Adventures: Taos, New Mexico & Great Sand Dunes National Park
We, meaning my husband and I, recently had the pleasure of a three day weekend - so we decided to spend our time on a #roadtrip to Taos. It's about 5 hours driving from Denver, CO, so we left on a Friday after work and hit the road. I find a certain sense of serenity and peace with road trips. Perhaps it's the radio playing oldies but goodies, or just seeing the open road and still be in awe of how much land there really is! Read more below for a 3 day-weekend trip in Taos (and additional trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, which is a must see!)
Why Taos, New Mexico?!
I initially moved to Colorado on my own for my job, with no friends or family in Denver. Feeling like 'woe is me,' I had joined some Meetup groups to see if I could find some new friends in Denver. There's just something about going to a place, by yourself, for an extended period of time that makes you put yourself out there a little bit more than if you traveled with someone. I first heard about Taos from a Meetup group. There were several girls who wanted to head to Taos for New Years; since I had to work, I could never go but I kept it on my Bucket list for quite some time. It's an artsy town, once home to Georgia O'Keeffe, and now home to many artists seeking inspiration from this picturesque desert.
Day 1 - Arrival Day
We left Denver around 5:00pm after work (packed our bags the night before to maximize time), started the road trip tunes, and set on our way! It was a relatively easy drive and no 4WD required - the road is entirely paved. We stopped at Walsenburg for some pizza at a local diner. Walsenburg is a town of about 2K-3K and there's not much around other than local diners. We loved the pizza diner (good Yelp reviews), and felt welcomed, even though it was clear we were out of towners (hard to blend in when you're a Black and Asian couple in a small, used-to-be coal mining town!). We love to spread a little diversity along the way :)
Hotels to consider:
- Hotel La Fonda de Taos
- Sagebrush Inn and Suites
- El Monte Sagrado Living Resort and Spa
- Inn on La Loma Plaza
Taos is a relatively small town, but there are surprisingly several great places to stay. We did not look into any AirBnB's (we like the general feel of turn-down service of a hotel). We stayed at Hotel La Fonda de Taos, which is located right in the heart of Taos Plaza. It's a great location and the hotel guests services people are SO hospitable. The hotel includes parking in their overnight fees (which is a gravel parking lot behind the hotel), and the coffee shop next store is complementary for hotel guests for coffee and tea. Arriving in Taos at 11pm (dinner took a big chunk of our time), we unpacked and settled in for the night.
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
Only 20 minutes from Taos, this bridge is breathtaking! Be care - lots of cars drive on this bridge!
Day 2 - taos, NM
We were pleasantly surprised to wake up the following morning to a Farmer's market in the Plaza! It's a town where creative artists still go to for some of that inspiration that we all yearn for. It's hard not to imagine why, with traditional pueblo architecture and many art galleries that line the streets.
We stopped for lunch at probably one of the best Mexican places we've been to (and we've been to a lot) - La Cueva Cafe. Shaun always gets nachos and he literally told me: "one of the best nachos I've ever had."
With our belly's full, we set our sights on getting to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge . It's 650 feet (200 m) above the Rio Grande that flows beneath it, and is the 5th highest bridge in the United States. Locals aptly call it the 'mini Grand Canyon' for it's height and overall spectacular beauty. It was relatively easy to find and we were able to walk across fairly easily. It's a short bridge, but the views are breathtaking. Every time, surrounded by the bright blue sky and open canyon beyond me, I can't help but laugh out loud and enjoy Mother Nature's gift to us. I feel joy and gratefulness all in the same moment - grateful to be alive, to be able to witness such beauty, and to be able to spend it good company.
Day 3 - great sand dunes national park
Day 3 of our journey marked our slow trek back to Denver. On our drive back up from Taos, we stopped at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. It's another wondrous gift from Mother Nature where sand dunes meets mountains. We went on Memorial Day weekend, which was a busy weekend with lines to enter the park - but once you're in, it doesn't seem so crowded. The creek (Medano Creek) was flowing, kids playing and laughing, people bodysurfing the Creek - I couldn't have asked for a more perfect day. Being the adventurers we are, Shaun and I decided to trek the 2+ miles up to the top of the Dunes - it was hot, I was sweaty, and I'm pretty sure I cursed Shaun under my breath a few times. The sand was hot and I could not walk barefoot - that's where those socks come in handy (and to think, I almost decided to leave them in the car because I didn't want them to get wet from traversing the creek).
Once at the top, the view was even more breathtaking than I could ever imagine. To the North were snowcapped peaks of mountains and to the West were the luscious green leaves of deciduous trees, and in between, we stood on sand high above the tree lines. We spent a good 2-3 hours atop the sand dunes - words just don't do this place justice. I'm so glad it's finally a national park - and definitely one worth a visit!
We spent the night camping at Great Sand Dunes Oasis; we opted for a primitive tent site as that was what was available. They had cabins as well but they were booked for the night (and we didn't plan ahead of time to reserve a cabin). Even though we had a tent, we didn't pitch it and opted to enjoy the stars within the comfort of our own SUV. Campfires all around us were flickering as we sat and watched the sun set atop the Dunes.
Day 4 - onward to denver!
We woke up at early in the morning (around 5:30am) to catch the sunrise and started our drive back up to civilization. The drive from the Sand Dunes to Denver is about 2.5 hours - and an easy one too. No frills here - we were both ready to sleep in the comfort of our own bed and maybe even take a shower.
This trip was by far one of my favorite #Roadtrips - a short roadtrip but a good one at that. we found taos could be experienced in 1 to 1.5 full days. we will definitely return to the sand dunes again - and maybe even camp on the dunes! until next time...
Opinions above are all my own and are not sponsored.