Amazing Drives Near Santa Fe
New Mexico's Scenic Byways
Northern New Mexico is home to dozens of scenic byways with their own unique and gorgeous views. From the High Roads to Taos to the Enchanted Circle, each one will surely amaze and inspire you. Some of these drives also happen to be a great way to get to some of our favorite day trips from Santa Fe.
Here are some of our favorites:
The High Road to Taos
This byway runs through and alongside many natural and cultural treasures, such as the Jemez Mountains and the sacred community of the Santuario de Chimayo. The drive provides roughly 2 ½ hours of pure natural beauty, ancient history, and rich culture. During your journey you may want to check out the El Posito, a hole in the Santuario de Chimayo, believed to have healing earth inside it. For those drawn to scenic beauty, we invite you to pull over to the side of the road and smell the abundant blue flax of June and July or the purple aster of August and September. The route ends in the Saint Francis Plaza of Rancheros de Taos, made famous by the paintings of Georgia O’ Keeffe.
Wild Rivers Scenic Byway
Sliced almost 800 feet deep by the Rio Grande, the primarily flatland of juniper and sagebrush give way to the Wild Rivers Scenic Byway. Surrounded by volcanic cones, the Sangre de Cristo peaks, and many more breath-taking views. Witness the wildlife of the Rio Grande, abundant and pure. With the rushing waves of the river, be astonished by the unruly yet perfect serenity of it all.
Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway
For those in search of creepy history, the ghost towns that lie along the Turquoise Trail byway are perfect for you. Cerrillos is an example of life in New Mexico years ago. Once bustling with activity, the 21 saloons, 5 brothels, and 4 hotels are now perfect symbols for what adventures awaited those in the time of the cowboy. But the town is creeping back! Ranging from fun at the trading post, a petting zoo, and at Cerrillos station a spa and wellness center.
Santa Fe National Scenic Byway
In the winter, this byway is filled with people on their way to hit the slopes of the Santa Fe Ski Basin. But during the fall, spring, and summer the byway plays a more peaceful role. As you drive up the winding road of the mountain, feel free to stop and take a hike through one of the most beautiful forests known to man. Most of all, starting on October 1, witness the golden aspens in all their beauty. Picnic, camp, hike, or drive, this byway will always instill you with a sense of wonder. Even after the fifth or sixth drive up!
Puye Cliffs Scenic Byway
While only seven miles long, the Puye Cliffs Byway is the ultimate route for those interested in the life zones of New Mexico, as the byway showcases four out of our seven. Be dazzled as you drive through Puye’s low hills, engulfed in its beautiful woodland made up of piñon, juniper, and grama grass. As the hills flatten out and the road begins to slope upwards, look for the Puye Cliff Dwellings close by. As you turn into the National Historic Landmark, you will surely be hit with a sense that the byway is just the start to a new and remarkable adventure.
Jemez Scenic Byway
As you drive by the Jemez Pueblo and drift through an area full of hot springs, be prepared to be awe-struck by all this byway offers. Hear the symphony of the rushing Jemez River as you drive by the magnificent volcanic cliffs. Let your jaw drop as you stop at Soda Dam, a place where vibrant “petrified” waterfalls in a dome shape fashion. Finally relax at the Spence Hot Springs, kicking back in your choice of naturally heated pools.
Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway
The Enchanted Circle has a bit of everything! It combines the ancient culture of New Mexico’s oldest occupied residence, Taos Pueblo, and the buzzing activity of Hollywood, with such movies as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “Easy Rider” having been filmed here. It offers a variety of camping and fishing spots, hiking and ski trails, and beautiful alpine views. For those interested in a slight detour, the Rio Grande George Bridge is the perfect spot for an impressive selfie.
For more information on scenic drives in the rest of New Mexico, check out the New Mexico Scenic Byways guide written by our friends at New Mexico True.