taos Ski Valley Resort, while Alpine Village Suites is a charming, lower-cost alternative in the same area. Airbnb options in Taos can be truly bonkers, in a good way. Use the app filter to search unique accommodations including earth houses, dome houses, or vintage RVs. It’s pretty easy to lose yourself in the desert experience when you’re under the stars in a retro Airstream or Hobbit-esque “earthship.”
- Lambert’s of Taos offers wine, seafood, and steak in a great setting.
- Housed in a circa-1800s adobe church, The Love Apple is a local favorite, serving up delicious, organic, regional home cooking—think mole, tacos, grilled trout, and stuffed poblanos, with antelope steaks available seasonally. Cash- and check-only.
- For more traditional fare in a casual setting, La Cueva Cafe offers up mole dishes, enchiladas, and specialties like cochinita pibil and burrenos.
- Ranchos Plaza Grill offers inexpensive, down-home New Mexican specialties such as Indian frybread and green chiles rellenos. 575-758-5788
- The most convenient way to reach Taos is to fly into Albuquerque or Santa Fe and drive from there. United and Southwest both have nonstop Houston-Albuquerque flights.