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The winding road: Albuquerque to Taos, New Mexico
Why: A back-road glimpse into the old Southwest, linking up hippy towns, centuries-old Hispanic villages, and Indian pueblos.
What to expect: These spiderwebs of secondary tracks journey through the juniper-dotted high desert, around the Sandia mountain range outside of Albuquerque, and along the spine of the Sangre de Cristos. You could hurry along, but why would you?
Start your engines: From Albuquerque, take I-40 East until Route 14 West—the back way to Santa Fe. You'll pass Madrid, an old mining town turned artist/hippy enclave where the Travolta movie Wild Hogs was partly shot last year. (It's okay, we didn't see it either.) The drive to Santa Fe should take no more than several hours, so tarry in the City Different until you're ready to push north to Taos using the 83 miles of interconnecting roads known as the High Road (it will take between two and four hours).
Road secrets: The High Road passes through picturesque villages that have been here since the Spanish first came in the 1600s. With Old World–sounding names like Chimayó, Truchas, and Las Trampas, these high-mountain places appear to have opted out of the slipstream of modern time—the old pueblo-style churches like El Santuario de Chimayó are as relevant to the residents as they would have been 200 years ago. No wonder Robert Redford used the town of Truchas for his 1988 movie the Milagro Beanfield War. (That one we did see.)
Shack up: It might be a toss-up whether to spend more time freewheeling the countryside or spending it at El Monte Sagrado, in Taos—one of the best properties in New Mexico. Excellent service, private outdoor tubs in the separate global suites, and a spa that uses local ingredients add up to an experience worthy of the state's moniker—the Land of Enchantment.
New Mexico Tourism, High Road
Tel: 800 545 2070
El Monte Sagrado
Tel: 800 828 8267
Doubles from $359 per night
El Santuario de Chimayó
Tel: 505 351 4360