Just How Magical is the Enchanted Circle of New Mexico?
Magical enough to make you feel off the grid and get a break from it all.
When most people think of New Mexico, they picture rock formations, adobes and deserts. It may surprise you to learn that the Northeastern region of New Mexico sits amidst the heavily wooded most Southern peaks of the Rockies.
It’s a little known secret that Texans and Oklahomans have descended on for decades. They’ve been coming to escape the heat, celebrate Fall and enjoy less crowded slopes than you’d find skiing in neighboring Colorado. Here, in the region lovingly named the Enchanted Circle, the towns of Red River, Eagle Nest, Angel Fire and Taos are brimming with Douglas Firs, Ponderosas and Aspens. Summer hiking trails accompany streams lined with wildflowers. In winter, expect fresh snow and above-average doses of sunshine. This combination makes the Enchanted Circle of New Mexico the perfect playground in the Rockies for things to do year-round.
Imagine waking to the breathtaking panorama of mountains shrouded in the morning sun. Take your coffee outside and sit in the peaceful expose of untouched nature. You’re likely to see bald eagles, deer, elk, longhorn sheep and even a bear or two in the twilight hours.
It’s a little piece of heaven in the corner of New Mexico, a place so rich in history and natural wonders that will make you question why you’ve never ventured here before.
The Rich History of Red River
For over a century, southerners have been vacationing in the charming once-mining town that we’ve come to know and love as beautiful Red River. Named for the cold clear river that carries mud of a reddish hue as it trickles down the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Red River became a hot spot for gold miners in the late 1800s. Some of the early prospectors like the Malette brothers of Ft. Garland, Colorado, took up permanent residence here and established the Willow Placer Mining Claim at the western end of the Valley.
Two of the brothers, Orin and Ver Malette built Anglo-American style log cabins that still stand today. The architecture was typical of early Anglo-American structures consisting of a pen (4-sided structure) and either accompanying a shed or spanned by a breezeway. Click here for a full list of historical sites in Red River, NM.
Unfortunately, like many early mining towns the gold and silver trade began to dry up. For Red River, however, that didn’t mean an end to the flourishing town. Vacationers from neighboring states had begun to seek out summer refuge in the cool mountains as early as 1905. With a little help from local newspapers like the Albuquerque and the Red River Miner which portrayed Red River ‘as a natural trout fishing paradise and a great way to escape the summer heat.’
More importantly, they noted that locals were friendly and made travelers feel welcome which still rings true today.
Red River, unlike other early mining towns like Elizabethtown which once flourished on the other side of Wheeler Peak, remains a sought-out destination with many accommodations for summer and winter attractions. Couples, friends and families continue to flock here to ski, fish, hike or simply connect with nature. Red River sits in a pristine valley flanked on all sides by mountain slopes. Breathtaking peaks dotted with Silver and Blue Spruce trees make a sublime backdrop for the charming shops and eateries that line Main Street, the lively hub of town.
As far as we’re concerned, you’d be hard-pressed to find many other spots this naturally breathtaking in the continental US.
Eagle Nest & The Legacy of The Laguna Vista Hotel
Just 17 miles Southwest of Red River, lies the small town of Eagle Nest. Known for its storied past of gambling and gangsters, Eagle Nest sits in the flatlands of Moreno Valley, in between Baylor and Wheeler Peaks. Situated on the shores of Eagle Nest Lake, it’s home to some of the best Angler fishing around.
Legend has it that gangsters such as Billy the Kid, Clay Allison and Black Jack Ketchum used to pass through here on the way to and from Santa Fe. In 1898 a hotel was erected in the center of town. Originally named El Monte, the hotel fast became a hotspot for traveling dignitaries, gangsters and gambling. Gunfights would often break out in the streets. While right up the road in Cimarron, the St. James hotel, is also rumored to have housed these gangsters and was reputedly a place of Wild West shootouts and nefarious gatherings.
El Monte flourished during the 20s and 30s when its name was changed to the Laguna Vista Lodge. The lively western saloon, complete with a swinging door and brothel rooms above, was a very popular resting spot between Santa Fe and Raton. From the early decades of the hotel’s existence, stories of ghosts and paranormal activities have been handed down through the years.
Most famously, there is said to be the ghost of a young woman who had checked in for her wedding, but her groom left and never returned. It is thought that she is still waiting to this day.
Today the Laguna Vista boasts recently renovated guest rooms, meeting spaces and spacious private cabins. A full-service restaurant complete with an outdoor BBQ and patio venue which hosts anything from weddings, live performances and festivals. Find events and room deals when you book direct.
Read More About Paranormal Activities at Laguna Vista Lodge .
Angel Fire Translated From Fires of Angels
What Angel Fire lacks in cowboy history, it makes up for in refinements. Centered around a Country Club offering golf, entertainment and nightlife, Angel Fire is also home to Angel Fire Resort. Known for skiing and snowboarding in the winter, the resort is a haven for mountain bike enthusiasts in the summer.
Family-oriented with activities for any skill level, Angel Fire offers a plethora of options from ziplining to winter tubing. The resort which was built on a cattle pasture in 1966 is surrounded today with luxury mountain cabins. Arresting views of Wheeler Peak and winding mountain roads provide all the natural seclusion of a great mountain getaway.
Although not haunted, Angel Fire is not without the possession of a mysterious hotel. The Grande was built in 2010 and never opened. It includes a sauna, penthouse like suites, two-person ski lodges and banquet rooms. The future of The Grande is yet to be determined.
Lastly, Taos & Taos Ski Valley. While the two have similar names they couldn’t be more different.
Enjoy Alpine Influence in the Taos Ski Valley
In the Ski Valley the European descent of founder, Ernie Blake can be seen in the charming Bavarian architecture and Alpine influence of some of the earliest residents. After securing land from the well-heeled Patterson family, Ernie opened the first ski run in 1957. A slew of visitors and need for housing eventually led to the Taos Ski Valley becoming its own municipality in 1996.
With the European feel, upscale homes and 12,000 foot slopes, Taos Ski Valley remains authentically charming, bringing in Tycoons and families alike. Host to National ski and snowboarding championships, Taos Ski Valley attracts visitors from all across the world.
Unleash Your Inner Artist in Taos
Taos is mostly known for its artist community and a bit of the ‘stay weird’ culture that you find in Austin. Most restaurants and lodgings are proprietary locally-owned venues that heavily reflect the New Mexico culture. Some of our favorite galleries in Taos include:
Pro Tip: The local food is hatch chiles so make sure you get some when you’re there.
Taos is a progressive city, with a strong sense of community. Here locals are embedded in support of the generations of artists, writers and performers that flock here. Some famous Taos residents over the years include: fashion-icon Millicent Rogers, artist Georgia O’Keeffe, actress Julia Roberts, actor Dennis Hopper and photographer Ansel Adams.
Image: Pat Woodall Fine Art
The alluring nature and weather throughout the Enchanted Circle brings people from all over traveling there over and over again. With an abundance of things to do year round, Red River, Eagle’s Nest, Angel Fire, Taos Ski Valley and Taos resurrect themselves each day before the blood red peaks of the Sangre Cristo Mountains. You’ll be met with crisp mountain air and the peaceful sounds that can only be provided by nature.
What are you waiting for? Aren’t you ready to be enchanted?
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