Wandering to a Natural Hot Spring in New Mexico

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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.

When you approach the church, you’ll be coming in from the back.

If you take a close look at the walls, you’ll see that the adobe is well maintained with fresh straw and mud. If you look closely, you’ll see that some of the straw has sprouted.

This is the church from the front.

No matter where you look, you’ll find an interesting angle and surface.

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.

When you get out of your car, you’ll see this sign. Great news, access is allowed. Thank you. Also it looks like the name Ponce de Leon has been taped over. I wonder if there is a name change afoot.

The walk to the spring is very pleasant.

Your walk will take you across an arroyo. When you get to the other side of the arroyo, you’ll start seeing small ditches with warm water running in them. You’re getting close.

When you see a substantial path going off to the right, follow it. If you look through the brush, you can catch a glimpse of the old pool. But keep on going.

As you keep walking along the path, you’ll catch a glimpse of this this pool.

Walk a little further and you’ll reach this wonderful pool. The water was crystal clear and warm, and the bottom was clean and free of debris. The one person soaking told us that neighbors have been working at keeping the pool pristine. What a great place for a soak.

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!

 

6 Comments

  1. I am thinking of contributing my art teaching skills to the area’s native people and considering buying a house here.
    Can I come check out the hot springs?

    • The land where the hot springs are located is owned by Taos Pueblo. When I last visited the area the springs were open to visitors. Since the land is privately owned it is subject to closure. With that in mind, it benefits all visitors to respect any posted guidelines. Other than that enjoy your soak.

  2. Went to the hot springs on Nov. 29, 2015, they gate that runs by the water pipes was locked with what looked like a brand new lock. Have to go in another way… By the way your directions are not clear at all.

  3. My sister and I went to the springs yesterday (January 17, 2016) and your directions were very helpful. There is a gate across the trail, so you do have to walk from the parking area on Miranda Canyon Road, but it is less than one mile. We had the springs to ourselves and they were very nice but only warm – not hot, so probably better in the spring and fall. Beautiful place, though.

  4. I used to come to these springs back in the 80’s and remember locals got upset and bulldozed dirt into the smaller square soaking pools. (The larger swimming pool was dynamited at the end long ago). Looks like it got flushed out but the pools look much more shallow. They were about 3 feet before. It warms my heart to see that the native peoples took over care of that land. It is a very special place to me. My first time in NM we drove all night coming down from the direction of Raton. We arrived at the springs when it was still dark (after stopping for some food to bring with from Smiths grocery). We hiked up to the pools tired and sore from the drive and were soaking as the sun rose. WOW! I never saw such purples and shades of it. Immediately fell in love with Taos. The old University of NM greenhouse below the springs appears to now be a home on google maps. It was dilapidated when I was there. Seeing the growth around the large pool is astonishing. One could clearly see the entire thing back when. Thanks you Tiwa people. As I remember one being told in Taos, “You have got to take care of the mountain and the mountain will take care of you.”

  5. Thanks for the great tip and info. With the help of someone living below the hot springs, we made it there only to find 3 dogs and 2 locals but NOONE else. Nor did we see another soul up there or back. What a way to spend my 62nd birthday!

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