If you have been to Taos, New Mexico, you’ve probably taken a picture of San Francisco de Asis Church. If you haven’t been to the church, it’s only four miles from the center of Taos in the small community of Ranchos de Taos. It is a simple and beautiful building that has been photographed by Ansel Adams and is the subject of several Georgia O’Keefe paintings.
If you want to expand your adventure, you can check out a natural hot spring by going another three miles. To do this, drive about a half mile south to Llano Quemado road. When you reach the road, turn towards the mountains and drive another two and half miles or so. The road will eventually become unpaved (but still drivable) and you’ll want to stay on Miranda Canyon Road when you reach a junction. When you see a gated dirt road on your right, park your car and walk a little less than a mile to reach Ponce de Leon Springs.
In the early part of the last century the springs were developed into a small resort. Eventually the resort closed and the hot spring pools were dynamited. When I visited the springs nine years ago, the place was trashed and if you jumped into any remaining water you risked cutting your foot on broken glass. The situation was so bad that the spring was removed from the “Jayson Loam Hot Springs Guide” as Not Usable by People.
A little over a year ago, I read in the paper that the conservation trust that owned the spring and surrounding land was transferring the property to Taos Pueblo. As part of the agreement, Taos Pueblo agreed to keep it accessible. I wondered if that was true as many other Pueblos have bought adjacent land and in the process have made it very difficult to access tracts of public land.
I finally took a trip to Taos earlier this week to find out if the hot springs were still accessible.
What a great surprise and great day. Taos Pueblo has been true to their word. The springs are accessible and they have taken wonderful care of the property. We are lucky to have them as stewards. And as for the spring being usable by people, it is!