The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway
New Mexico has long been known as The Land of Enchantment. The Enchanted Circle is an 85 mile Scenic Byway which circles New Mexico's highest point; Wheeler Peak, providing the traveler with awe-inspiring views of the Southern Rocky Mountains, its valleys and high desert mesas. The stunning mountainous countryside and cool summer temperatures refresh all those who travel here, as they delight in vistas of ponderosa pine, aspen, fir, spruce and riparian vegetationsome of the most beautiful country in America. The Enchanted Circle is dotted with resort towns which offer an abundance of recreational and family activities year-round.
Enjoy the Enchanted Circle as a day trip, or choose a place along the route to spend your entire vacation. So take to the road, and find our for yourself why New Mexico is truly the Land of Enchantment.
Just follow the signs to enjoy this 85 mile US Scenic Byway which connects Taos with Questa and the resort towns of Red River, Angel Fire and Eagle Nest. This dramatic countryside offers magnificent vistas of the Sangre de Cristo Range of the Rocky Mountains, including the 13,161 foot Wheeler Peak.
Drive North out of Taos on NM 522 through El Prado. When you reach the light at NM 150, you can make detours in either direction, left to see one of the highest bridge spans in North America at the Taos Gorge. The Taos Gorge offers breathtaking views of this age-old geological rift in the Taos Mesa. If you turn right, you will visit the charming little town of Arroyo Seco, with its galleries, antiques store and the some of the best ice cream in the country.
Returning to the circle, Arroyo Hondo is nine miles north of Taos. It grew out of an 1815 Spanish land grant on the Rio Hondo. In the 1960s, Arroyo Hondo was home to the New Buffalo commune. The hippies from the commune have long since dispersed, adding their own unique flavor to the local culture.
D.H. Lawrence's New Mexico Ranch
Continue North on 522 to San Cristobal, where you can look for signs to the D. H. Lawrence Ranch and Shrine. A guest of Mabel Dodge Luhan in the early 1920s, she made a gift of this ranch to him. Although he was only to spend a total of 11 months at the ranch, it is the only property he and his wife ever owned. Lawrence wrote much of his novels St. Mawr and The Plumed Serpent here, and chose it as his final resting place. Frequent guests at the ranch were Aldous Huxley and Georgia O'Keeffe, who inspired Lawrence to paint. Once you reach San Cristobal, you will be able to see state's highest mountain, Wheeler Peak (13,161 feet). Continue to Questa, a small town situated in beautiful country, with wonderful camping and hiking at Cabresto Lake, Mallette Canyon and Midnight Meadows. Here you will turn east on NM 38. You are now following what locals call The Enchanted Circle.
From Mining to Skiing in Red River
The road becomes much steeper at this point, as you make your way to Red River. Here the scenery becomes nothing short of magnificent, with stunning mountain vistas of spruce and aspen. Red River is the oldest resort town on the route, having originally been a mining camp. It became a summer resort in the early part of the 20th Century, offering a relaxing respite from the summer heat to travelers from Texas. There are recreational opportunities galore here summer and winter, including hiking, mountain biking, trail riding and cowboy evenings, fly fishing, hunting and much more. Cameras are a must to capture all the wildflowers, birds and wildlife. Red River offers great events year-round, including a 6 day, 50+ event celebration of Mardi Gras and a motorcycle rally to kick-start the summer, a chili cook-off, Blues festival and of course a great 4th of July parade!
Red River is the highest point on the Enchanted Circle. The road runs through Bobcat Pass (9820 feet) descending into the high alpine Moreno Valley. Bordering the valley are some of the most spectacular peaks in New Mexico: Agua Fria at the south end, Baldy on the north, and Wheeler on the northwest.
Continue on NM 38 to NM 64 through Eagle Nest, where you can stop at the beautiful Eagle Nest Lake State Park. This beautiful 2,400 acre lake offers trout and kokanee salmon fishing. There is boating, hiking and cross country skiing. On New Year's Day, locals and visitors take a "Polar Bear Plunge" in the lake, whether it's 30 degrees, or 13 degrees. It's a beautiful location to see an abundance of birds and wildlife, including elk, deer, bear and eagles!
Drive west on NM 64 to Angel Fire, a family resort with skiing, golf, tennis, hiking, biking, and fishing. Be sure to stop at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park near Angel Fire. The memorial was built by Dr. Victor and Jean Westphall as a shrine to their fallen son and those who died with him in Vietnam. It ultimately became the inspiration behind the Vietnam Veterans National Memorial which was built in Washington, D.C. more than ten years later. The beauty and serenity of the park imbues it with an unusual emotion and presence. The Vietnam Veterans Peace and Brotherhood Chapel is the centerpiece of the Monument, a soaring white structure pointing to the sky from a hill just west of Angel Fire. Inside the simple monument are photographs of Vietnam casualties and a shrine of mementos and candles left by visitors. Veterans and their families have found peace and solace here. This is the only United States State Park dedicated as a Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
The Enchanted Circle then returns you to Taos, ending on tree-lined Kit Carson Road. Whether you decide to make the trip in one very full day, a weekend, or spend some real time here, the Enchanted Circle makes an impact on everyone who travels it.
Pictured top right: New Mexico's highest point, Wheeler Peak (13,161 feet) in the distance through Carson National Forest
Pictured middle right: Cabin at D.H. lawrence Ranch, San Cristobal, NM
Pictured bottom right: Peace and Brotherhood Chapel at the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial, Angel Fire, NM
Back to The Enchanted Circle
Back to Taos Day Trips