Red River New Mexico Summer Vacation
On a summer vacation to escape the Texas heat, we spent 5 days in Red River and 3 days in Angel Fire. We fell in love with Red River the minute we saw it coming down the mountain into the town's narrow valley - I heard the motorhome huffing and puffing to get up to the top of the peak at over 10,000' and a wheeee as it tried to barrel down the hill and get to it's campsite on the Red River. Some of the reasons we love Red River is that it:
- has a wild western flair, folksy casualness, and gold tinted mining town past
- is surrounded by the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains and home to 36 mountain summits and peaks
- the locals are friendly, laid back, and outgoing
- Main Street invites strolling in the sun, bar hopping, shopping, stopping in for a bite to eat, or sitting on a park bench enjoying the sun and scenery
- there is lots to see and do from ballooning to zipping through the trees
- the summer weather is perfect
Red River is rich with history of the Ute and Jicarilla Apaches who fought and raided nearby pueblos and roamed the area; explorers and fur trappers who tried winter and summer to make a living; and miners who sought fortunes from the gold, silver and copper mines that were carved into the mountain around Red River starting in 1870. Mining helped the population of Red River soar to over 3000 when mining hit it's peak in 1897. But the mines eventually played out around 1905 and Red River morphed from a Boomtown to a Mountain Retreat in the 1920's - a welcome escape from the Texas and southern New Mexico heat. Today, Red River has a population of around 500 friendly folks who seem to love the outdoors and their quaint town. Located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Red River is completely surrounded by the Carson National Forest, sits at 8750' above sea level, and the average summer temperate is 78 during the day and 38 at night - just what we were looking for!!!!
The town of Red River, with the cascading clear water of Red River running through it, is small and quaint with architecture that ranges from Swiss Alps inns to old mining town buildings. You can bike from one end of Main Street to the other end of town in less than five minutes past a variety of restaurants, options for lodging, quaint shops, fun bars, and things to do. During our stay in Red River, we parked the Jeep and rode bikes or walked everywhere we went.
For lodging there are a couple full hook-up RV parks on the edge of town and six US Forest Service Campgrounds within a few miles of downtown. Red River is loaded with a wide variety of lodging options from hotel type rooms to yurts to multi-bedroom mountain homes to cozy cabins along the river. And again, you can get anywhere by foot or bike.
Kids are going to love you when you bring them to Red River - they can ride go carts, tube down the mountain, play frisbee golf, play or fish in the River, visit Black Mountain Playhouse (video games, roller skating, indoor putt-putt, ride up and down the chairlift, pool tables, fooseball, and lots of other fun stuff), ride bikes, hike the nature trail, climb a climbing wall, bungee jump, enjoy the playground in the park, or fish one of the community ponds or the river that runs through town. Red River has several parks that have everything from volleyball and basketball courts to soccer and softball fields to disc golf and playgrounds.
Some of the fun things we did when we were in Red River included:
- renting a mule (not the stubborn 2 ear, 4 legs kind with a tail), ours was a 4 wheel drive Kawasaki mule that would seat six. We drove it up to the top of a nearby mountain peak on a forest road, to an old miners cave, and to a scenic alpine lake. Click on this link to read our Offroading in Red River New Mexico.
- listening to fantastic music during Larry Joe Taylor's three day music festival - one day the music started -at 9:30 with Bob Livingston's "Bloody Mary Morning" and continued until 12:30 that night
- enjoying a fun panoramic ride up the chairlift for some cold beer, warm sun, and outstanding music on the deck overlooking some jaw dropping scenery
- explored the town by bike, ate at every restaurant that was recommended by more than 4 people, and spent way too much time in the bars listening to music
- took a scenic drive to just past Taos to raft a section of the Rio Grande River called the "Race Course" which is home to wildlife, some huge boulders that seemed to always be in our raft path, 12 sets of Class 2 and Class 3 rapids, and lots of Kodak moments - here is a link to our White Water Rafting on the Rio Grande River Article
Red River is alive with events all summer long from great concerts and festivals like River & Brews Blues Fest to Bluegrass Music Festival to Redfest Music Festival as well as events like a Classic Car Show, Oktoberfest, Bike Tour, Bingo in the Park, and Buckaroo Ball. Do a little research and schedule your vacation around one of these fun events. In fact the main reason we ended up in Red River was to escape the 105 degree Texas heat but also to attend one of our favorite Texas singer songwriters music festival which was held August 15th to the 17th. For the last 17 years, Larry Joe Taylor has been bringing some of the best musicians and bands to Red River for his annual Cool Mountain Nights & Hot Chili Days Music Festival. Wow, what a fantastic festival - excellent music, 4 unique music venues, small friendly crowd, and perfect weather! Read our review of this very fun music event.
During a summer vacation, some of the other things you can do in Red River include:
- all of the kids activities mentioned earlier that include everything from go carts to video games
- sign up with Red River Offroad for a Jeep tour in the Carson National Forest, which can be a rocky and bumpy ride to some breathtaking destinations like Greenie Peak, Goose Lake, or the top of the Old Pass Road. Or bring your own off road vehicle to explore the numerous trails and back roads with beautiful scenery.
- there are miles and miles of trails for hiking or mountain biking and you can take the chairlift to the summit (with your mountain bike if you like or rent one in town) and hike or bike down the Red River ski trails.
- Mountain climbing is also very popular in the Red River area and you can practice on the climbing wall in the middle of town.
- it's well worth it to take the chairlift to the summit of Red River Ski Area where the views are breathtaking in all directions, the Tip Restaurant with a large deck and serves food and drinks, and you can play 18 holes of disc golf. Then take the chair back down or hike any of the several trails leading back into town.
- the kids and us young at heart will love the tube ride down Gold Rush Hill which is one of the longest summer tubing lanes in the country - and they can take the Gold Chairlift back up and do it again, and again, and again. For the younger kids, the Baby Blue slide is perfect.
- fly fishing in the streams and ponds is very popular and most of the Red River is easily accessible without trespassing. The River is always flowing and stocked regularly with trout and a variety of other fish.
- if you like scenic drives, the 84 mile Enchanted Circle will take you through some quaint and historic towns like Taos, Eagles Nest, Angel Fire, and Questa and past some spectacular scenery, rugged back country, mountain trails, streams, lakes, pueblos and more.
- if you don't like the 4 wheel drive mule, why not explore the trails by horseback with any of the stables in town that do trail rides
- if you want to ride one of the longest ziplines in New Mexico, zip down to Angel Fire Resort which is only 29 miles away - we loved our Angel Fire Zipline Adventure
- while you're in Angel Fire why not play 18 holes of golf on Angel Fire Country Club's spectacular golf course; take an ATV tour up a bumpy but fun trail; ride the Chile Express Chair lift (the longest in New Mexico) up to the top of the mountain for hiking, food, or 18 holes of disc golf; or zoom down any of the Angel Fire Bike Park's 50 trails which is a world renowned mountain bike park - read our review of Angel Fire Resort to learn more about all of this
Bottom line - it's hard to beat a summer vacation in Red River, New Mexico - reasonable lodging, lots of fun stuff to do, perfect weather, beautiful scenery, reasonable prices, close to Texas, and friendly folks.