12 Top Things to Do in Taos in Summer

Taos is a four-season destination, but I love to visit in the summer! Learn my favorite things to do in Taos from the best hikes to sights around town.

A winding dirt road cuts through a scenic valley, bordered by dense forests and rolling grassy hills under a partly cloudy sky. The vibrant greenery contrasts with the bright blue sky, creating a picturesque landscape in New Mexico

Taos, New Mexico is known for a lot of things: art-lined streets, great restaurants, a rich history, and my favorite – access to awesome outdoor activities. I’ve visited Taos a few times now and I’m always amazed to discover new and awesome things to do – some are even still on my bucket list (like hot air ballooning!).

Many people are surprised to learn that Taos is a four-season destination (and that it sits at 7,000 feet!). It gets a blanket of snow in the winter and then transforms into a perfect sunshine-filled getaway in the summer. Since I’m an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast, I like to visit when the trails are clear and I can explore the mountains canyons around town.

If you’re planning a trip to New Mexico and want to experience the natural beauty of Taos, here is my list of the best things to do in Taos in the summer.

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Things to do in town

1. Take a Taos Walking Tour

Taos is a great town to explore on foot. It’s pretty small and there are lot of narrow streets lined with cool shops, restaurants, and art. You can explore on your own, or if you want to learn more about the history, I recommend booking a Taos walking tour.

After your tour (or during your self-guided tour) be sure to pop into some of the stores and galleries. Taos has a ton of boutique and unique shops.

2. Visit Chokola Chocolate Cafe

Love chocolate? Me too! A visit to the Chokola Chocolate Cafe is a must if you’re in Taos. This little shop makes small-batch bean to bar chocolates that are SO GOOD. You can buy specialty chocolate bars and truffles or sit down for an afternoon treat of cake, mousse, or other chocolatey dessert.

Chokola Chocloate Cafe in Taos, New Mexico
Grab a treat at Chokola Chocolate Cafe!

3. Walk through the Taos Art Museum

I’m not much of a museum person, but the Taos Art Museum is worth checking out because Taos is known for its colorful and unique Southwestern art style. The museum is actually located in the beautiful adobe home and studio of renowned Russian artist Nicolai Fechin, who lived in Taos in the mid-1900s.

4. Visit the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church

The San Francisco de Asis Mission Church is located a few minute’s drive south of the main downtown area in the Ranchos de Taos plaza. Even if you’re not religious, I think the church is worth visiting to see the beautiful Adobe-style architecture and learn about its history. There are also some really nice shops and galleries surrounding the plaza surrounding the church.

San Francisco de Asis Mission Church in Taos NM
The San Francisco de Asis Mission Church in the Ranchos de Taos plaza is worth visiting to see the unique architecture and learn about the history

Taos Hikes

5. Hike to Williams Lake

Williams Lake is a beautiful alpine lake that sits at the base of Wheeler Peak about 40 minutes south of Taos. It’s a 3.7-mile round-trip hike that I think is one of the best in the state!

The trail up to the lake is moderately steep with about 1,000 feet of elevation gain in two miles. But the trek is worth it – the lake and the views of the surrounding mountains are beautiful!

Tips for planning your hike to Williams Lake:
  • The trail is generally clear of snow from late June through October. You can still hike it in the snow, but make sure you have good winter boots and microspikes.
  • Parking is available at Angel Fire Resort (Google driving directions).
  • Williams Lake trail is dog-friendly.

6. Summit Wheeler Peak

If you want a longer and more challenging hike, continue on past Williams Lake up Wheeler Peak Trail to the summit of Wheeler Peak – the highest point in New Mexico. The 360-degree vistas of the surrounding mountains and ridgelines are incredible. It felt like I was in Colorado, not New Mexico.

This is a pretty challenging hike, though. It’s 8.7 miles round trip and has almost 3,000 feet of elevation gain. Also, remember that the trail starts at 10,000 feet (and the summit is just over 13,000)! Even though I live at elevation, I found this hike to be especially challenging because of the altitude.

Views from Wheeler Peak in New Mexico
The views from the top of Wheeler Peak are well worth the effort to get up there
Tips for summiting Wheeler Peak:
  • This is a strenuous hike. It’s just under 9 miles round-trip and has almost 3,000 feet of elevation gain. The trail starts at 10,000 feet and the summit is at 13,000 feet.
  • There will probably still be snow at the top in July.
  • Parking is available at Angel Fire Resort (Google driving directions).

7. Hike the Rio Grande Gorge West Trail

The Rio Grande Gorge is a narrow chasm that the Rio Grande River flows through. It was carved over millions of years and is one of the most unique geological sites in New Mexico. I thought it was really cool and worth the 20-minute drive from Taos.

