Rediscover the magic of Taos, New Mexico

Golden leaves, killer margaritas, and an artistic core … this Southwestern town is the real deal

Taos New Mexico's San Francisco de Asis Church

San Francisco de Asis Church rises against the deep blue sky.

Cedric Angeles

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Taos gorge in New Mexico
Cottonwood-lined road in Taos Pueblo New Mexico

By Matthew Jaffe

There was an autumn 10 years ago when I was ready to move to Taos. I had made friends here and fallen hard for hikes in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains by day and raucous conversations over margaritas by night in Taos's de facto living room, the Adobe Bar.

Streets of curving adobe walls captured what I imagined pre-"Santa Fe-style" Santa Fe to have been. Taos seemed covered with a literal and figurative layer of dust that hinted at its grit and authenticity.

Infatuations were common for me then, and I suspect Taos was another - ephemeral but intense, like the New Mexico light that has drawn artists for more than a century. I was hardly the first to fall under Taos's spell.

Now I'm back in another fall, this time with my wife, Becky, and all the old sensations of Taos come alive again. The cottonwoods are aglow, clad in October gold. Their leaves shimmy in the breeze, fluttering to the ground where they tumble down the street and crunch underfoot.

Lured by the promising twilight, we head to San Francisco de Asis Church, an 18th-century structure that, thanks to Ansel Adams and Georgia O'Keeffe, became a modern art icon ― and a quintessential Taos landmark. The now-famous view is not the twin bell-towered entrance but the back, where the shadows exaggerate the rounded buttresses and lines.

As my Ansel moment arrives, I'm set to shoot when a battered blue pickup with a pair of barking dogs ― nearly as dinged up as their ride - pulls over and parks in the middle of the frame.

The photo op is gone but a fresh one has appeared, a reminder of what made me originally take to Taos. At a time when so many towns have become soulless clones of one another, Taos, with its creative heart, natural beauty, and ancient roots, delivers an inimitable experience. One that's most captivating when you surrender to its unpredictable and eccentric magic, which is most tangible in autumn, when Taos truly belongs to the Taoseños.

Next: Across the 500-foot bridge


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