Getting off the beaten path just to find some peace of mind while traveling long distances out west is what a scenic drive from Gallup to Taos is all about. With the advent of GPS mapping systems, it is easy to pick a starting point and a destination, then with a click of a button a detailed travel route shows up on the map. Sometimes the travel route can be like rolling the dice, but adjustments can easily be made. When using a GPS for a scenic drive, all that one has to do is roll the windows down, set the cruse control and follow the bouncing ball!
The downside reputation of GPS mapping systems are not as negative as they used to be, so for the most part, many of the GPS flaws that once lead travelers into trouble have been worked out in recent years. As long as the GPS is updated on a regular basis, the road closures and detours will appear on the map. Business listings still lag behind, but important travel information concerning gas stations or accommodations do appear. When traveling through rural New Mexico this is important, because it can be over 100 miles between pit stops. Knowing when to top off the tank before tackling a long desolate stretch of road can eliminate the stress involved with praying for a gas station to pop up on the horizon, before the tank runs dry way out in the middle of nowhere.
Things to keep in mind when driving way out in the sticks does include being aware of local business hours. The hours that businesses keep in small rural communities do not compare to a big city that is busy 24 hours a day. For example, businesses in rural religious communities tend to be closed on Sundays and restaurants may call it quits by 8:00PM. Restaurants located in small tourism communities may also be closed on slow days, like Mondays or Tuesdays. Some of the family owned tourism attractions and trading posts are only open on weekends or seasonally. A GPS mapping systems does not always take these things into account, so intuition sometimes is the best guide.
Today’s New Mexico scenic drive goes from Route 66 Gallup through plenty of Navajo Nation farm country and beautiful red rock landscapes all the way to the mountains of Taos. Basically, I was on my way back east for a job at that time and the thought of sticking to the high speed Interstate Freeways sounded boring, so I plotted a country road path to Taos on the way to Kansas, just to liven things up a bit. I had never been in this region previously, so I just let the GPS guide the way. More than half of this scenic drive does not follow well known tourism corridor routes, so the experience is like a sigh of relief for those who have endured one weird tourist attraction after another on old historic Route 66.
From Route 66 Gallup, this scenic drive follows U.S. Highway 491 north just a few miles to Navajo Service Road 9. Service Road 9 runs through some picturesque desert farm landscapes to the town of Crownpoint, which is a southern access point for Chaco Canyon. In this area, the sandstone mesa bluffs have a majestic appearance and some of the geological features of the Bisti Badlands can be noticed here.
From Crown Point, point the car in the direction of Cuba, New Mexico. Cuba offers all amenities and there are a few good spots to grab a bite to eat. Cuba is quite a tourist destination in its own right, because this town is the basecamp for adventures in the Native Nations, Jemez Springs, Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos and the Santa Fe National Forest.
The town of Cuba is where this scenic drive starts to get interesting and there will be many majestic views that are worth capturing with a camera between here and Taos. It is all smooth highway driving from Cuba to Taos and this road changes name a few times. From Taos, it is easy to get back to Interstate Freeway 25, which runs along the front range of the Colorado Rockies.
Taos is a great choice of an end point for a scenic drive because this old historic town is a true Southwestern cultural center. A lot of old west history took place in Taos, so a tour of the historic markers and museums will definitely be a learning experience. A cultural experience can also be found in this town, because the Taos Pueblo has been occupied since ancient times. Taos is famous for being New Mexico wine country and it is an artisan community, so this is the best place to shop for western landscape paintings, jewelry and authentic native crafts. Best of all, Taos is famous for authentic Southwestern cuisine, so it is best to leave some room in the belly when visiting this town!
For those who dread the boring Interstate Highway experience, using the GPS to find an alternate route that goes down some picturesque country roads is a good option! Country roads are always a good choice for a scenic drive, especially in New Mexico, where the interstate freeways offer very little natural entertainment value. Taking the back way from Gallup to Taos certainly is an interesting scenic drive and best of all, there are endless things to do along the way!
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