Enchanted Circle

New Mexico is known as “the land of enchantment,” so we thought it was only fitting that we complete the “Enchanted Circle” before we leave. The Enchanted Circle is an 84-mile loop in northern New Mexico that takes you through some cool small towns and great scenery.

We started the Enchanted Circle in Angel Fire because that’s where we were camping for the Balloons Over Angel Fire Hot Air Balloon Festival (held every June). We camped at Monte Verde RV Park & Campground because it was within viewing distance of where the hot air balloon festival happens. The campground was nice with bathroom facilities, mountain views, and very convenient, but a little on the spendier side (~$23/night).

Our tent site in the valley of Angel Fire

Monte Verde Campground in Angel Fire

Our tent site in the valley of Angel Fire

Monte Verde Campground in Angel Fire

If you know anything about hot air balloons, you know that the weather needs to be just about perfect in order to fly. Unfortunately, the tropical storm, Bud, was bringing weather up our direction on Saturday morning, so the hot air balloon festival was cancelled for that entire day. Once we heard the bad news, we started our journey on the Enchanted Circle. Below is a map we found in our Balloons Over Angel Fire pamphlet. We wrote in about how long it took us to drive to each town that’s part of the Enchanted Circle. 

Enchanted Circle map

Our first stop was Eagle Nest. We did not do much here because the weather was poor when we drove through. Even though it was quite cloudy, this picture shows a glimpse of the beauty the Enchanted Circle provides. 

View from our car on the Enchanted Circle

Then we stopped at Red River, an old western mountain town with a killer new brewery. We had only seen the brewery in passing on our way through the town but decided to head back there for dinner and we were not disappointed! Red River Brewing Company very recently opened in May 2018. They have great food, simple beers, and an awesome atmosphere (live music, bonfire, games, several different seating areas, and a view of the mountains). We were lucky enough to get a brewery tour from the brewmaster, who was very insightful. Check the bottom of the beer menu for when tours are available. If they are happening when you are there, you should definitely take advantage. The tour is $15 (including a flight of 6 beers) and a normal flight is $14 = no brainer!

Red River Brewing Company

A brewery with a view!

One of the coolest breweries we’ve been to in a while!

Red River Brewing Company

A brewery with a view!

One of the coolest breweries we’ve been to in a while!

Awesome patio!

Root beer and real beer

Delicious food – french toast, grilled cheese, and green chile burger

Awesome patio!

Root beer and real beer

Delicious food – french toast, grilled cheese, and green chile burger

We got a tour from the brew masters!

The tour ended with a flight of all 12 beers on tap (including the secret 13th beer)!

Red River – a small town with an old western vibe

We got a tour from the brew masters!

The tour ended with a flight of all 12 beers on tap (including the secret 13th beer)!

The next stop on the Enchanted Circle was Questa. We just drove through this town, as the weather was once again, not in our favor. The next stop after Questa is Taos, but because we had already visited there another weekend (see our Trekking Around Taos blog), we drove straight through. We briefly stopped by the Taos Pueblo because we missed it on our last Taos trip. This is a community that the ancient pueblo people have been living in for 1,000 years now. You have to pay $16 to enter the grounds, so we just walked by quick to get a taste of it.

The Taos pueblo – where natives have lived for 1,000 years

To complete the full Enchanted Circle, we ended our journey back in Angel Fire. We did two hikes in Angel Fire that were recommended to us: the Oeste Vista Trail and the Lake & Ladyslipper Trail. The Oeste Vista Trail is a 2.6-mile moderate trail (if you take the long loop option) that is mostly uphill for the first half of the loop with some vistas at the top and then mostly downhill for the latter half. The Lake Trail and Ladyslipper Trail are two separate trials that intersect. We started at the Lake Trailhead and then met up with the Ladyslipper Trailhead a little under a mile in. The Ladyslipper Trail is a bit tricky to follow due to there being several loops for ATVs, but in general they all flow the same direction. With the route that we took, our combined Lake/Ladyslipper hike was about 3.5 miles and took us about 1.5 hours.

Oeste Vista Trail in Angel Fire

View from the top of the trail!

Lake Trail and Lady Slipper Trail

Monte Verde Lake Trail

Found some deer!

Oeste Vista Trail in Angel Fire

View from the top of the trail!

Lake Trail and Lady Slipper Trail

Monte Verde Lake Trail

Found some deer!

After our hikes, we stopped at the Enchanted Circle Brewing Company. The beer was adequate, and the atmosphere was decent, but we highly recommend the Red River Brewing Company. This is the only brewery in Angel Fire, so worth a stop if you’re in the area looking for local beer.

 Enchanted Circle Brewing Company

Adam deciding which beer to start with.

Enchanted Circle Brewing Company

Adam deciding which beer to start with.

Since we were here in the summer, we could not ski the Angel Fire Ski Resort, so instead we took the chairlift up for a beautiful view of the valley from 10,000 ft. The chairlift fee is $12, but it’s a long ride (~15 min each way) and you do get an opportunity to hike a little at the summit! We wanted to hike down, but the trails were closed when we were there for an endurance race. Instead, we just did a quick loop hike of the summit with some educational signs to read.

Angel Fire chair lift ride!

View of the valley from the lift

Angel Fire chair lift ride!

View of the valley from the lift

On Sunday morning, we crossed our fingers hoping the hot air balloons would be able to fly. Unfortunately, the weather was not good enough for them to fly safely, but they were able to at least blow up their balloons for a static display. It was interesting to see how you inflate a hot air balloon; they turn the basket sideways, use a fan to open the balloon up, and then use the propane-fueled flame to keep the balloon filled up. Even though they didn’t fly, the blown-up balloons with the backdrop of the mountains was quite a spectacle!

We discovered they tilt hot air balloons sideways to fill them up!

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t nice enough for them to fly, but they still look beautiful with the mountain backdrop!

What a beautiful valley!

We discovered they tilt hot air balloons sideways to fill them up!

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t nice enough for them to fly, but they still look beautiful with the mountain backdrop!

What a beautiful valley!

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