I had a number of destinations in mind, but given the Spring Break timing and one-week departure notice, flights were pretty expensive to just about everywhere so I decided to plan a road trip. Using The Most Scenic Drives in America: 120 Spectacular Road Trips and Off the Beaten Path: A Travel Guide to More Than 1,000 Scenic and Interesting Places Still Uncrowded and Inviting to help me brainstorm ideas for the trip, I ultimately decided to head to San Angelo State Park, TX; Palo Duro Canyon, TX; Taos, NM; and Santa Fe, NM. Like with my holiday hiking and camping trip in west Texas, I outlined the itinerary on my calendar using Sunrise, then used Evernote to organize all maps, directions, lodging confirmation numbers, etc. that were relevant to my trip.
Over the course of my trip, I drove 1,750 miles and walked/hiked more than 50 miles. Details for each day are outlined below with total driving distance calculated via Google Maps and total walking distance walked calculated via the Jawbone Up iPhone app.
Day 1: Friday, March 13
Total Driving: 206 miles (3.25 hours)
- DRIVE: Austin, TX to San Angelo State Park, TX
- STAY: Tent camping, Lakeview Campground, San Angelo State Park
- I left for San Angelo after work on Friday evening, which put my arrival after-hours at San Angelo State Park; luckily, the Texas State Parks system has a late check-in policy that allows campers entrance into the park even after the gates have locked.
- The park entrance was not where Google Maps placed it, so I drove around a bit before finding it. Be aware of that if you ever decide to visit the park.
Day 2: Saturday, March 14
Total Walking: 21.1 miles (8.75 hours), Total Driving: 239 miles (3.5 hours)
- HIKE: Chaparral Trail to Winding Snake Trail to Burkett Trail to Potts Creek Trail to Turkey Creek Trail to Riverbend Trail to Javelina Trail to Flinstone Village Trail to Playground Trail to Potts Creek Trail to Burkett Trail to Winding Snake Trail to Chaparral Trail, San Angelo State Park
- There wasn't too much to see at San Angelo State Park; I found the hiking to be quite boring.
- The park map showed a large lake, but it turns out that lake has been completely dry for four years. Old roads, signs, and picnic shelters are distributed throughout the park, rusted over and covered in weeds.
- Although the hiking was quite boring, the park did seem like a great place for entry-level mountain biking, and I really wished I had brought my bike along with me on the trip.
- The park is home to a herd of wild longhorns which were grazing alongside the trails (unexpected, but very cool). A wild javelina scampered across the trail in front of me as well.
- DRIVE: San Angelo State Park, TX to Plainview, TX
- STAY: AirBnB, Plainview
Day 3: Sunday, March 15
Total Walking: 10.8 miles (4.5 hours), Total Driving: 363 miles (5.25 hours)
- DRIVE: Plainview, TX to Palo Duro Canyon State Park, TX
- HIKE: CCC Trail and Lighthouse Trail, Palo Duro Canyon State Park
- Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States behind the Grand Canyon.
- There was a lot more of the park to see than I what I hiked: my feet were sore from my 20+ mile hike in San Angelo the day before and I was anxious to get on to New Mexico, so I left without exploring all of the trails I had planned to check out.
- Like with San Angelo State Park, I saw a lot of mountain bikers and wished I had my bike, too.
- DRIVE: Palo Duro Canyon State Park, TX to Taos, NM
- STAY: AirBnB, Taos
Day 4: Monday, March 16
Total Walking: 9.4 miles (2.75 hours), Total Driving: 41 miles (1 hour)
- WORK: Coffee Cats, Taos
- This place was cute with relatively light foot traffic making it a great work place.
- Coffee Cats allows patrons to "drop a rock" in their drinks to "experience the ancient powers of the earth." I'd recently been joking with co-workers about the "alternative therapy" of crystals, so I dropped an amethyst in my tea just for fun.
- EXPLORE: Taos Plaza
- DRIVE: Taos to Rio Grande el Norte National Monument / Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
- EXPLORE: San Francisco de Asis Church and West Rim Trail, Rio Grande el Norte National Monument / Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
- The San Francisco de Asis Church is home to the "Mystery Painting" said to essentially "glow in the dark."
