Surrounded by desert cliffs and volcanic lands, the Rio Grande winds through a gorge for 74 miles across the state of New Mexico. Once covered in lava by from nearby erupting volcanoes, the river flowed after a rift valley was formed by a geological separation in the earth’s crust. Part of it is the first designated National Wild and Scenic River, and it is a scenic spot to take part in water activities such as kayaking and whitewater rafting.
Outside of boating and fishing, hiking and biking are also popular outdoor activities in or around the gorge. The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is the second highest bridge on the U.S. Highway system, with scenic views from high above on its observation platform. In some sections it drops more than 800 feet in depth. Views from the West Rim Trail (beginning on the west side of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge) are particularly dramatic.
The two best sections for visiting the gorge are its National Wild and Scenic portion, which begins at the New Mexico/Colorado state line, and from the gorge bridge. Taos is the town nearest to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. There’s also a Rio Grande Gorge Visitor Center located in Peñasco. River levels vary year-round.