We are driving the Brazos Summit via US-64. Our trip began in Taos, making a few stops of interest: Taos Pueblo, Rio Grande Gorge, and Greater World Earthship Community. We finished in the village of Tres Piedras. It is time to drive to the summit. So, let’s go!
Starting Point: Tres Piedras, NM
Before you pull out, be sure to stop for a bite at the Chili Line Depot. It’s called the “best darn restaurant for miles around” and that is more than a slogan. It’s the truth. Whatever you decide to eat you can bet that it is locally raised. Do not pass up a slice of the Green-Chili Piñon Apple Pie. Yeah, it is that good.
Leaving Tres Piedras at an elevation of about 8,000 feet, the drive reaches the summit at about 10,500 feet.
The Brazos Summit
US-64 winds its way for 49 miles over the Tusas Mountains of the San Juan Range. Driving straight through with no stops takes about an hour, but I bet you stop. The road is paved with pull-outs for safely viewing the beautiful scenery. It has no hairpin turns, no rough stretches, and no drop-offs. However, there are a few 180-degree curves along the switchbacks. The 7-degree gradient may be a bit off-putting. Still, no worries for the cautious RVer.
Seasonality warrants a caveat, since winter finds the road often closed. Even April can see icy, snow-covered curves. If you travel during these times, always consult the NMRoads site. Seasonality offers benefits, as well. In summer, the temperature remains pleasant compared to the lowland. In autumn, the aspen groves explode into masses of yellow.
About 20 miles into the drive you will find Hopewell Lake Campground. A nice stop for a picnic with a 19-acre lake stocked with trout. Campsites are available for RVers, but length is limited and there are no hook-ups.
In another 9 miles, definitely take the pull-out on the right to take in the mountain view. You are now at the Brazos Pass Summit. There are a few more pull-outs, each with its own great view. From these, you can see the Brazos Peak (11,294’), Grouse Mesa (11,405’), and the Brazos Cliffs (a mere 2,000’, but 1.8 billion years old).
As you continue downside, notice the trees. Carson National Forest holds fir, spruce, juniper, aspen, and several varieties of pine. All these provide an important habitat for mule deer, elk, antelope, black bear, mountain lion, and bighorn sheep. For you birders, the year-round population includes geese, mallards, doves, hawks, and owls.
Ending Point: Tierra Amarilla, NM
The trip ends at the intersection of US-84. Take a left turn and you are about 90 miles from Santa Fe. Turn right and you are 15 miles from Chama. Both directions will lead you to more fantastic adventures. Keep checking Nature’s Highways as we will travel both directions in time.
Wait. What! The Carson National Forest covers 1.5 million acres in Northern New Mexico with elevations from 6,000 feet to 13,161 feet at Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico.