The Southern Circle in Winter
This excursion will provide you with the beauty of the Sangre de Cristo mountains and take you down to the high desert of New Mexico and back again. Not only will nature enthrall you but you will also experience the old small farming traditions of New Mexico and the history and culture of the area.
From Angel Fire take New Mexico Highway 434 south toward Mora, about 40 minutes away. This road is narrow and at some points crosses the stream on a one-lane bridge. Take your time and enjoy the spectacular beauty of this little canyon as you descend to the farmlands of northern New Mexico. Seventeen miles south of Angel Fire you’ll come to Coyote Creek State Park, a great place to picnic.
Old Spanish-Heritage Farmlands
Once you pass the Park, the road travels along the bottom of the valley showing off the old Spanish-heritage farmlands. On the right just as you are entering Mora is the Victory Alpaca Ranch. This is a great place to stop, play with the animals and visit their great gift shop. If you arrive at the right time, you can even help hand-feed the alpacas.
Salman Raspberry Ranch
At Mora, New Mexico Highway 434 ends and connects to New Mexico Highway 518. For a short side trip, turn left and travel to New Mexico Highway 442, where you will turn left again. You are entering the Salman Raspberry Ranch, one of the largest purveyors of raspberries in northern New Mexico.
Turning right from New Mexico Highway 434, heading west on New Mexico Highway 518 you will travel through the tiny, historic town of Mora. This is a good place to check your gas gauge and make a pit stop. The Cowboy Café, on the right side of the road a couple of blocks after your turn, is a great local place for a cup of coffee and a snack. Traveling on westward, you leave Mora and begin to climb back into the Carson National Forest. This section of the road has several turnouts where you can stop to take in the view. Take advantage of them all, as each offers a new vista of the valley as you rise above it.
Tres Ritos & the Sipapu Ski Area
As you reach the summit of the mountain range in this area, you will come to Tres Ritos and the Sipapu Ski Area. This small area is known for its family atmosphere and easy runs in the winter and for disc golf in the summer. From here the road travels through the forest area toward Peñasco.
At Peñasco, you have a choice to make. You can continue to follow New Mexico Highway 518 on the Southern Circle or you can begin your journey onto the High Road to Chimayó and Española.
New Mexico Highway 518 continues past the Village of Peñasco toward Ranchos de Taos. At Ranchos de Taos, you can turn right onto New Mexico Highway 68, heading into Taos. Turn right onto the bypass New Mexico Highway 585 at the Visitor Center, and return to Angel Fire through the very beautiful Taos Canyon. In the Canyon, you’ll see several artist’s studios and galleries where you’re encouraged to stop and visit.
If you choose to follow the High Road (New Mexico Highway 76) your circle has enlarged, but you can still return to Angel Fire after a full day of sight-seeing.
Las Trampas & Truchas
New Mexico Highway 76 takes you south through the villages of Las Trampas and Truchas. These are both high mountain farming communities with established Spanish land grant families. There are also many artists that reside along this road.
Sanctuario de Chimayó
At Chimayó, you will want to visit the Sanctuario de Chimayó. This historic church is believed to have healing powers in the soil, and you may carry away a small sample with you. The well-known family restaurant Rancho de Chimayó is just up the road. It’s a good rest stop with great New Mexican food. From the restaurant head back to New Mexico Highway 76 and continue into Española. There you will meet up with New Mexico Highway 68. Turn right onto this road and head back to Taos and Angel Fire.