Northern New Mexico – also called Georgia O’Keeffe Country – is known for its entrancing landscapes, which have inspired many artists. It’s home to the highest peak in the state and the cavernous Rio Grande Gorge. Eight Native American pueblos dot the region, and six ski areas draw visitors for year-round recreation. This was virgin territory for us, so we set up camp little town of Chama. With its breathtaking elevation of 7,850 feet, it was a lovely base to explore the pet friendly things to do in northern New Mexico.
Things To Do in Northern New Mexico
Chama is located eight miles south of the Colorado border and is surrounded by national forests, making it a spectacular location for outdoor adventures. In fact, the famous Continental Divide Trail runs just north of the historic downtown.
Most visitors to Chama come for the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. Unfortunately, the train isn’t pet friendly, and the ride takes a good chunk of the day. The staff were friendly and suggested places to board Ty and Buster if we wanted to make the trip, but that’s not how we roll. We learned that Hwy 17 between Chama and Antonito, Colorado closely follows the train’s route, so we chose to see the sites from the car, and take the dogs along for the ride.
Day Trip 1: North from Chama
The scenery is certainly every bit as magnificent as promised! Hwy 17 heads north across the Colorado border and then winds though the Rio Grande National Forest. After climbing Cumbres Pass at 10,022 feet, the road dives down into Conejos Canyon – one of the wildest areas in Colorado.
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The trip to Antonito takes about an hour by car, which leaves plenty of time to hit the Continental Divide Trail on your way back! As with most national forests, leashed pets are welcome on on the trails.
Day Trip 2: West from Chama
Depending on the direction you head out of Chama, the landscape is surprising varied. To the north are the ragged mountain peaks. Our day trip to the west deposited us in sweeping pastures, dotted with cows, goats, sheep, and even a few llamas! The San Juan National Forest lies between Chama and Pagosa Springs, and again, the drive takes a little more than an hour.
Thanks to the hot springs that bubble to the surface in Pagosa, people have been coming to soak in the warm waters forever. Tourism is a major component of the economy, and you’ll find plenty of pet friendly things to do in this northern New Mexico town!
For urban hiking, check out the lovely paved trail along the river. For a more rugged hike, stop by the National Forest Ranger Station and get insider tips on the most scenic drives and hikes in the area. There are also interesting shops along the main drag, and Pagosa Brewing and Grill allows dogs on their outdoor patio. Or, enjoy a picnic in one of Pagosa’s fantastic parks.
Day Trip 3: South from Chama
Driving south from Chama takes you to the dramatic sandstone cliffs and hills that have inspired famous artists, like Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams.
Our first stop was the Echo Amphitheater. After all, is there anything more enjoyable than listening to yourself bark? Buster doesn’t think so, and this was the perfect place for him to test his pipes. This natural sandstone echo chamber is fun for kids of all ages as well as dogs. Woof, woof!
Ghost Ranch Education & Retreat Center
Just down the road is the 21,000-acre Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center. Formerly owned by Georgia O’Keeffe, the center now has two museums, as well as tours, movies, hiking trails, horseback riding, workshops, camping, and lodging. (Unfortunately, they don’t offer pet friendly rooms).
There are nine hiking trails here, with options for every experience level. And leashed dogs are welcome to join you everywhere on the property – including the visitors center. There’s a $3 per person conservation fee to use the trails, and the views are well worth the price of admission!
Across from Ghost Ranch is the 5,200-acre Abiquiú Lake and Dam. There’s a gorgeous RV park right on the lakeshore, a boat launch, and a four-mile hiking trail. The views of the lake and Cerro Pedernal, the flat-topped mesa to the south, are outstanding.
The visitor’s center at the dam has information on many more things to do in the immediate the area. We ran out of time, but we’ll have plenty to look forward to on our next visit!
Heading East from Chama
When you’ve thoroughly explored what’s north, west, and south of Chama, it’s time to pack up and move on. Heading east, you’ll pass through the Carson National Forest and arrive at funky town of Taos. There’s so much to do and see around Taos, it’s too much to cover in a day. Settle in for a couple days and take your time getting to know this little corner of New Mexico. From there you may want to continue a little further east to the picturesque ski village of Angel Fire.
We hope our paws-on-the-ground research of pet friendly things to do in northern New Mexico makes your trip even more fun! Have a suggestion for other pet travelers in this area? Be sure to share it in the comments below!
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