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Old 02-21-2012, 02:47 PM
 
Location: New Mexico
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I'll be driving from Denver to Santa Fe this spring for a day and was wondering if it would be worth jaunting off the interestate and adding a few scenic hours to the drive by taking US hwy 285 down through Poncha Springs, and Alamosa down into NM. Is that an interesting ride? Is it more scenic than I-25? Any thoughts?

Any notable sights, towns, & restaurants etc on that route?

Last edited by Desert_SW_77; 02-21-2012 at 03:04 PM..
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Old 02-21-2012, 03:01 PM
 
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Absolutely more scenic. I can't recall any specific things of note (Taos?) but it's much prettier. Most non-interstate roads are.
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Old 02-21-2012, 03:50 PM
 
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Wink South to Santa Fe the scenc way

Yes, the drive down US 285 is a lot more scenic than via I-25 between Denver and Santa Fe.

I-25 is okay, and preferred if speed is of the essence. But it runs basically on the flat of the plains along the front range in Colorado, and once beyond Raton Pass and in New Mexico, arguably even with less scenic value. There are of course some charms and interesting places. If never having done so, it can be a rewarding drive in its own right, if not as much so if dealing with traffic congestion in places such as Colorado Springs. But south of there things open up, and decidedly so once south of Pueblo. So a fast route with little traffic, and few natural obstacles to slow you down.

US 285, on the other hand, is more or less all mountain driving. One might want to dispute this when crossing the vast valley expanses of South Park or the San Luis Valley. But in elevation you are still high up, and with a better view of majestic peaks nearby, when not in them and climbing over another pass. Speed wise, intend to make it a scenic trip; it can be simplicity itself passing slower traffic on the wide open flat expanses of the San Luis Valley, and near impossible elsewhere where the road is more winding and so forth. Aside from just out of Denver and to roughly about Bailey, all two-lane as well.

Another option, if wishing to split the difference, is to take I-25 south to Walsenburg, and then diverge west from there on US 160. La Veta Pass into Fort Garland is rather a nice drive. From there you can turn south on CO 159 towards New Mexico and Taos.

If down US 285, the best bet is to bypass the detour and shortly after the small town of Villa Grove turn off onto CO 17, straight into Alamosa. From there it is a perfectly nice drive with little traffic all the way into Española, NM, and on the busier and wider road then on into Santa Fe. One attraction of such a route would be to take the opportunity in the small town of Ojo Caliente to take advantage of the commercialized hot springs of the same name, and soak away your cares. Nice lodging at a price is also available at this small resort, should one wish to spend the night.

However, arguably a more scenic and interesting drive from Alamosa can be had by turning east on US 160 to Fort Garland, and then on into Taos. One could spend a good deal of time right there, but in continuing on towards Santa Fe it can be a most pleasant and scenic drive. One has the option of the 'low road' along the Rio Grande river on NM 68 through Pilar, or from Taos instead taking the 'high road' in what will be NM 76 past Truchas. Either way is nice, the 'high road' more in the mountains, and the 'low road' surely somewhat faster.

Dedicated road warriors might not like to stop even when having to go so bad thinking of peeing in a bottle. But even the most hard-core, particularly if such an excursion for the first time, might find themselves tempted to stop here and there for the odd scenic mountain picture. And this will get no better when in New Mexico and beginning to have some vague sense of what 'The Land of Enchantment' means, and now wanting to stop.
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Old 02-22-2012, 07:14 AM
 
Location: Denver, CO
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The most scenic part of the whole drive is from Denver through the mountains to the northern San Luis Valley, and then the final stretch from the New Mexico border through Santa Fe. The long middle part where you drive through the San Luis Valley isn't all that scenic, whereas the drive from just south of Pueblo through Raton is one of my favorites. Then again, on I-25, from Raton to Las Vegas, I always have to force myself to stay awake.

Another really cool way to get to Santa Fe is to take I-25 from Denver south to Raton, then take US-64 through Taos and then into Santa Fe.
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Old 02-22-2012, 08:25 AM
 
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Well said above by all. Plus one is more protected from the winds that hit I-25 Pueblo-Wallsenburg areas. But then LOL I sure have seen winds in the San Luis valley.

Why not go south one way & back north the other!?
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Old 02-22-2012, 08:58 AM
 
Location: Aurora, CO
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vegaspilgrim View Post
Another really cool way to get to Santa Fe is to take I-25 from Denver south to Raton, then take US-64 through Taos and then into Santa Fe.
This one I've done. The stretch between Raton and Cimarron is one of the most barren I've ever driven, but Cimarron to Taos is definitely worth it. If you've got time to take a small side jaunt, head on over to the Rio Grande Gorge northwest of Taos.
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Old 02-22-2012, 03:49 PM
 
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caphillsea77 View Post
I'll be driving from Denver to Santa Fe this spring for a day and was wondering if it would be worth jaunting off the interestate and adding a few scenic hours to the drive by taking US hwy 285 down through Poncha Springs, and Alamosa down into NM. Is that an interesting ride? Is it more scenic than I-25? Any thoughts?
It is definitely much more interesting than I-25. 285 passes through interesting, old, historic towns and traverses the high desert next to various different mountain ranges.

I can't remember offhand anything in particular that you should stop and see but I know for a fact that you will be awestruck by the scenery.

Actually there's a road called the Old Road to Taos (or something like that) which is well worth the drive. And there's a very small, ancient village along that road which doesn't seem to have changed much in a couple hundred years (still people living there) but I don't remember the name.
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Old 02-22-2012, 04:06 PM
 
Location: 32°19'03.7"N 106°43'55.9"W
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I've done both, and the answer an emphatic "hell yes" here.
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Old 02-22-2012, 04:11 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 80skeys View Post
It is definitely much more interesting than I-25. 285 passes through interesting, old, historic towns and traverses the high desert next to various different mountain ranges.

I can't remember offhand anything in particular that you should stop and see but I know for a fact that you will be awestruck by the scenery.

Actually there's a road called the Old Road to Taos (or something like that) which is well worth the drive. And there's a very small, ancient village along that road which doesn't seem to have changed much in a couple hundred years (still people living there) but I don't remember the name.
You're probably thinking of the High Road to Taos. Towns along the High Road like Peñasco, Las Trampas, Truchas, and Chimayo haven't changed a whole lot. Map here:

High Road to Taos Map with Photos including Truchas, Chimayo, and Nambe
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Old 02-22-2012, 09:19 PM
 
Location: New Mexico
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Thanks everyone for your responses. I figured as much that 285 would be the obvious answer for a more scenic drive though I'm not familiar with it so I wasn't entirely sure. The only interstate drive that ever really knocked my socks off before is I-70 through Glenwood Canyon and I was pretty sure I-25 wasn't the same league though I couldn't think of any intersates that are.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 80skeys View Post
It is definitely much more interesting than I-25. 285 passes through interesting, old, historic towns and traverses the high desert next to various different mountain ranges.

I can't remember offhand anything in particular that you should stop and see but I know for a fact that you will be awestruck by the scenery.
That alone is reason enough for me to detour over to 285. I've deinitely made up my mind . Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post
You're probably thinking of the High Road to Taos. Towns along the High Road like Peñasco, Las Trampas, Truchas, and Chimayo haven't changed a whole lot. Map here:

High Road to Taos Map with Photos including Truchas, Chimayo, and Nambe
Yeah, I was thinking about spending a day up in Taos once in Santa Fe, I'll definitely plan on taking this route up there.

Last edited by Desert_SW_77; 02-22-2012 at 09:29 PM..
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