Treading softly near Taos

Explore miles of snowshoe and nordic trails in New Mexico's Enchanted Forest
Sharon Niederman

One of the joys of spending the day on a snowy mountain north of Taos Ski Valley is the satisfaction of moving at your own pace, far from crowded lift lines, through silent, pristine forests of conifers and aspen.

You can experience this invigoration deep in the Carson National Forest atop Bobcat Pass at Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski & Snowshoe Area. With 19 miles of groomed nordic ski trails and 9 miles of snowshoe trails, Enchanted Forest offers cross-country skiing lessons and terrain suitable for all ages and abilities.

Limber up on Powderpuff, an easy-to-intermediate trail that takes off from the warming hut. Just short of 3/4 mile, turn onto the somewhat more challenging Sven Wilk trail, which leads approximately 1/2 mile to broad meadows traversed by herds of elk and deer. Here you also can see 12,711-foot Gold Hill, site of extensive gold mining during the 1890s. For those seeking even more of a challenge, continue for 1/2 mile from Gold Hill View along Little John for an unforgettable panorama of towering Wheeler Peak - at 13,161 feet, the state's highest mountain. Return to the warming hut, take the chill off, and trade tales with fellow adventurers over steaming hot cocoa.

After a day of appetite-building exercise, head back to Taos for deservedly famous margaritas served beside a blazing fire at the cozy Old Blinking Light  (dinner daily; mile marker 1 on State 150; 505/776-8787). The hearty fare ranges from ribs and fajitas to green chili stew, but leave room for the mud pie - a pint of locally made Taos Cow coffee chip ice cream in an Oreo cookie crust topped with hot fudge and whipped cream. You've earned it.

Winter getaway

WHERE: Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski & Snowshoe Area is 39 miles north of Taos at mile marker 16 on State 38.

WHEN: Open Nov-Mar; call ahead to check snow conditions and to reserve rentals and lessons.

COST: $10 for a one-day trail pass.

CONTACT:  www.enchantedforestxc.com or (800) 966-9381.