After a hot two weeks in Palo Duro Canyon we were excited to hitch up and head over to Taos, New Mexico for cooler temperatures. We drove through some heavy crosswinds on our way out of Texas but our Tundra handled the drive with ease. Once over the border, we traveled via the incredibly scenic NM-518 through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and got a good taste of what it’s like to tow our RV on steep grades. Using lower gears and minding the speed limit is a must. The heavy wind and mountain passes definitely had an impact on our fuel economy as we dropped from an average of 11 mpg to only 9.5 for this trip.
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge:
Fun fact, the bridge over the Rio Grande Gorge ranks somewhere between fifth and seventh (depending on the source) for the highest bridge in the United States. I made sure not to mention this to my heights-loathing husband until after our visit.
When our navigation indicated the destination was just a quarter mile ahead, I was sure we had been led to the wrong place. I’m not sure what I was expecting but as we traveled down the flat road, the massive gorge and bridge pretty much came out of nowhere.
Visitors headed from Taos can drive over the bridge, park in the lot, and use the sidewalk that crosses the bridge for spectacular views of the gorge. I expected there to be more parking and I imagine finding a spot can be difficult on a busy day. Along the bridge there are several suicide prevention phones that call out to a crisis hotline with the push of a button. It was sort of a sobering moment to see the phones and remember that not everyone visits the bridge for the same reason. I learned the phones were installed a few years ago in an effort to end suicides at the bridge. For anyone who is thinking of suicide, please know there is help. You can confidentially chat online with someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1-800-273-8255.
We visited the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge a second time to hit up the West Rim Trail on our mountain bikes. As the name implies, the trail runs along the west rim of the gorge offering dramatic views of the scenery.
The trail is mostly flat with large rocks making it the perfect challenge for beginners, like us. We visited on Memorial Day and surprisingly there wasn’t a lot of traffic on the trail. We ran across fewer than 10 hikers and bikers during our trek. There’s no shade along the trail, so visitors should come prepared with water and sun protection.
Adding to the magic of the area, we came across a rock garden with prayer flags and an encouraging note that said, “Don’t quit your daydream.” I couldn’t agree more!
Accessibility Notes: Accessible parking and restrooms are available in the parking area for the bridge. Paved pathways allow access to restrooms, covered picnic tables, and a few scenic overlooks with benches that run above the rim of the gorge.
At the time of our visit there was not an accessible sidewalk or path from the parking area to the paved sidewalk that crosses the bridge. In others words, I saw no safe way for someone in a wheelchair or scooter to get to the sidewalk and cross the bridge without entering the roadway. To access the bridge’s sidewalk from the parking area, visitors must cross a dirt and brush field and step over a steel road barricade.
There was an open area that could possibly provide an accessible route to the bridge’s sidewalk but it was barricaded off during our visit, possibly for construction.
Designated as a World Heritage Site and National Historic Landmark by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the Taos Pueblo has been inhabited for over 1000 years.We arrived at the Pueblo just in time to participate in the free guided tour (gratuity appreciated). As we were led through the Pueblo, our knowledgeable guide shared the history of the Pueblo Indians and talked about how they live and thrive today.
Made entirely from adobe bricks and plaster, the Pueblo walls are several feet thick and well-insulated, providing warm winters and cool summers. The Pueblo consists of many homes, arranged similar to apartments with adjoining walls. Each home in the Pueblo is owned and maintained by a family. Many residents operate curio shops in their homes, selling artwork, jewelry, crafts, and traditional foods to Pueblo visitors. Being the bread-lovers we are, we purchased a some fresh frybread, baked over a cedar fire in a dome-shaped adobe oven known as a Horno. It was absolutely delicious!
We learned from our guide that the Pueblo has no electricity or plumbing. All water for cooking, drinking, and bathing is supplied by the pristine Red Willow Creek. The water is so clean and pure, no filtration is needed.
Accessibility Notes: With its flat and solid terrain and wide pathways, the Taos Pueblo is accessible and can be enjoyed by visitors of all abilities. Some homes with curio shops have shallow steps (1-3 inches) and may be a tight squeeze for larger wheelchairs or scooters. I did not see any reserved accessible parking, however there were staff available to help direct visitors to parking areas.
Black Rock Hot Springs:
When I learned there were a few hot springs along the Rio Grande I had to check it out. Out of Taos, a quick drive up Highway 522 North then a left turn down County Road B007 will take you to Black Rock Hot Springs. County Road B007 is gravel with some rather large potholes but you couldn’t ask for a more scenic drive as you head down into the gorge. Pass over a few one-lane bridges and you arrive at the Rio Grande with easy access to the water.
Accessibility Notes: Unfortunately not much has been done to make the hot springs accessible. The trail that leads down the gorge to the hot springs is steep, narrow, and requires maneuvering over large boulders. However, there’s a road on the left just before crossing the John Dunn Bridge that leads to a parking area that sits directly on the bank of the river. The bank is mostly flat and visitors using wheelchairs or scooters who don’t mind a little dirt and sand could possibly access the water from here. There is no reserved accessible parking, however there is a fair amount of parking along the road, and the riverbank, and in the parking areas. On a busy day, parking could be challenging. That being said, we visited on Memorial Day weekend just after lunch when it was probably as busy as it gets, and we were able to park our big truck with no problem.