Taking a Taos, NM, to Durango, CO, road trip will give you the opportunity to travel through some lovely parts of New Mexico and Colorado. There are some great national and state parks along the way. If you don't mind adding extra miles to your journey, your itinerary could also include some national parks that are a few hours off your route. Furthermore, consider allocating enough time to explore the great tourist attractions and lovely towns along your road trip.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park is the closest national park to your route. It’s only about an hour from Manassa, Colorado, so it’s a must-see stop on your road trip itinerary from Taos, NM, to Durango, CO. While Colorado might not be the first state that comes to mind when you think about places that would have large dunes, Great Sand Dunes National Park will reverse those expectations. In fact, this is the place to go to experience America’s largest sand dunes. There’s more to this park, however, as you can also explore wetlands, tundra, grasslands, conifer forests, and more.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
You can reach Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in about three and a half hours from Great Sand Dunes National Park. Alternatively, you can get there by traveling two hours and 40 minutes north from Durango. No matter when you choose to visit this rugged national park on your road trip from Taos, NM, to Durango, CO, you won’t be disappointed by the hiking, fishing, rock climbing, and kayaking opportunities. You’ll be able to view the oldest exposed rock in America during the day and a vibrant night sky after dark.
Mesa Verde National Park
Once you reach Durango, all you’ll have to do to find Mesa Verde National Park is drive west on Highway 160 for roughly 40 minutes. The prime attraction here is the main site that contains the best-preserved Ancient Puebloan ruins in the U.S. More than 600 cliff dwellings are contained in the park, and over 4,300 archaeological dig sites can be found here. Some great trails open up the park in a variety of ways. You can take the quarter-mile trail to the large Cliff Palace, but you can also hike out to Petroglyph Point, Knife Point, Long House, and Point Lookout.
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park is about two hours and 40 minutes northwest of Durango in lovely Utah. It’s Utah’s largest national park, containing more than 520 square miles of stunning canyons, spires, mesas, crevasses, and even a river intersection. You can explore this fascinating national park on your bike, on horseback, or on foot. You can also ride a raft or a boat down the Colorado and Green rivers.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park is right up the road from Canyonlands on the other side of the town of Moab, so you can’t pass up the opportunity to take in this immensely photogenic protected area. The park gets its name from the more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches that delight visitors with their grace and beauty. In addition to these arches, you can view numerous other rock formations and desert vistas. This park has multiple strenuous trails for dedicated adventurers, but there are also multiple easy trails that give hikers the ability to see some of the park’s top attractions.
Eagles Nest Lake State Park
Eagles Nest Lake State Park is only 45 minutes out of Taos, so it’s an early point on your road trip itinerary from Taos, NM, to Durango, CO. The star of this show is Eagles Nest Lake itself, which is a gorgeous blue lake set amid rolling hills and mountain peaks. Fishers love it here thanks to the abundance of trout pike. More than 7 miles of trails are perfect for hiking in the summer and snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter.
Cimarron Canyon State Park
Cimarron Canyon State Park is only 20 minutes to the west of Eagles Nest Lake, so it’s a logical destination to add to your Taos, NM, to Durango, CO, RV road trip. The park encompasses 8 miles of the Cimarron Canyon, Cimarron River, and Cimarron Mountains. The Cimarron River is an excellent place to fish for trout and to paddle a boat. The park also contains the Colin Neblett Wildlife Management Area, which is a great place to hunt for big game. Hiking, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing are all popular activities here.
San Luis State Park
Two hours north of Taos is San Luis State Park. It’s just to the west of Great Sand Dunes National Park, so you can visit here once you’ve finished exploring the dunes. Swimming, fishing, boating, and various water sports can be enjoyed at lovely San Luis Lake. Furthermore, this is a great place for birding, wildlife watching, and general exploration.
Heron Lake State Park
Heron Lake State Park in New Mexico is known for its brilliantly blue, wake-free waters that are perfect for paddling, kayaking, canoeing, etc. Plenty of trout and salmon live in Heron Lake, so maybe you’ll catch one or two if you drop a line. You can also explore the shoreline of the lake as well as 7 miles of scenic trails, so there’s plenty to do on dry land.
Navajo State Park
Navajo State Park is 50 miles away from Durango, so it’s close to the end of your road trip. Navajo Lake is 24 square miles large, so there’s plenty of room for boating, swimming, and fishing. It’s also a popular destination for house-boaters, so this is the place to go if you want to put a big boat in the water. There are plenty of trails to explore—especially in the spring and the fall when the foliage is particularly lovely.
Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge
Southwest of Great Sand Dunes National Park is the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge. Here, watching and photographing wildlife are two favorite activities thanks to the variety of local fauna.
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is located in the town of Chama, so it’s right on the route of your Taos, NM, to Durango, CO, road trip. On this national historic landmark, you’ll be able to take a 64-mile trip through the southern part of the Rocky Mountains. The leaves are exquisite in the fall, so this is a great place to go for some autumn tree viewing.
Pagosa Wildlife Park
Pagosa Wildlife Park, which is also known as Rocky Mountain Wildlife Park, is also right off your route. You can see a grizzly bear, a mountain lion, an elk, and more non-releasable wild animals at this privately owned zoo. The zoo seeks to educate visitors about the wonders of these animals and their native environments.
Chimney Rock National Monument
South of Chimney Rock and Piedra is the Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado. Thanks to the presence of this national monument close to your route, you don’t have to go all the way down to Chaco Culture National Historical Park to visit Ancient Puebloan ruins left behind by the people of the Chaco Canyon. Over 200 ancient homes and ceremonial buildings have been preserved here.
Pagosa Outside Adventures
Pagosa Outside Adventures is located in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. If you want to raft, tube, kayak, or use a stand-up paddleboard on the San Juan River, this is the place to go. Those who prefer to stay on dry land can also book bike tours here.
In New Mexico, there are plenty of dump stations and campgrounds for you to use. The same is true of Colorado; you won't have to worry about finding suitable dump stations and campgrounds in some of the main cities you pass through.
Costilla and Garcia are sister communities; one lies in New Mexico and the other in Colorado right across the border. These towns are fascinating because Garcia is virtually a ghost town and Costilla has its fair share of old, abandoned buildings. Garcia is the oldest European settlement in Colorado, so it’s worth visiting.
Antonito, CO, is close to the Conejo River and the small town of Conejo. The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad has a station here, so you could also take a ride on it here. Other local attractions are Cano’s Castle and Cumbres Pass.
On the banks of the Rio Chama is the town of Chama, NM. In addition to its Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad station, it’s also home to local attractions like Mountainview Mall and Fishtail Ranch.
There is no shortage of fun activities to do in Pagosa Springs, CO. You can visit places of natural beauty like Treasure Falls and the Piedra River Trail. You can have some fun at Wolf Creek Ski Resort and the Springs Resort & Spa.
Bayfield, CO, is the last town on your road trip itinerary from Taos, NM, to Durango, CO. Here, you can visit some local parks on the Los Pinos River before heading to your final destination. If you want to stay outside Durango, consider the Bayfield Riverside RV Park.