The Land of Enchantment is known for its beautiful and diverse landscapes, from Georgia O’Keeffe’s desert vistas to breathtaking archeological sites to the rugged beginning of the Rocky Mountains. But what you can’t experience in a photo or a painting is the rich history and characters that bring the scenery to life. New Mexico is built on stories. Find yours.
A Navajo Silversmith Inspired by the Land
Shiprock, in the Four Corners region of New Mexico, is an iconic jagged massif that rises some 1,600 feet above the Navajo Nation. Stunning vistas surround it in every direction: red clay hillsides, expansive mesas, and open meadows dotted with sage.
In the shadow of Shiprock, Navajo silversmith Roland Brady does his best work. Inspired by the landscape that surrounds his home, Brady produces intricate, emotional jewelry. As a child, his mother taught him to work with metals and stones—the silver and turquoise that are at the heart of his pieces. Brady put his daughter through college by selling his jewelry, and five decades later he’s still melting down old coins and silver scraps and hammering them into heirlooms for future generations.
The gateway to Shiprock, the Navajo Nation, and recreation in the Four Corners is the town of Farmington. Anglers can fish for trophy-size trout on the world-famous San Juan River, which has an estimated 15,000 fish per mile. An hour to the south gets you to the badlands of the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, a 40,000-acre expanse of otherworldly sandstone formations.
In Farmington, grab pizza and a beer at the Three Rivers Restaurant and Brewery on Main Street. Stay at the Kokopelli Cave Bed and Breakfast, where the cozy rooms are built inside the steep cliff walls.
The Soulful Founders of Taos Ski Valley
New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains are #WhereTheRockiesBegin, and Taos Ski Valley boasts some of the best skiing in the entire range. The highest peaks in the state loom over the valley and offer steep slopes that get pummeled with more than 300 inches of snow per year.
Taos doesn’t just offer great skiing—it also stands out for its unique history and local flavor. Ernie and Rhoda Blake founded Taos Ski Valley in the 1950s and built the ski area from the ground up while living out of a camper at the mountain’s base. When Ernie told people back east about the world-class skiing in Taos, they were ready to call his bluff: “You’re the best liar I ever heard! Who ever heard of any snow in New Mexico?”
Relax after a day skiing or riding Taos’ 1,300 skiable acres and 3,200 vertical feet with dinner at the Saint Bernard (stbernardtaos.com), and cuddle up next to the fireplace at one of the ski-in-ski-out Bavarian Chalets at the bottom of Kachina Peak (from $450; sleeps 6–8; taospropertyrentals.com). While half of the mountain is expert-only skiing, with narrow couloirs, open bowls, and gladed tree skiing, there’s something for everyone in the family, with beginner runs accounting for a quarter of the mountain.
In the town of Taos 30 minutes south, visit Taos Pueblo, one of the oldest continually inhabited communities in the country, and grab dinner at The Love Apple, a farm-to-table restaurant housed in an old adobe church.
The state is also home to seven other alpine ski areas, from Ski Santa Fe to the country’s southernmost ski area at Ski Apache. With 300 sunny days a year, you can usually bet on a bluebird day (but without the crowds and lift lines).
The 92-Year-Old Queen of Hatch Green Chile
New Mexico is the chile capital of the world. The most polarizing question in the state is “Red or green?”—and the correct answer is Christmas, which will get you both.
In the town of Hatch, 92-year-old June Rutherford is the queen of all things green chile. Her parents came to New Mexico from Austria, and the family has been working in agriculture in the southern part of the state ever since. “They asked me in the hospital, ‘How come you’re so healthy and so old?’” says Rutherford. “I said I grew up eating chile, not drinking or smoking, and working hard. That’s the trick—work hard and eat a lot of chile.”
As the summer turns into fall, you’ll start to smell the treasured aroma of roasting chile at farmers’ markets and storefronts across New Mexico. Head south to explore the state’s chile-growing region, then spend the night in Las Cruces. Watch the sun set over the country’s newest national monument, the stunning Organ Mountains, then end the night with a drink in the bar at the Double Eagle.
The Eccentric Art Collector Who Hid Millions in Treasure
Many treasures are found in New Mexico—but perhaps the most famous is that of Forrest Fenn. A retired art collector, Fenn hid an ornate bronze chest filled with an estimated $2 million in treasure somewhere north of Santa Fe after receiving a cancer diagnosis. To find it, you’ll have to follow the clues he left in his poem “The Thrill of the Chase.” Seekers quickly find that it’s less about the gold than the act of looking for it, discovering beautiful parts of the state that they’d otherwise miss.
You can find a different kind of treasure in Santa Fe on Canyon Road, the mile-long stretch where many of the city’s 200 galleries are located. Eat at Joseph’s in the Railyard district for a high-end twist on New Mexican and pub classics, then stay at the lovely Inn and Spa at Loretto. The next morning, fuel up for another day of treasure-hunting with coffee and breakfast at Modern General.