- The Rio Grande el Norte National Monument is basically in the parking lot of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. I walked a quarter-mile or so along the West Rim Trail so that I could capture some photos of the bridge. It runs for nine miles along the ridge of the gorge and if I had more time in Taos, I would have hiked much more of it.
- I got to see a lot of Taos as I drove around and I felt like it was a mashup of so many different places I had been. It was hippy like Austin, shadowed by snow-capped mountains like Boulder, and surrounded by the pine trees of Carson National Forest, reminding me of Maine.
- DRIVE: Rio Grande el Norte National Monument to Carson National Forest
- HIKE: Devisadero Loop Trail, Carson National Forest
- The views of Taos from the Devisadero Loop Trail were awesome, especially at sunset.
- I climbed to Devisadero Peak (elevation: 8,304 feet) and about a quarter-mile down the back side of the mountain, I hit snow a foot deep that made the trail nearly impassable. After testing my luck, I decided that it wasn't work the risk (it was pretty slippery) so I ended up having to go down the same way I came up.
- DRIVE: Carson National Forest to Taos
- STAY: AirBnB, Taos
Day 5: Tuesday, March 17
Total Walking: 2.3 miles (0.75 hours), Total Driving: 87 miles (2.25 hours)
- WORK: Wired, Taos
- I absolutely loved Wired. It was a fantastic place to work. It was quiet and had plenty of outlets for everyone who was working. The internet was fast as well.
- DRIVE: Taos, NM to Santa Fe, NM via The High Road to Taos
- EXPLORE: San Juan de Gracia, Santuario de Chimayo, and Iglesia de Santa Cruz de la Canada
- The High Road to Taos is a scenic drive between Taos and Santa Fe that winds through Carson National Forest and a number of small towns and villages.
- Along The High Road to Taos there are a number of historic sites, including many churches. I stopped to see San Juan de Gracia in Las Trampas (more than 200 years old), Santuario de Chimayo in Chimayo (a destination for many religious pilgrims), and Iglesia de Santa Cruz de la Canada in Espanola (both old and beautiful).
- My favorite portion of the drive was most definitely the portion winding through Carson National Forest.
- STAY: AirBnB, Santa Fe
Day 6: Wednesday, March 18
Total Walking: 5.2 miles (2.25 hours), Total Driving: 92 miles (1.5 hours)
- WORK: Dulce, Santa Fe
- The food at Dulce was good, but the place was loud and not very suitable for conference calls.
- DRIVE: Santa Fe, NM to Bandelier National Monument, NM
- HIKE: Bandelier National Monument
- Bandelier National Monument is home to many preserved cave dwellings of various American Indian tribes. I'd never seen anything like it before and thought it was very cool.
- I really wanted to hike the Cerra Grande Trail (elevation: 10,199 feet) within Bandelier National Monument, but it started to rain as I finished exploring the Alcove House, so I had to forego my plans.
- DRIVE: Bandelier National Monument, NM to White Rock, NM
- EXPLORE: White Rock Overlook
- DRIVE: White Rock, NM to Santa Fe, NM
- STAY: AirBnB, Santa Fe
Day 7: Thursday, March 19
Total Walking: 3.4 miles (1.75 hours), Total Driving: 34 miles (1.25 hours)
- WORK: Arroyo Coffeebar, Santa Fe
- EXPLORE: Loretta Chapel
- WORK: Liquid Outpost, Santa Fe
- EXPLORE: St. Francis Cathedral and The Plaza
- DRIVE: Santa Fe National Forest Scenic Drive
- I loved this drive! That said, what started as a rain storm transformed into an impressive snow storm as I gained elevation. It ultimately got so bad that I had to cut my drive short and turn around.
- There are so many places to hike along Santa Fe National Forest Scenic Drive and if I'm ever out that way in better weather, I'll definitely take part.
- ENJOY: Ten Thousand Waves
- STAY: AirBnB, Santa Fe
Day 8: Friday, March 20
Total Walking: 1 mile (0.25 hours), Total Driving: 690 miles (10.5 hours)
- WORK: Santa Fe Baking Company Cafe, Santa Fe
- DRIVE: Santa Fe, NM to Austin, TX
- STAY: Home
- I generally don't like to make drives this long but needed to get back for 10am soccer game on Saturday
- Even though I rented my place out while traveling, it was was spotless upon my return -- a very welcome homecoming gift.