New Mexico day trip: Ojo Caliente

Sooth and soak in this desert oasis town

New Mexico hot springs

After a day of hiking, a soak in one of Ojo's four kinds of mineral springs will hit the spot.

Andrea M. Gómez

NM hiking and biking trails

Over 13 miles of hiking trails surround the spa.

Andrea M. Gómez

Ojo Caliente dining

Freshly steamed vegetables at Ojo's Artesian Restaurant

Andrea M. Gómez

Ojo Caliente Spa & Resort

Ojo Caliente's original hotel dates back to 1916

Andrea M. Gómez

Why go now: A recent overhaul has spruced up the historic Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa—circa 1868, one of the oldest in the country—without sacrificing its retro charm (50 Los Baños Dr.). 

Drive time: An hour north of Santa Fe; 45 minutes southwest of Taos.

Temperature control: At 6,000 feet, it’s never too hot to soak—even in June.

We really mean that: The average low this month is 41° ... ideal for an evening dip.

Town population: About 1,000

Annual visitors to the springs: 80,000

Who you’ll meet there: 20-something mountain bikers from Taos, young families from Santa Fe, Russian tourists, and everyone in between.

The face of change: 33-year-old Andy Scott has been coming to the resort with his family since the ’70s. Now he runs the place.

Ojo soundtrack: Splashing fountains, sandhill-crane calls, and very little conversation in the pools and spa—they’re in the “Whisper Zone.”

Splurge: The refurbed spa for hot-stone massages (from $109) and prickly pear salt scrubs ($85).

 

Things to do in Ojo:

Take the waters: Ojo is the only hot springs in the world with four kinds of natural mineral springs—lithia, iron, arsenic, and soda. Each has its own healing properties (and not a whiff of eggy sulfur smell). A day pass ($24) gets you into seven pools, ranging in temperature from 80° to 109°. Or reserve the Heron, one of three private outdoor pools ($40 for 50 minutes).

Hit the trails: Even hedonists agree: There’s no better way to prep for a soak than breaking a sweat. Enter Ojo’s 13-plus miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails, many built recently by the resort. Or head out on foot on the mile-long loop in Posi-Ouinge, the 500-year-old ruins of a Tewa pueblo on a bluff overlooking the hot springs, with stunning views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (blm.gov).

Yoga in a yurt: The resort now has daily classes in restorative and hatha yoga ($14) in a canvas-walled, wood-floor yurt beside the river. Next up: plans for a small meditation garden.

Refuel, raise a glass: After a day of hiking and soaking, unwind at Ojo’s new wine bar ($$), in the lobby of the historic hotel. There are comfy leather chairs, abstract paintings, and a surprisingly sophisticated wine list.

Stick around for dinner in the Artesian Restaurant ($$), a serene space with specialties like super-fresh veggies in a steamer box and grilled trout with toasted piñon glaze. 800/222-9162.

Make it a weekend: Now there’s even more reason to spend the night: In addition to guest rooms in the original 1916 hotel, the resort has renovated a row of 1930s cottages (adding cheerful kitchen­ettes and solar panels), and built 12 new suites, some with private terraces and outdoor soaking tubs. From $139; ojospa.com

 

Find it in town 

If you’re not paying attention, you’ll whiz right through tiny downtown on your way to the hot springs. Three reasons not to:

Dragon River Herbals: An Ojo staple since 1990, this traditional herb lab concocts tinctures from herbs that have been organically grown or foraged in northern New Mexico. Just in time for skeeter season, stock up on Don’t Bug Me insect deterrent, made from high-mountain flowers and essential oils. Call for hours; 35319 U.S. 285

Natural wear at the Mercantile at Ojo: If you’re in the market for handmade rugs, whimsical wooden birds,  natural-fiber clothes, or, say, an oversize bust by sculptor Claudia Wimett Page, look no further than this quirky boutique in a renovated adobe. 11 State 414; 505/583-9131.

El Taquito Café: The Martinez family opened this small eatery in 1980, serving tacos and homemade salsa from an unassuming dining room on the main drag. Though the restaurant has changed hands, the original recipes are still going strong. Don’t miss the green-chile enchiladas. $; 35317 U.S. 285; 505/583-0077.

More: Perfect summer trips

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