The Best Places to Catch a Sunset in Taos Ski Valley & Beyond

Unparalleled Alpenglow

The majesty of Taos Ski Valley—ringed by soaring, white-peaked Sangre de Cristo Mountains (a range in the Southern Rockies)—is undeniable. Adventure awaits around every corner. What you might not know is that during winter, outdoor sports like skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and hiking aren't the only draws—so is our epic alpenglow.

When you're done doing some epic shredding, or stomping, stay in your parka and snow pants but grab your camera so that you can capture one of Nature's most beautiful light shows on Earth. The surreal light that graces these mountains before nightfall has attracted visitors and artists to Taos for hundreds of years; you can view this wonderous sight yourself as well as through also the eyes of modern-day artists at a multitude of art galleries in the town of Taos, including Pat Woodall Fine Art. If you're an artist, you can even sign up for a class and learn some techniques from local experts—former President George W. Bush visited Taos for exactly this reason, not long ago!  

Whether you use a paintbrush, camera, or simply your eyes, following are some of our suggestions for viewing the unparalleled sunsets of Taos County:

1. Big Al's Snowmobile Tours

A guided, family friendly snowmobile tour with Taos Ski Valley Wilderness Adventures is one of the most popular ways to explore the mountains in Taos Ski Valley and capture a sunset from up high.  With a genuine Wild West cowboy flare, Big Al has been guiding snowmobile tours (and horseback rides during the summer and fall) here for more than three decades. As you can imagine, he has a treasure trove of entertaining stories to tell! A snowmobile tour is a great way to ride high onto the peaks and ridges above our charming village. There are three guided tours each day—including, of course, a lesson on how to operate a snowmobile—that take you out to some beautiful vistas overlooking the ski slopes.

Tours can fill up quickly during peak season, thus we recommend reserving a slot well before your arrival. The last afternoon tour is the one to book if you wish to enjoy the alpenglow as you ride beyond the treeline to almost 12,000 feet above sea level. Be ready to capture some memorable pictures as you wind your way along a mystical trail through a winter wonderland of snow-covered meadows and pine forests as well as aspen glades.

Of course, the intensity of the sunset depends on variables such as weather and snow. With an average of 283 sunny days per year in Taos, your chances of seeing the slopes lit by the golden rays of the setting sun while you're at the top of the mountain are good. The way down can be just as electrifying, featuring vibrant variations of pink, purple, gold, and orange that seem to be emanate from deep within the snow. After the tour, you'll be dropped a short walk from any number of Taos Ski Valley restaurants where you can warm your nose, toes, and innards whether it's fireside at The Blonde Bear Tavern or with locally inspired, chile-infused cuisine at 192 at the Blake (the newest addition to our lodging and lively aprés-ski scene.)


2. Snowshoeing to Jean's Meadow at Northside

Northside at Taos Ski Valley—with its 1,200 acres of private alpine wilderness—is known for some of the most thrilling mountain bike trails in New Mexico. In winter, its network of mountain paths becomes a fitness lover's paradise where you'll find tranquility and beautiful scenery close to our village. The snowshoe hikes at Northside can be anywhere from one to several miles long, as the trails lead to Bull of the Woods Mountain and back down. Floating atop a fresh blanket of snow, breathing the pristine mountain air, hearing the swooshing sounds of your snowshoes, all while viewing our gorgeous mountain scenery is a multi-sensory experience. Lots of forest-dwelling animals live here; you'll almost certainly see snowshoe hare and bobcat tracks marking the meadows and maybe even catch a glimpse of these beautiful creatures! Some routes along Bull of the Woods Road are shared with the snowmobile trail, which makes it easy to reach hiking trails that are rarely frequented and often yield untouched snow. This is a great place to find solitude. As this is a privately owned area, a daily access permit is required and can be purchased for $10 or you can buy a budget friendly seasonal permit if you're going to be here longer. 

One of the best places to watch the sunset at Northside is Jean's Meadow, which is named after Jean Mayer who (alongside his brother Dadou) founded the Hotel St. Bernard, one of the ski valley's first European-style ski lodges and restaurants. As the sun dips towards the horizon to the west, another option for wide-open views of the sky and mountains is a meadow that is a short hike down from the Sawmill Trail. Please note that once the sun sets it gets dark and cold quickly, so make sure to bring a headlamp to light your way and extra layers to keep you warm no matter what time of year you choose to stay after dark. 

Along with the St. Bernard, there are cozy and comfortable lodging options both inside the village and immediately downhill from it including the historic Amizette Inn, with views of the Rio Hondo, and the Columbine Inn (where you can watch the stars shimmer in the sky while you soak in the outdoor hot tub). 

3. Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

The Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument is just a short drive away from Taos Ski Valley and is one of the most dynamic places to visit while in Taos, offering sweeping views of the Taos mountains. After crossing the iconic Rio Grande Gorge bridge, to take in jaw-dropping views you can park your car or bike either on the east rim of the gorge or in the rest area on the west rim. The view from the west rim includes the bridge and has been featured in countless magazines and movies over the years. Photographers, painters, and others love the inspiring scenery both from the bridge and the West Rim Trail, on the west side of the gorge, which is great for hiking and biking. The trailhead—and many local artisans with their wares—can be found in the rest-area parking lot. If you walk out along the trail, keep your eyes open not just for benches overlooking the gorge but also bighorn sheep that make their home there.

Whether the sheep make a guest appearance or not, experiencing a sunset at this site is incredible. The entire Taos range lights up with the most vibrant orange, pink, and purple hues imaginable!  Bands of color fade from one into another, ultimately blending into an ethereal atmospheric phenomena where the sky becomes the lightest silvery pink before darkening into twilight when the first stars appear.  It's awe-inspiring, to say the least. 

After the light show, as you head back uphill to the ski valley, there are several spots on Highway 150 to stop for food and beverages. They include Pizaños, a locals' favorite specializing in New York-style pizza, house-made salads, and classic Italian-style entrees. Check out the Taos- themed artwork and look for names on the menu that pay homage to some of the owners' favorite ski runs, like the Whitefeather Pizza and Fifth Chute deli sandwich. To experience a modern spin on nostalgic favorites, check out medley, an upscale addition to our local restaurant scene. The owners are the chefs and their passion for what they do is evident in every detail. Locals love the Happy Hour, and there is a selection of over 500 wines, spirits, and beers available for purchase at the Wine Shop next door as well as in-house.

You really can't go wrong catching a northern New Mexico sunset anywhere that you can find an open view, whether it's to the west or back toward the mountains, but we hope that our suggestions help you find the panorama you seek as well as a way to warm up afterwards!