New Mexico is one of those states where you can enjoy riding in a number of different environments. You can do desert riding in the southern part of the state, ride the twisty turns and steep canyons in the semi-dry climate of the Gila Wilderness Area, traverse the plains of the eastern section, or enjoy the tall pines and verdant glens of the north state’s scenic mountains.
US 64 is one of those scenic roads which will take you from the arid desert lands of the Navajo Nation on the west to nearly 11,000 feet in the pine forests of the Brazos Mountains and finally to the western edge of the Great Plains near Raton. In July 2010, I led a group of riders through the northern part of New Mexico. We picked up US 64 at its western terminus at the eastern edge of Arizona. My favorite part of this highway is the 237 mile segment from Farmington, NM, to Angel Fire, just east of Taos.
You can stay in Farmington before starting this part of US 64 where there are a number of comfortable motels under $100. Both the Quality Inn and the Best Western Inn and Suites fall within this criteria. I stayed at the Best Western, which has an on site restaurant and cocktail lounge. A hot breakfast buffet was included with the price of the room.
From Farmington, you can deviate from US 64 a few miles and tour the Aztec Ruins National Monument in the town of Aztec. Just take State Rout 516 east about 14 miles to Aztec. The tour takes about an hour and a half and it’s well worth the time. Don’t be confused by the name, as the Aztec Ruins were actually built by ancient Puebloans long before the Aztec civilization was at its height. Entry is free if you have an America the Beautiful Pass, , Senior Pass, or Access Pass from the National Parks Service; or you can pay a nominal entrance fee. The fee was $3.00 in 2010.
When you leave the ruins, you will have to take US 550 south to US 64 at Bloomfield and then turn east. Once you leave Bloomfield, the road snakes through a canyon with sweeping turns and you will gradually gain elevation until you get into forest lands and green pastures.
The town of Dulce on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation is a good place to take a rest break. There is a service station with a snack shop as you reach the main street of town. Dulce has kind of an eerie reputation, with claims of UFO sightings and a secret base in the nearby mountains to the north of town. Once you leave Dulce, you will enjoy more scenic mountain riding until you arrive in Chama. This is a quaint little town where you can find fuel for both the bike and the body. The High Country Restaurant, just north of the junction of US 64 and US 84 has a great lunch menu. I recommend the Reuben sandwich. The pastrami was tender and home fries golden and tasty.
Leaving Chama, you will head south on US64/US 84 to Tierra Amarilla, where US 64 will turn to the east. Now you are in the Carson National Forest. The road continues to climb to it’s highest elevation of over 10,000 feet with some great switchback turns as the road snakes up the Brazos Mountains. There are plenty of turnouts for photos, so take your time and get some good pictures.
Now, the highway will gradually decend until you reach a desert plain as you ride toward Taos. About 26 miles before Taos, be sure to stop at the Rio Grande Gorge. This is a photo op you won’t want to miss. Once you reach Taos, there is plenty to do. You can tour the Taos Pueblo a couple miles north of the old town, or shop at the old plaza There are plenty of good restaurants in the old town area. Art galleries and museums also abound in Taos.
Most of your economy motels such as Super 8, Quality Inn, Comfort Inn, etc., are a couple miles south of the old town Plaza. However, if you want to stay within walking distance of the old town at a reasonable rate, you might want to try the Best Western Kachina Lodge. The motel is a little older than the ones to the south, but it captures the flavor of Old Taos. The architecture is ranch style and has a restaurant on site where a buffet breakfast is served and is half off for guests. There is also a pool and a cocktail lounge on the premises. You will find the hotel staff very accommodating. Guest services include a shuttle van which will take you to any of the local restaurants and pick you up if you don’t want to walk. Dancers from the nearby pueblo perform ritual dancing nitely on the grounds for the guests.
At the end of this 237 mile segment is Angel Fire’s Viet Nam Veteran Memorial State Park, in a small valley about 25 miles of winding mountain road east of Taos. I can only say that being at the memorial is a very emotional experience. I don’t anyone can leave this solemn site without a lump in his throat and perhaps a couple of tears welling forth. It will bring back a lot of memories for those who served in Viet Nam, and is equally moving for those who didn’t serve.
From Angel Fire, US 64 will continue east through Eagles Nest and Cimmaron. South of Raton, US 64 links up with Interstate 25. You can continue your trip either south back toward Santa Fe, north into Colorado. At Raton, NM, US 64 will take you eastinto the panhandle of Okalhoma.
Have a great ride and hope to see you on the road!!