New Mexico True – Things To Do In Red River NM In Every Season
Arriving at a new ski-town… there’s always a bit of judgement happening. After so many days at Santa Fe, Taos, and Angel Fire, you may think you know what Red River is going to be about. And yet, you don’t. Pulling into town, you can’t put your finger on it. Is it a mining town? A ski-town? A tourist mecca like Deadwood? Looking to the right you see Red River Ski Area. The ridgeline seems as though every good fall-line has a trail. Like a tough, hard working outdoorsy type, this town slowly lets down its guard if you let it into your heart. Here’s what we learned on what to eat, where to go, where to stay and of course a list of things to do in Red River NM.
Red River New Mexico Quick Hits
We’ll be completely honest. Before our journey south to New Mexico, the Red River we’d heard of was from the legendary Western with John Wayne. With no expectations and an open mind, we were blown away to find one of the funkiest ski towns we’ve visited in a LONG time. Even though the town has only 466 permanent residents, it’s filled with a large helping of culture. A big soul for skiing. And plenty of fun to be had at night.
Very Friendly Deer
Do you remember the movie The Birds? In Red River, instead of ravens surrounding you out of nowhere, you’ll see a herd of deer show up. Don’t be alarmed. They’re just smart enough to realize that the town is where it’s at to gain access for munching on grasses and foraging for food.
Park The Car Barney… And Leave It There
The town itself is only a mile long and a few blocks wide. Despite seeing plenty of people driving around, you don’t need to, especially if you’re there to go skiing. From pretty much any lodging in town you can walk to one of the lifts. The only other ski destinations we’ve been to that had slopes literally descend into town are Telluride and Aspen.
Torchlight Parade On Saturdays Through The Ski Season
Yes! Torchlight Parades happen at ski areas across North America but how many do it ALL SEASON LONG? Every Saturday like clockwork, Red River Ski Area throws out the red carpet or rather red torchlights. Families and friends start gathering at the Lift House around dusk. Serving up hot cocoa or adult beverages around 7 pm, everyone looks up to see a group of skiers drop down the run nicknamed “The Face.” Like a good Sundae treat, the event is finished off with fireworks.
Note: Torchlight parades are on hold this season due to the Pandemic.
Where Western Texas Goes To Ski
When I think of Texas, first thing that comes to mind are people from Dallas or Houston. Big truck, big house, and big hair. It wasn’t until I came to Red River that I realized I never really met a true Texan. They are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and boy do they know how to party.
Getting To Red River
As we said above, most visitors who come to Red River are within their drive market, which consists of Oklahoma and Texas. If coming from the east, you’ll take NM-38 over Bobcat Pass. Beware that if it’s snowing, the pass itself is at 9,280 feet above sea level so check New Mexico road conditions ahead of time.
If you’re flying into Red River, the closest international airport is Albuquerque, which is about three hours away. There are airlines that fly into Santa Fe as well, cutting that time in half. And if you’re coming in winter, Taos provides a few direct flights from California and Texas.
Note: For 2020/21 season, Taos Air has been suspended due to the pandemic but hopefully will be back next season.
Red River Trip Planning
If there’s one word that describes the Red River community – Freedom. If you love the outdoors in every shape, form, or fashion with minimal rules, you’ll LOVE Red River. They embrace each season like a bear hug. This translates to an almost infinite amount of things to do in Red River NM any time of year.
Best Things To Do In Red River New Mexico
This isn’t a ski-town like any other… just like the name dictates, it is THE motherlode of music, the outdoors, and most of all, the beating heart of what IS ski culture. If you’re near Red River, be sure to get your rest ahead of time because you’ll need it for the number of things to do in Red River NM morning, noon, and night.
The beating pulse of Red River is the Motherlode Saloon. This unassuming center is where some have said that many of the Austin music scene veterans got their start. Major names like Three Faces West, BW Stevenson, and Leon Russel played here. From the outside, it seems rough, tough, and unwelcoming. Almost like Bob’s Country Bunker in Blues Brothers. Memories flood over you of the scene where the owner tells Jake & Elwood, “We play all music: Country, Western, & Honky Tonk.” But then you step into it… and you’re blown away. What is this?!?! A town of only a few hundred have a music venue you’d expect in a city of millions. How does this place even exist?!?
Their focus might be country music, but if you’re a music lover that label isn’t really doing it justice. This place doesn’t just have live music… it has AMAZING artists that are the future of music. A hotbed of the next generation. A glimpse into who will become famous. Whenever you visit Red River and you’re in town on a weekend, be sure to set aside time to see some live music at the Motherlode, regardless of your personal genre preference. You won’t regret it.
If you love venturing out on your own two feet with beautiful mountain vistas, ancient trees, and plenty of things to see, Red River is right up your alley. Here’s just a small sampling of the many hiking trails available to you:
Easy stroll – Red River Nature Trail: Following the river, it’s a good option for families and those looking for some time outside without any strenuous effort since it’s paved, pretty flat, and about three miles round trip.
Moderate Challenge – Sawmill Park Trail: While there isn’t a ton of technical scrabbling, the challenge is that you’ll gain 1,350 feet in 3.6 miles. The reward is you’ll see beautiful wildflowers, amazing vistas, and a bristlecone pine that’s over 1,000 years old.
