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The High Road to Taos
...scenic route runs from Taos to Santa Fe through Penasco, Las Trampas, Truchas,   Chimayo,  and to Hwy 285.

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Scenic Routes

to Taos

Turquoise Trail

Santa Fe Trail

Hwy of Legends

Directions  The High Road to Taos is entered from 285 at Espanola and runs along hwy 76 through Santa Cruz, Chimayo, Truchas, Las Trampas, and Penasco. After Penasco, you turn left on NM 518. This will take you into Taos.   An alternative is to turn east from Hwy 285 while heading north from Santa Fe onto NM 502 which runs through Nambe. When you get to Chimayo, you turn right onto hwy 76.

Interactive Map  To view scenes along the roads, place mouse over each camera eye, wait a few seconds, and a photo of the scenery will appear.

High Country Adobe Home in Ranchos de Taos area Inviting doorway Serpetine adobe wall along a Taos sidewalk. Fall in the countryside around Taos
The Church of San Jose de Garcia in Las Trampas is one of the finest surviving 18th century churches in New Mexico The old Hispanic village of Truchas A Chimayo Restaurant Church in Nambe

The Plaza

Most of the towns along this route were established in the 1600s and 1700s long before New Mexico became a territory of the United States. All were originally built around a plaza . Taos and Santa Fe are famous for their plazas.

The old Spanish settlements of New Mexico were built according to a plan proscribed by the Spanish Empire in 1573 called the "Recopilacion de Leyes". This plan required all settlements to be built around a plaza with a communal area for common grazing called La Vega. Homes were built surrounding the plaza of adobe. Strips of land were allocated to each measured in Varas (33"). Single men were given 50-100 Varas and married men were given 100 to 200 varas

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  • Beautiful mountain views

  • The Iglesia de Santa Cruz De La Canada

  • "Highway of the Arts" along State Road 76

  • Chimayo weaving going back for more than 8 generations

  • The Santuario de Chimayo, a site for pilgrims during Holy Week

  • The town of Cordova known for its woodworking

  • The hispanic village of Truchas, site of Robert Redford's film, "The Milagro Beanfield War"

  • San Jose de Gracia Mision Church in Las Trampas

  • Picuris Pueblo (near Penasco)

  • Taos,
    the Plaza, many shops, galleries, and restaurants

Follow the History of this Area



Friar Marcos de Niza in 1539 made an exploration of the area of New Mexico and reached the pueblo of Zuni where he took possession of all the surrounding country and named the territory "The New Kingdom of St. Francis". He returned to Mexico and reported tales of the seven cities of Cibola.

Upon hearing these stories, Coronado set out to explore the area from California to Kansas. However, no colonies were established until 1598 when Juan de Onate accompanied by ten Franciscans under Father Alonso Martinez, and 400 men, marched along the Rio Grande and founded the first Spanish capital of San Juan de los Caballeros north of present day Espanola near the junction of the Chama and the Rio Grande .

This remained the capital of the district until it was moved to Santa Fe in 1609-1610 after Onate was removed as Governor and sent to Mexico City to be tried for mistreatment of the Indians. Construction began on the Palace of the Governors at this time.


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Plan Your Trip through the Southwest

Fodor's Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque - $17.99
Fodor's Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque - $17.99

from: Random House
Fodor's New Mexico - $18.99
Fodor's New Mexico - $18.99

from: Random House


In 1680, a rebellion broke out called the Pueblo Revolt which drove the Spanish out of the province. Many went to El Paso del Norte. However, after only 11 years, the Spanish under Antonio de Vargas reconquered the same area, occupied the towns, and re-established the missions.

Chimayo was settled in 1692 and in 1695 a new villa was founded called Santa Cruz de Canada, around which most of the families which had come with De Vargas under Padre Farfan were settled.  This was the first town to be established under De Vargas.  Santa Cruz was built to protect the Spanish frontier north of Santa Fe.

The church was constructed in the 1730s.

The final battle of the reconquest was fought in 1696 in which Gov. Diega de Vargas defeated the Indians of Taos Pueblo at nearby Taos Canyon.

In 1837 there was a revolt here against the Mexican authorities which resulted in the death of Governor Albino Perez.



Starting in 1743, french trappers had reached Santa Fe and began a limited trade with the Spanish.

In 1753, Las Trampas was established and in 1760 the San Jose de Gracia mission was built there which is still one of the the finest surviving 18th century churches in New Mexico.



In 1813, El Santuario de Nuestra Senor de Esquipulas (El Santuario) was built in Chimayo. Pilgrimages to this church are an important part of the Holy Week in Northern New Mexico.

In 1821, the Mexicans declared their independence from Spain and in that year the Santa Fe Trail was opened as an international trade route from St. Louis to Santa Fe. While Spain controled Mexico, trade with the US was prohibited.

Mexico traded donkeys, mules,buffalo hides, buckskins, cotton blankets, and gold. The US traded cloth, shoes, hats, bonnets, jewelry,window glass, paper, hardware, and exotic foods such as oysters and champagne. The Spanish silver made Missouri one of the most financially sound states in the nation. By 1840, Chimayo blankets were in great demand for traders and tens of thousands were traded out of New Mexico.

In 1845 President Polk put pressure on Mexico to transfer title of New Mexico and California to the US as payment for debts. There was an outbreak of fighting May 1846. President Polk ordered military occupation of New Mexico and California on Aug. 17, 1846.

In 1846, the US declared war on Mexico. In 1848, Mexican and American officials signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo. The US gained much of the Mexican territory including New Mexico and Colorado. By 1847, military posts were established on the SantaFe Trail.

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