A Surprising Journey between Denver and Taos

December 1, 2022 My Solo Trip, National Parks, The most beautiful places in North America

Enjoying a fantastic journey between Denver and Taos was a gift for the senses. Winter was coming quickly into the Rockies, and the Mountains were covered in snow.

The Icy Landscape

In 2021, I had to cancel my visit to New Mexico because the borders were closed due to the pandemic. On November 28th, 2022, I was eager to drive from Denver to New Mexico. I decided to avoid taking faster highways, preferring to drive across secondary roads through the Rocky Mountains.

Although my navigator indicated four hours, I knew it would take much longer. I left early morning, and after exiting the city traffic, the road narrowed and began to wind up the steep mountains. 

I like to drive slowly and stop to photograph what catches my eye. So I take one every time I see a detour. I like dirt roads where I can stop at the shoulder to observe the landscape, the plants, the mountains, and even the clouds.

The Solitude

During the first part of my journey, I drove through the coniferous forests. Still, the vegetation became shorter and sparse until I reached some isolated and deserted areas, where the ground and the rocks were covered only by dry bushes.

The solitary road traverses the peaks of the Pike National Forest, where the vastness of the mountains is striking, and the white peaks contrast with the dark rocks and the golden grasses of the valleys.

The wind shook the car, the blue sky turned dark, and snow-laden clouds moved quickly, leaving a layer of frost on the road. I watched nature tremble and transform in front of my eyes at each curve of the road.

There was very little traffic, and I saw no settlements or human activity. I found farms with abandoned wooden barns in the valleys and occasionally herds of cattle and horses. 

This territory had a significant boom during the gold rush, but once mining declined, the population dwindled, and many villages became ghost towns.

A Scenic Bay

Continuing driving south, I found a scenic byway road and drove for more than two hours near the great Collegiate Peaks, most of which are over 14,000 feet high.

At the beginning of my trip, I decided not to stop at Great Sand Dunes National Park because I knew of the extreme temperatures and difficulty accessing the dunes, especially during winter. Then, even though I still had two hours to drive to Taos, I decided to take a short visit.

The Great Sand Dunes National Park

From the parking area, I went through a tunnel about sixty feet long, formed by dry vegetation. Then I reached where the landscape opened and saw the dunes and great snow-capped peaks. I was surprised. It was a magical and unexpected moment.

The dunes are about ¾ of a mile from the parking lot, and the walk was strenuous. I moved cautiously, unsure if ice was under the sand and the snow. The temperature was around 26 degrees Fahrenheit, and the wind was extreme.

Perhaps due to the lack of humidity, the snow was volatile and light and slid rapidly over the sand. I had an extraordinary feeling. I felt like I was walking in a world in motion, in which the wind gusts moved along the ground, forming torrents, rapids, and whirlwinds.

Photographing and filming what I saw was quite a challenge because, due to the force of the wind, I could not use the tripod. It shook forcefully, vibrating and even flying away. Holding the camera steady was difficult, and I had to wait for the gusts to calm down to try to capture the essence of that world in motion.

Looking carefully near my feet, I saw how the mounds of sand caught the tiny ice crystals that flew over it, creating a spectacular contrast between the reddish sand and the whiteness of the snow.

The Dunes

I enjoyed watching and photographing this unique display for a long time. Then I walked to the first dune. By then, I was exhausted from fighting the wind and marching through the unstable sand that created a suction with each step. 

I decided to walk back. As evening fell, the dunes were at the perfect moment, creating long dark shadows on the sand while the force of the wind made a rippling motion in the twilight.

I waited for the beautiful pink tones of the sunset, and with the last lights, I started driving toward Taos. 

I arrived at my cabin close to eight o’clock, almost 12 hours after starting my trip. I was happy and excited to have enjoyed such a perfect day and captured hundreds of stunning images inside my cameras.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.