Hard Effort – Gold Hill: If you’re wondering where they got that overhead panoramic photo of Red River, it’s from the top of Gold Hill. Gaining approximately three thousand feet in the 11.5-mile loop, you’ll definitely work up an appetite.
The town sits at about 8,600 feet in elevation, and many of the hikes go higher than that, so always bring plenty of water when you hike, wear sunscreen, and take your time to adjust to the elevation.
Giddy up! Throw on your boots and a pair of Wranglers for a true mountain adventure – horseback riding. Get a taste of what life was like nearly a century ago by setting off by horse directly from the center of town via Red River Stables. You can head out for an hour trail ride or a full day excursion deep into the mountains.
Have you ever imagined what a chuck wagon cookout must’ve been like? The Cowboy Evening up at Bobcat Pass Wilderness Adventures provides you a glimpse into it. Hear live music, watch biscuits made over a fire in an authentic Dutch oven, and enjoy western hospitality at its best. Held on Tuesdays, Thursday, and Saturdays throughout summer.
One of the biggest attractions of things to do in Red River NM once the snow melts away. Visitors come for the off roading. How come? You have to look back at its history. The first pioneers who visited here were fur trappers, prospectors, and loggers. To access many of these boomtowns like LaBelle, wagon trails were created. These now offer splendid opportunities to see the past as well as take in unique views like Greenie Peak and Goose Lake.
Don’t own a 4WD with high ground clearance or an OHV? Reach out to Red River Offroad for a guided tour in any season.
Red River Ski & Summer Area
We’re not old enough to have skied at areas like Aspen or Vail before they became mainstream luxury destinations. But the stories from my father and his friends of their trips to these places are the stuff of legends. The focus was about having fun before, during, and after skiing. A dash of Wild West. A pinch of adult libations. And a heaping spoonful of joyous chaotic fun. Nowhere else has come close to this raw energy like Red River Ski Area. The lifts might be slow, but the mountain itself is worth a visit!
Just as off roading is one of the fun things to do in Red River NM in the summer, as the snow returns, the mountains become a playground for snowmobiling. If you’re staying in town, the Red River Sled Shed has been offering visitors access to some winter motorized fun since ’86. Offering tours up to Greenie Peak, you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of Red River Ski Area, Moreno Valley, and Wheeler Peak. If you want a unique wild experience, take the sunset ride where you start off in daylight, see the sunset on the town, and finish the ride with headlights.
Cross Country Skiing
If you love the feeling of gliding across a wide open area on a pair of Nordic skis, Red River should be high on your list to visit when in New Mexico. Home to the state’s only dedicated cross country ski area, Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area is located at the crest of Bobcat Pass at an elevation of 9,800 feet, so even if there isn’t snow in town, there will likely be up at the summit. You’ll find 33 km of groomed trails, 18 km of snowshoe trails, and plenty of backcountry trails to explore. And for those interested in a winter camping experience, be sure to check out their yurt rentals.
Restaurants Of Red River
You would think a small town such as Red River wouldn’t have any good food. You’d be wrong. In fact, for its size, there’s quite a few options. Portion sizes are no joke. They’re HUGE! Let’s just say you won’t go hungry.
Texas Reds Steakhouse
If there’s an institution in Red River outside of the ski area, it’s Texas Reds. The interior is like your favorite flannel and a worn in pair of jeans. A perfect level of comfort for going out. Even though you’re surrounded by a hundred others, you’ll feel like you’re with family. For more than five decades, they’ve been serving up classic Western foods like charbroiled steaks, prime rib, and even elk burgers.
Old Tymer’s Cafe
On the other side of the spectrum for breakfast or early lunch, the Old Tymer’s Café is the spot. Walls are adorned with biker memorabilia including a bunch from Sturgis. Be sure to bring your appetite as just a single pancake is the size of a pizza and over an inch thick. If you’re feeling up to it, they have a food challenge: eat three of these monsters in under an hour. Good luck! For carnivores, be sure to order their homemade breakfast sausage patty. It’s to die for.
Hankering a taste of something a bit different when in town? Head off the main drag to Sundance. A fusion of their own flavors, they feature a dash of New Mexican, a pinch of Tex-Mex, and a healthy dollop of flavor. You can tell they take great pride in the ingredients and dishes. The highlight of our meal was the stuffed sopapilla. It was like a cheesy taco meets a torta sandwich. The Agave wine margarita is a MUST! Wine meets margarita, it goes well with any of the spicy dishes you pick.
Red River Brewing Company
Looking for a spot to just chill out after a day on the slopes or exploring the wilderness? For ambience, this is the place to go. Firepits outside to hang out and sip on one of their many crafted beers. In addition to the barley pops, they also serve up a choice of food. One of the unique items on the menu is a French Toast Grilled Cheese. As the name dictates, the bread is like French toast, and you dip it into raspberry jam.
Places To Stay In Red River
Red River’s accommodations provide the authentic cabin feel deep in the Sangre De Cristo mountains. From kicking your feet up in front of a cozy fire to having a kitchen to whip up a meal or even a glamping experience in a yurt, there’s a place for you. To read about some of our favorites head over to our in-depth places to stay in Red River guide: