Soft Adventure Meets Luxury Spas in New Mexico
Beyond the prestigious art galleries, hippie-chic boutiques, and cultural abundance of Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico also offers a lesser-known adventure experience.
One of my favorite New Mexico adventures was an action-packed week spent river rafting, horse back riding, mountain biking, hiking, and even llama trekking. Better yet, at the end of each day, I returned to world-class dining, exotic spa treatments, and luxurious lodgings.
Ready to launch your own New Mexico escape? I’ve already done the legwork for you. Here’s my travel-tested lineup of where to stay, and play, in and around Santa Fe and Taos:
I started off the week at a unique, locally owned retreat, Sunrise Springs Resort Spa, a seventy-acre tranquil eco oasis built around spring-fed ponds, fluttering cottonwoods, and organic gardens twelve miles from downtown Santa Fe. My husband and I spent two nights, but could happily have stayed a week. Between the extensive selections of healing treatments at the resort’s Spa Samadhi, the art and yoga classes at the Sages Arts Center, and the inspired menu at the Blue Heron Restaurant (don’t miss their freshly made ceviches!), there was plenty to tempt us to extend our stay. Fourteen years ago to the day, we eloped to Santa Fe. Celebrating our anniversary over an exquisite dinner of conch ceviche, crab, and roasted corn flan and pan seared halibut at the water’s edge beneath ancient willows and cottonwoods while a jazz quartet played nearby was divine. Truly a special moment enjoyed in a special place. You can bet we’ll be back.
Fortunately, next up was three nights at La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa, situated just two blocks from Santa Fe’s historic Plaza and gallery strewn Canyon Road. A primo shopper’s locale, be sure to budget in dinner at Fuego, a AAA Four Diamond restaurant; you won’t regret it. Their new executive chef, Mary Nearn, has created an innovative menu that left us talking about it for days afterwards. Her Ancho chile basted pork tenderloin with Anasazi beans, Spanish chorizo, and peanut mole was delish!
For years, I’ve wanted to soak in the healing hot springs at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa, long a local favorite, but somehow I never got there—until this trip. It did not disappoint. Open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., you can enjoy all seven mineral pools, bathhouse, steam, sauna, and mud bath at the budget-friendly cost of $16 for the day, with additional spa services available. Or you can stay overnight, like we did, and wander back to your room from the pools in your bathrobe, star gaze until the cool evening air drives you inside to snuggle up next to a kiva fireplace and wake up to dazzling golden light illuminating red rock cliffs. Ah, there’s most definitely something in the water—specifically, lithia, iron, soda, and arsenic (yup, arsenic, regulars swear by it). Deemed sacred by the Native American tribes of northern New Mexico, the geothermal springs have been soothing body, mind and spirit for hundreds, even thousands, of years.
Topping off the week was the elegant Casa de las Chimeneas Inn & Spa, Taos’ best kept secret since 1988. This hidden gem, tucked away in a quiet residential neighborhood in walking distance to the Plaza, was, perhaps, the nicest surprise of the trip. Spacious accommodations, exceptionally lovely breakfasts, and gracious gardens (with cozy seating and WiFi for those of us who like our morning news in electronic form) had me wishing we could stay more than the one night we’d allowed. Live and learn.
No, you don’t have to head to Macchu Pichu to find a llama trek. Wild Earth Llama Adventures in Taos offers everything from gourmet-lunch day hikes to multi-day wilderness adventures. Their “take a llama to lunch” day hike was a trip highlight. I’m a sucker for animal interaction and these adorable llamas had me hooked with the first flutter of their long, lovely eyelashes. While the llamas toted our lunch, backpacks, and water, we were free to amble along beside them, fascinated by our four-legged hiking companions and distracted from the actual mileage we covered. The genius behind the treks is forty-year-old owner and llama guru, Stuart Wilde, a congenial outdoorsman who traded the concrete and congestion of New York city for the wild blue yonder twenty years ago and hasn’t looked back since. Next time, we’re booking a multi-day trip, followed by a shower and stay at Casa de las Chimeneas!
No visit to Taos would be complete without a stopover at the Taos Inn and a “Cowboy Buddha” margarita at its Adobe Bar, and a meal at Doc Martin’s Restaurant, be it a breakfast of blue corn huevos rancheros, a green chile cheesburger for lunch, or a dinner of Doc’s famous chile relleno. No arguing here. You simply MUST go. Too many buddhas? No problema, book a room at the inn and make it an overnight.
Taos’ high desert location at the foot of the sacred Taos Mountain and multi-storied mud-brick Pueblo, continuously inhabited for more than 1000 years, has inspired generations of artists, writers, and travelers. But the town is also a haven for the adventurous—host to world-class skiing at Taos Ski Valley in the winter, and wet-and-wild whitewater rafting on the famed Rio Grande in the summer. Offering trips from mild to wild, our half-day Racecourse itinerary with New Wave Rafting Co., featured five miles of exciting whitewater rapids (Class 3/Moderate and Class 4/Difficult, in high water) and provided all the necessary rafting equipment (paddles, helmet, and life-vest). True-blue thrill-seekers will want to check out their full-day Taos Box itinerary boasting sixteen miles of non-stop rapids (Class 4/Difficult and Class 5/Very Difficult, in high water).
Back in Santa Fe, adventurous cowpokes will want to spend time horsing around on a scenic trail ride through the stables at The Bishop’s Lodge Resort & Spa. Riding western style with a friendly wrangler in the lead, our morning ride took us high into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with views of the city of Santa Fe and the surrounding countryside. Offering both private and group rides open to the public, you can choose from cowboy breakfast rides, barbeque dinner rides, sunset and monthly moonlight rides.
While The Bishop’s Lodge SháNah Spa & Wellness Center offers an award-winning treatment menu sure to work out any kinks after a ride, we were booked for Nirvana. Absolute Nirvana Balinese Spa & Gardens, to be exact. It’s a heck of a name to live up to, but nirvana is certainly the state of mind I was in after my Javanese Lulur treatment. A blissful elixir, the two-hour treatment began with a gentle footbath and hour-long massage using jasmine garland hot oil. Next was a body mask of creamy yogurt and honey and exfoliating scrub of sandalwood, brown rice powder, and turmeric. And it just kept getting better. After a private steam shower you’re left to luxuriate in a rose-petal strewn bath while sipping hot Javanese ginger tea and nibbling on fruits and a homemade organic chocolate truffle. You see what a mean? Nirvana, without a doubt! Every sense was awakened, from the aroma of essential oils to the trickle of cool yogurt and sprinkle of brown rice powder, the silky smooth red rose petals, spicy ginger tea, and rich sweet chocolate.
For true one-stop adventure shopping, look no further than Santa Fe Mountain Adventures. Blending adventure, fitness, culture, and education, you dream it, they put it together. The only hard part is choosing. They offer everything from guided hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, yoga, southwestern cooking, private gallery tours, Native art experiences, creative pottery, star parties, and much more, all customized to suit your time, your interests, your comfort, and fitness level. Private, group, corporate and family packages are available. With one phone call, a Santa Fe Mountain Adventure specialist booked our Taos rafting adventure, a morning rails-to-trails mountain bike ride, and Sundowner Hike and Outdoor Cooking Class. Great fun. Great deal. Great guides.
Now, off you go …