With the threat of frost gone by April and the high-country soil prime for planting, the window for finding just the right tree is small. Tree shopping ― okay, and a little gallery hopping ― is reason enough for a scenic family outing into the hill country north of Santa Fe. Snow still caps the Truchas Mountains, but in the villages below, the trees are in full bloom.
Hit the road early on a weekend, stopping in Española for huevos rancheros at Matilda’s Restaurant ($; closed Mon; 424 Corlett Rd.; 505/753-3200). Across the street, you can also pick up a dozen piping-hot fresh corn or flour tortilla rounds at Tortilleria Temosachi (closed Thu; 419 Corlett Rd.; 505/747-3667) before heading east on State 76. About 7 miles past Chimayo, turn into Tooley’s Trees.
Gordon Tooley and Margaret Yancey cultivate dozens of obscure varieties of apple, cherry, pear, and plum trees, some of which started out as cuttings from abandoned homesteads along the Santa Fe Trail. “The ‘Knobbed Russet’ is an ugly apple,” explains Tooley, who has about 11,000 trees and shrubs in stock. “But for flavor, it will blow your basic ‘Red Delicious’ away.”
With baby tree onboard, continue 2 miles to Truchas and stroll through the seven galleries that have sprouted here in recent years. Hand Artes Gallery (137 County Rd. 75; 505/689-2443) shows contemporary work from local artists and boasts its own sculpture garden full of wind chimes and other objects.
Just north on State 76 lies the village of Ojo Sarco. Treat yourself to a scenic shortcut here by heading west on Rio Arriba County Road 69, a dirt road (accessible by passenger car only in dry weather) that winds past adobe haciendas and orchards. After about 10 miles, you’ll emerge on State 75, where you turn west to Dixon.
Before rolling back down State 68 and U.S. 285 to Santa Fe or other points south, swirl and sip at Dixon’s La Chiripada Winery (1119 State 75; 505/579-4437) and toast your horticultural bounty with a glass of Embudo Blanco, a wine made from organic apples.
Tooley’s Trees (trees from $38; 505/689-2400) is open 10-4 Fri-Sun through May. From Chimayo take State 76 east 7 miles and turn left on the dirt road just past milepost 15; look for gate #8.