Breathe in the Mountain Vistas
Skiing • Churches • Art Galleries
1. RIVERSIDE DRIVE. Begin on Riverside Drive in Española. At the intersection of NM 68 and SR 76, drive east on SR 76. Points of interest. On your left is El Paragua Restaurant, an Atencio family enterprise beloved by locals and visitors alike. A little further on, notice a small chapel on your right. Though locked, it is interesting for its architecture representing the dominant building tradition in our Valley.
2. SANTA CRUZ. Continuing along SR 76, you will pass through the settlement of Santa Cruz, founded by Governor De Vargas in 1695. Point of interest. The venerable Iglesia (church) de Santa Cruz De La Cañada has been in its present location since 1733. The original structure nearby was prone to flood damage, so the building had to be moved. The Santa Cruz church and its plaza were witness to a revolt against the Mexican government in 1837, and against the U.S. government in 1847. After the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848 all territorial residents became American citizens.
3. SR 76. State Road 76 continues through the settlement of Sombrillo, where a Sikh Darma community is located. State Road 76 is known as 'the highway of the arts.' There are numerous art galleries, artist studios and trading posts along this route. All are worth a visit, so take your time as you drive this part of the route! Point of interest. Pass through the community of Cuarteles, which means 'headquarters.' This area has some of the oldest acequias, or irrigation ditches, in the entire state.
4. CHIMAYÓ. Weaving in Chimayó goes back more than 8 generations. There are many weaving shops and galleries in the area. The quality of the textiles is unparalleled. The Santuario de Chimayó, the “Lourdes of America” is a must visit. Tens of thousands of pilgrims walk to the Santuario during Holy Week before Easter Sunday. Chimayó also boasts a museum located behind Ortega’s Weaving Shop & Gallery.
5. CORDOVA AND TRUCHAS. As you ascend the mountain, the first village you will see is Cordova, noted for its wood-working tradition. Ahead, spread out along the crest of a ridge, is the town of Truchas. Note Truchas Peak in the distance, elevation 13,101-feet (second highest in the state). The road makes a sharp left turn at Truchas; watch for the SR 76 sign. Before turning, you might wish to drive straight, through the village itself. There are numerous examples of adobe architecture, from homes to small tiendas (stores). Truchas is one of the state's most pristine, unchanged Hispanic villages. Much of Robert Redford's film, 'The Milagro Beanfield War,' was shot here. (After passing through Truchas, you will need to turn around and retrace your route back to SR 76.)
6. LAS TRAMPAS. The outstanding site here is the adobe San Jose de Gracia Misión Church in the center of the village on your right. This is one of the Southwest's most beautiful Catholic Churches. Be sure to stop and tour the interior. San Jose de Gracia Misión Church has been lovingly restored; note the bronze tablet inside commemorating its restoration during the administration of President George H. Bush. The church has been entered on the National Register of Historic Places. Continue on SR 76 through the village of Chamisal, with its charming pitched tin roof homes and unpaved side roads. Points of interest. Picuris Pueblo is the smallest of New Mexico's 19 pueblos. The artists are known for their micaceous clay pottery. The Church of San Lorenzo has been carefully restored. The doors are usually open. Self Guided walking tours are available at the Governor’s Office. Local artists sell pottery from their home workshops. Look for the signs. San Lorenzo Feast Day is celebrated on August 10. For Pueblo information call (505) 587-2519. The next town is Peñasco, which typifies the small mountain communities of northern New Mexico. Not on this tour is the Sipapu Ski Area, about four miles east on NM 518.
7. RANCHOS DE TAOS. Just past Placita, you will turn left on NM 518 for the drive into Taos. A notable mountain overlook is the pullout at U.S. Hill. Pass through the quaint Hispanic village of Talpa before turning right toward Taos. Point of interest. Ranchos de Taos is a small settlement immediately west of Taos. Turn right at the village plaza; you are looking at the back of the Church of St. Francis of Assis. This is the view Georgia O'Keeffe painted in one of her most well-known works. 8. TAOS. This beautiful small city is a mecca for artists and art collectors everywhere. There are numerous galleries and trading posts, several fine museums and historical sites like the Martinez Hacienda and The Kit Carson Home and Museum.