Day 1b – Mountain Pass: Ranchos de Taos to Peñasco


Description: This 17.6 mile mountain bypass traverses through old trails in the Carson National Forest. Like the road pass (Day 1a), it begins at the church of San Francisco de Asís in Ranchos de Taos. There is usually zero cell phone service in the mountains. 

It is absolutely critical to have an offline GPS on this route as there is not a great way to explain the directions once you enter the national forest. There are many turns and taking just one wrong turn won’t be good. 


Due to snow build-up in the mountains, it also critical to talk to locals about how much snow is in the mountains. The NOHRSC NOAA interactive snow information map has been helpful in the past for me to predict the snow depth in the mountains. Sometimes, the snow is too much and you have to choose a different route. 

Route Preparation+Details

 GPS FILE  (.kmz)

Mileage: 17.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 3,154 ft

High Point: 9,226 feet

Low Point: 6,903 feet



Plenty of Airbnb’s exists in Ranchos de Taos, and Peñasco – so no problem finding a place to sleep at the beginning or end of the route. There are no cabins in the Carson National Forest along the mountain pass  So you are left with two choices: either finish the route in one day OR camp somewhere in the Carson National Forest along the route. (Map Here). I recommend starting the day early to finish the route in one day.



No food along the way. Stock up in Taos, or go to one of the little stores in Peñasco! There are great restaurants in Taos and Peñasco.


Interesting things along route

– the Pilgrim’s Cross, on the high-point of the mountain pass, where you can drop a stone on the pile

Ponce de Leon Hot Springs – this is 1.4 miles (one-way) off-trail



San Francisco de Asís – RANCHOS DE TAOS

You would be missing out on quite a lot if you did not visit the iconic church of San Francisco in Ranchos de Taos. The lively parish always has things going on. A personal note: this is where I have always started pilgrimages I have led on. There is something so special about this holy church. It is a fitting place to begin the pilgrimage.

Mass times: 1st Saturday, 5th Saturday at 5:00PM, Sunday 8AM Spanish Mass, 10AM English Mass

Address: 60 St Francis Plaza, Ranchos De Taos, NM 87557

Phone: (575) 758-2754



Capilla de Nuestra Señora del Carmen – RANCHOS DE TAOS

This small mission of the mother church of the area (San Francisco de Asís) has a monthly mass. As of writing this, the mass is on the 2nd Saturday at 5:00PM. Call San Francisco to verify the mass time / other information. See map for exact location, which is just a half-mile south-west of Ranchos de Taos. 

Address: 29 State Rd 382, Ranchos De Taos, NM 87557


Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Our Lady of the Ascension) – VADITO

This small church is located two miles east of Vadito. I have not been able to confirm any details regarding the church. 

Map Location


San Antonio-Padua Church – PEÑASCO

This active church in Peñasco has several masses every weekend. Unfortunately no website exists for the parish. Mass Times: Sunday 8:30AM, 7:00PM at San Antonio

Phone: (575) 587-211

Address: 14079 NM-75, Peñasco, NM 87553