Taking the High Road to Taos is a beautiful journey that can spin by in just under two hours. Or you can give yourself the luxury of taking 4-5 hours, all day, or even multiple days and really gain insight into northern New Mexico, its unique history, culture and people. I’ve decided to make this a 3 maybe 4 part journey and try to show you just a few of the beautiful sights that await you. If you like driving the open road and being surrounded by mountain ranges, fascinating light changes, tiny historic Spanish land grant villages, and art communities, then this trip is for you. Even in the winter the scenery is enchanting.
Only twenty minutes north of Santa Fe’s downtown along Hwy 84/ 285 is the turn off for Route 503 to Nambe and the Scenic High Road begins. Cruising through Nambe you see the Sacred Heart Catholic Church gazing toward the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
The road continues to wind through Nambe to the turn for route 93 toward Chimayó. At this point, you begin to feel you’re in one of those car commercials where there’s only you for miles and nothing but beautiful red rock formations, and mountain vistas. But you resist the urge to rev your engine and speed up. Not just because you don’t want a speeding ticket, but because you want to savor the moment as you head down into the valley toward the historic village of Chimayó.
Spanish settlers founded Chimayó in the late 17th century. It was ideally situated with the Santa Cruz River to nourish the fertile valley soils, and the surrounding foothills to offer protection from invaders. Farming, raising live stock and wool weaving were the means of survival and trade that made the area famous. The red chile is especially a point of local pride and enjoyed by most visitors looking for authentic northern New Mexican cuisine.
And of course the famous el Santuario de Chimayó sits like a jewel in the fading light of the winter sun. About 200 years ago, many believe miraculous healings occurred at the site where a 6 foot wooden cross was unearthed. The chapel was built in 1816.
Originally named el Santuario de Nuestro Señor de Esquipulas, it is now more commonly known as el Santuario de Chimayó.
Even though there is so much more to discover here, the daylight is disappearing. Making your way to the edge of the village at the junction of State Road 76 where the road to Truchas and Taos turns right, you make a short, half-mile jog to the left to visit John Abrums at his wonderful gallery, Chimayó Trading and Mercantile.
John restored this original 100 year old adobe, once known as “Martinez Mercantile.” John has spent decades collecting beautiful, authentic Native pottery, jewelry, art, baskets, paintings, and weavings.
After spending time browsing and buying those special pieces you never thought you’d find, it’s time to move on along the High Road. Next stop; the tiny village of Truchas, now a famous artist community. To be continued in part 2…