You can see the gorge, river, and bridge from the overlook, but I recommend hiking the 3.8 mile Rio Grande Gorge West Trail. This trail follows the edge of the gorge and offers better viewpoints. There is no shade along the trail, though, so make sure you’re prepared with good sun protection.

If you prefer to bike, this trail is also open to cyclists.

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge over deep canyon in New Mexico
The Rio Grande Gorge is over 800 feet deep! Get great views of the bridge and canyon from the Rio Grande Gorge West Trail
Tips for hiking the Rio Grande Gorge West Trail:
  • There is no shade along the trail, though, so make sure you’re prepared with good sun protection and plenty of water.
  • This trail does have some exposure, although you never have to get too close to the edge. That being said, it might not be the best hike for those with a fear of heights.
  • Park at the overlook

Taos Adventure Activities

8. Go Ballooning

New Mexico has become synonymous with hot air ballooning thanks to the International Balloon Fiesta, which occurs every fall in Albuquerque. But Albuquerque isn’t the only place where you can catch a ride.

Taos has several outfitters ready to take couples, families, and adventurers high up over the Sangre de Cristos and through the Rio Grande Gorge – home to the 7th highest bridge in the US. This has been on my bucket list for a while! Check out Taos Ballon Rides if you want to see Taos from the air.

9. Ride Angel Fire Bike Park

Located about 40 minutes north of Taos, Angel Fire Resort transforms into a bike park during the summer season. With over 40 miles of downhill trails accessed by the Chili Express lift, Angel Fire is one of the best bike parks in the west.

If you don’t have your own bike, Angel Fire offers rentals as well as lessons. Bearfoot Theory team member, Becky, says that Angel Fire is one of her all-time favorite bike parks. Read her tips for first-time visitors to Angel Fire to learn more about what to expect.

Mountain biker riding down wooden bridge feature at Angel Fire Bike Park in New Mexico
If you love mountain biking, you’ll love Angel Fire Bike Park

10. Raft Taos Box

Locals and tourists alike can be found rafting the Taos Box in the summer. This 17-mile stretch of the Rio Grande River features class IV whitewater rapids and really good chances of spotting Bighorn sheep, elk, otters, and sometimes even mountain lions.

To raft Taos Box, book a guided tour with New Mexico River Adventures. They provide you with everything you need. Over 60 rapids line the course, 13 of which are classified as Class 3 and 4, making the Taos Box the ultimate summer thrill. No past river-rafting experience is needed here, but this trip is not suited for small kids.

Taos Scenic Drives

11. Drive the Enchanted Circle

The Enchanted Circle Drive is an 84-mile route that circles Wheeler Peak (the highest point in New Mexico) and passes through some of the most scenic landscapes in northern New Mexico.

The route is marked with Enchanted Circle Markers, but I recommend downloading this map to help you navigate. It takes about 2-3 hours (or more if you stop often) to drive the full loop.

Here are a few highlights to look out for along the drive:

  • Red River Fish Hatchery where you can take a self-guided tour of the ponds.
  • Artesanos de Questa a cooperative in Questa where local craftspeople show their work. You can see woodworking, painting, textiles, sculptures, and more.
  • Red River, a town stuck in time. Stroll through the streets to get a feel of the Old West. Red River is a ski town, but in the summer you can take the scenic chairlift to the top of the mountain for good views.
  • Hike to Williams Lake. The route passes Angel Fire, so if you have time, you can stop for a hike up to Williams Lake.
  • Detour out to Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge spans the Rio Grande Gorge. You can stop in at the Visitors Center or take a walk on one of the hiking trails (see the Rio Grande Gorge West Trail above).
Map of the Enchanted Circle Drive route near Taos, New Mexico
The Enchanted Circle Drive route | Photo credit: New Mexico Tourism

12. Drive through Cimarron Canyon

Cimarron Canyon State Park is a beautiful state park about an hour northeast of Taos. The sheer cliff walls tower above the road and I had to crane my neck to see the top of them as I was driving.

Just driving through the park is pretty, but if you want to make the most of your day there, I recommend packing a picnic lunch and hitting the trails. Cimarron also has a campground if you want to spend the night.

Learn more about Cimarron Canyon State Park.

Road through Cimarron Canyon State Park in New Mexico with tall cliffs on righthand side
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What are your favorite things to do in Taos in the summer? Which of these do you want to check out? Leave a comment below!

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  1. I recently took a quiz that told me my “top 20 places” to live in the US. A couple of spots were surprisingly in New Mexico! I have to say, you’ve painted a pretty tantalizing picture of Taos. Tell me there’s a children’s hospital in the area and it’ll officially be on “the list.” 😉