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27 minute drive from Taos Regional Airport
Questa is a one-stoplight town with more than its share of character and surrounding beauty. This unassuming village 30 miles north of Taos on the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway has a deep history; evidence suggests that ancient hunter–gatherer peoples inhabited this land as early as 13,000 years ago. It was on a longtime Native American trade route that connected the southwest Pueblos with Plains peoples to the north and east. Spanish explorers arrived in the 16th century, lured by rumors of gold, followed by settlers, sheep farmers, and French trappers.
Although the sheep have been replaced with cattle and the miners and trappers have long since vanished into legend, this long history is still very much palpable in Questa today. The village is home to many longstanding families, some of whose lineages date back to the official founding of the town in 1842. Also dating to around that same time, the historic adobe San Antonio del Rio Colorado church in the village’s old plaza still stands, despite a partial collapse in 2006. In the years since, locals have painstakingly reconstructed the church that their ancestors built over 150 years ago.
Questa’s fascinating history is only one reason to visit. Its location affords easy access to some of the most stunning wilderness in northern New Mexico. The heart of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument—more than 240,000 acres of public land—lies just a few miles to the west. At the Wild Rivers Recreation Area is a precious opportunity to hike down into the Rio Grande Gorge to witness the Rio Grande’s raucous junction with the Red River.
To the east lies the vast Carson National Forest, with plentiful hiking through wildflower-strewn meadows, cool mountain streams, and dense green woods. Camping, mountain biking, and rock climbing are all popular warm-weather pastimes in and around Questa.
Numerous lakes and rivers stocked with trout beckon fly fishers of all levels of expertise, and a visit to the nearby Red River Fish Hatchery affords the chance to see where those trout come from—the hatchery produces about 1.7 million rainbow trout a year.
When the weather turns chilly, there’s no better place than Questa to grab your cross-country skis or snowshoes and make tracks through the silent woods. Frozen mountain lakes lend themselves to a spot of ice fishing in winter, too.
Craftsmanship, artistry, and creativity thrive in Questa as well. There is a long tradition of santeros and santeras (literally “saint-makers”) who create evocative traditional (and sometimes not so traditional) religious carvings, usually out of wood. Painters, sculptors, jewelers, printmakers, glass artists, quilters, and more have made Questa their home, as have musicians and writers who have found a haven away from the bustle of the area’s busier towns.
Questa stands apart from other towns and villages along the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway; it retains more than a whisper of its Spanish frontier legacy, and there isn’t a resort in sight. What it does have is authenticity, seclusion, and unbounded beauty on its doorstep. There’s no finer base camp for fully immersing yourself in northern New Mexico’s wild splendor.
Most visitors come to Questa by personal vehicle, but public transportation is available between Taos, Questa, and Red River courtesy of the NCRTD Blue Bus. There is also a small municipal airstrip; beware of elk on the runway.
Questa’s motels offer visitors a chance to step back in time with a retro vibe that accompanies their reasonable, clean, no-frills rooms. Accommodations tend to be more affordable than in some other surrounding towns and villages. Some motels, lodges, and RV parks grant riverside access to guests for fishing and other riparian activities.
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