Taos, New Mexico, US at Rio Grande Gorge Bridge over the Rio Grande at dusk. Image credit Sean Pavone via Shutterstock

6 Most Charming River Towns in New Mexico

New Mexico is a mountainous state that flaunts raw wilderness and all things outdoors. Among its biggest features are the Rocky Mountains, which contribute water runoff to some of the state's most spectacular waterways. Some of the US' most well-known rivers like the Rio Grande and the Gila call New Mexico home.

Coined as the "Land of Enchantment", New Mexico has an out-of-this-world natural beauty. You, too, can discover, just as so many, New Mexicans have, the lesser-known yet endearing rivers towns. From Abiquiu to Truth or Consequences, here is everything you need to know about the most charming rivers town found in the southwestern state of New Mexico.


Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu New Mexico
Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu New Mexico. Image credit Adam Springer via Shutterstock

Kicking off this list, in northern New Mexico, is the lovely town of Abiquiu. Annunciated, Ah-bi-kyoo, the small town is between Santa Fe and Chama. For those who make the journey, an epic scenery of lavender fields, lakes, jaw-dropping rock formations, and the dazzling Rio Chama serves as your reward. Abiquiu also holds a riveting history, that once placed it on the Spanish Trail.

This community of 136 (2022), in Rio Arriba County, has long been a leaping-off point for those who enjoy the outdoors. With many activities within your reach such as fishing, boating, water-skiing, wakeboarding, hiking, and photography, you will never run out of options.

Yet, its unworldly backdrop is the main prize. While here check out the sights of Ghost Ranch, Chimney Rock Trail, and the Kitchen Mesa. The biggest draw is the Echo Amphitheater. Tucked away in Carson National Forest is an impressive natural amphitheater located along sandstone cliffs. Here, those of any age can try out the acoustics. It is simply a must when visiting Abiquiu.


Historic San Albino church in the Old Mesilla Plaza at Mesilla, New Mexico
Historic San Albino church in the Old Mesilla Plaza at Mesilla, New Mexico. Image credit Jim Feliciano via Shutterstock

Once serving as the confederate capital of the Territory of Arizona, Mesilla is a surprising little package of history and magnificent sights. Perched along the Rio Grande, this community of 1,717 in Doña Ana County is best known for its architecture. Take a walk or a cruise through the streets and marvel at neighborhoods chock-full of Adobe homes.

While out, do not pass up the chance to ogle at the marvel of the community, Mesilla Plaza. Designated as a National Historic Landmark, it harbors the wondrous Basilica of San Albino. The neighboring buildings comprise a National Historic Landmark District, that will surely transport you back in time.

Red River

Aerial View of Red River Ski Town in New Mexico Mountains
Aerial View of Red River Ski Town in New Mexico Mountains. Image credit Jacob Boomsma via Shutterstock

Red River is a year-round stunning location in the mountains. Named after the Red River found at the heart of the community, this Taos County town of 554 (2022) is best known for its postcard-worthy vistas of the surrounding Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Visitors can enjoy all that Red River has to offer year-round. Regarded as one of the top ski destinations in the winter, many descend upon Red River for its powdery slopes at the Red River Ski Resort. During the summer, brave guests can participate in the Hidden Treasures Aerial Park. It is the perfect way to spend time with the family.

For those looking to add a dash of romance, ride the chairlifts up 1,600 vertical feet to take in the marvelous view. Who knows, you might see one of the resident bighorn sheep.


Buildings in Taos, New Mexico
Buildings in Taos, New Mexico. Image credit Sopotnicki via Shutterstock

Looking for a town that gets the adrenaline pumping? Check out Taos! What makes Taos stand out, is the fact that there are multiple rivers that snake around this town in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This is a unique feature that has propelled it as one of New Mexico’s underrated whitewater locations.

However, this is not the only reason why some choose to flock to Taos County. On the outskirts of town is Taos Pueblos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Landmark. It is a preserved example of a multi-tiered Abode building, that you can only truly appreciate up close and in person, which is why you should check out this charming river town.

Jemez Springs

Beautiful landscape of Battleship Rock at Jemez Springs
Beautiful landscape of Battleship Rock at Jemez Springs, New Mexico. Image credit Kit Leong via Shutterstock

Only about an hour from Albuquerque, a day trip to Jemez Springs should be on everyone’s bucket list. Nestled in Sandoval County, Jemez Springs is one of New Mexico’s best-kept secrets with only 188 residents. Based in the Jemez Valley, the village and surrounding area is home to numerous hot springs. Some are easily accessible via the Jemez Springs Bath House or the resort at the Jemez Hot Springs. Moreover, many come here for the religious and medicinal uses of the naturally occurring bubbling geysers. Thus, if resorts are not to your preferences, you can hike to your own hot springs, such as the San Antonio Hot Spring.

Albuquerque is in the Santa Fe National Forest, which teases a glimpse of the red rocks of the San Diego Canyon and the crystal clear waters of the Jemez River. This is one incredible destination that will leave you in awe.

Truth or Consequences

Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico
Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico, near Truth or Consequences. Image credit Judd Irish Bradley via Shutterstock 

Truth or Consequences has bragging rights when it comes to hot springs. In fact, the town was formerly called Hot Spring until 1950 when the name changed. Today, there are ten bathhouses dotted throughout this town of just under 6,000 residents. Aside from hot springs and spas, Truth or Consequences contains an extraordinary landscape that is best seen at Elephant Butte State Park. Here, locals and visitors can enjoy sandy beaches, hiking, all things boating, as well as fishing on the 40,000-acre reservoir.

Looking for a less crowded spot? Learn about the Apache Wars at the Geronimo Springs Museum when in town. Last but not least, enjoy some local eateries and take a walk along the Rio Grande; it is one of the best ways to spend an evening at sunset.

New Mexico, known as the land of enchantment, has a rich history, a striking arts and culture scene, and a photo-worthy landscape. It is a destination that you should visit at least once. Around every bend in the road, lies fascinating rock formations, mountains, and sparkling waterways with a charming town waiting to discover.

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