Off the beaten path in Taos NM

People are intrigued by Taos NM. For some travelers, it’s a destination, for people visiting Santa Fe, it’s often a day-trip or even an overnight. We have been visiting and writing about Taos for years, seeing the sites that we’ve learned about from tourism sources, travel guides, magazine and newspaper articles and the Internet. On a recent visit to Taos we were fortunate to get a tour from a local who took us off the beaten path.

We started our tour at San Francisco de Asis, a church in Ranchos de Taos that has been memorialized by countless artists and photographers including Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams.

Taos NM O'Keeffe painted San Francisco de Asis Church photo Steve Collins

San Francisco de Asis Church, Ranchos de Taos, NM photo/Steve Collins

The plaza surrounding it is hundreds of years old and many of the original buildings are still standing. Actor/director Dennis Hopper, a resident of Ranchos de Taos for years (he’s also buried here), shot some of the scenes in his 1990 film Catchfire co-starring Jodie Foster here. If you want to learn about the Plaza’s history, stop into the Two Graces Gallery and chat with owner Robert Caffazo. He’s a wealth of knowledge.

Taos NM Ruins on the Plaza Ranchos de Taos photo Steve Collins

Adobe ruins on the Plaza in Ranchos de Taos, NM photo/Steve Collins

Taos has many moradas. These were and are places of worship for the Penitente Brotherhood, a Catholic lay organization. The controversial sect believes in recreating the passion and death of Jesus. At one time they practiced self-flagellation. We visited a few on our Taos odyssey. The first one, close to town, can be seen from the former home of Mabel Dodge Luhan, one of the Remarkable Women of Taos being celebrated by the town this year. Luhan’s house guest Georgia O’Keeffe did a series of  paintings of this black cross in 1929, her first summer in New Mexico. It also appears in D.H. Lawrence’s writings.

Taos NM Penitente Morada Photo Steve Collins

Morada near Mabel Dodge Luhan' Taos home. Georgia O'Keeffe painted this black cross photo/Steve Collins

From the Morada, we walked a path on a right of way through land belonging to the Taos Pueblo. The Stations of the Cross are laid out along the way. At the end of the path is a second cross. The black cross, according to our guide, symbolizes Christ’s death and the one at the end of the path represents salvation through accepting Christ as your savior. When Dennis Hopper owned Luhan’s home in the 60s, he had both crosses restored and resurrected.

Taos NM Penitente cross photo Steve Collins

At the end of the Stations of the Cross, a second Penitente cross, photo/Steve Collins

We visited another morada outside the Ranchos de Taos. Jesus Nazareno Cemetery, where Hopper is buried, is located directly behind the Penitente building. His simple grave mound is decked out with colorful tributes including empty liquor bottles. I bet he would have loved it.

Taos NM Dennus Hopper's grave

Dennis Hopper's grave mound in Jesus Nazarene Cemetery

We ended our day looking at petroglyphs adjacent to the Rio Pueblo de Taos. According to our guide, this is considered a sacred site by the Pueblo people. These rock carvings were a method of communication by tribal members as they had no written language.

Taos NM Ancestors of the Taos Pueblo people carved petroglyphs into the cliffside photo Steve Collins

One of the petroglyphs carved into a rock cliff by Taos Pueblo ancestors, photo/Steve Collins

If you want a Taos tour that takes you off the beaten path, contact The Santa Fe Traveler.

For more about Taos, read Things to do in Taos, part one and part two, Where to stay on your Taos NM getaway and Taos restaurant round-up. Discover the historic Pueblo on Striped Pot.


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4 Responses to “Off the beaten path in Taos NM”

  1. Wendy Kapp
    March 26, 2012 at 7:13 am #

    Steve your photos and adventures look fabulous. I would love to share this on my Facebook. The link does not seem to appear on your blog anymore. Love your and Billies adventures! Looks like you are enjoying exploring.

    • Steve Collins
      March 26, 2012 at 11:24 am #

      Thanks, Wendy! We love our adventures and sharing them with others. BTW, I’ll check out the link.

  2. ryczek
    March 5, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    we love petroglyphs, do u know where along the rio pueblo we can find them? are they closer to the rio grande or closer to the Taos Pueblo?

    • Billie Frank
      March 5, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

      They are a bit out of Rancho de Taos on NM240. It’s hard to explain. You may need to either explore or hire a guide (such as one of ours) familiar with the area to find them. Good luck.

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