A very interesting automobile trip from Payson would be driving to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, N.M. and on to Durango, Colo. You’ll see beautiful scenery as well as partake in some fun, especially in Durango.
Get on I-40 heading east and first go to Albuquerque. This is a good day’s drive and there are many places to bed down for the night.
Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico and is situated in the central part of the state. Its population is almost 600,000 now, with the metropolitan population at 900,000. There is much to do here.
See the aquarium on Central Avenue, Northwest. The young ones will particularly enjoy this. You will also find horseback riding and hiking possibilities, theatre, sporting events and Albuquerque is the place for the annual Balloon Festival, which is held from Oct. 6-14. For more information, phone 1-800-725-2477.
Nearby is Sandia Crest where you can ride an aerial tramway climbing to 10,378 feet. Fantastic views are available here and it’s perfect for photography on most days.
Old Town is interesting. It looks like an old movie set and here you will find wonderful restaurants serving mostly Mexican food. There are also fine jewelry stores and other shops that may interest you.
The National Hispanic Cultural Center and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center are also here, along with 19 museums.
Albuquerque is at the same altitude of Payson, so you won’t have any trouble getting used to it.
After you have seen and enjoyed this marvelous town, just up Highway 25, going north for an hour’s drive is the state capital, Santa Fe. You may wish to spend a night here. Many of the homes are old Mexico Adobe in architecture and the churches are Baroque. Santa Fe has long been among the most chic cities in the U.S. It is one of the oldest cities in the country and founded by Spanish missionaries a decade before the Pilgrims reached Plymouth Rock.
It is spread across a high plateau at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Here, you will also find a good selection of hotels and motels, as well as good restaurants and watering holes. There are many artisans here and they display their works in the many shops. The Georgia O’Keeffe museum is also found here and worth the time to view her works.
If grand opera is for you, the Santa Fe Opera Company performs several works each year in its own unusual theater. Check the Internet for the dates of performances.
Now, head north on Route 84 to Chama, N.M., which is almost on the Colorado border. This is a small western town known as the starting point for the Cumbres and Toltec narrow gauge railroad, which will carry you to Antonito through hills and valleys for a day. It then returns you to Chama. The trip is very scenic, to say the least. You pass into Colorado several times on the route to Antonito. You stop at the mid-point to have a cafeteria lunch overlooking the dramatic scenery.
Following this, take Route 64 west to 550 North to head up to Durango. This beautiful town is situated in the tall pines of the Colorado Mountains dotted with aspens, ponderosas, pinions and junipers. This is an authentic western town loaded with charm and history.
It was founded in 1880 by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad and is perched at 6,500 feet. This town serves up snow in winter and sunny days in summer. The Animas River runs right through town. It was along this river that the DNRG Railroad built their narrow gauge line to Silverton, which sits at some 9,000 feet.
The railroad is now the Durango and Silverton Railroad and runs most summer days between the two points just next to the Animas River.
This train ride is probably one of the most dramatic and scenic trips you can take by rail anywhere. It departs Durango in the morning and three-and-a-half hours later you arrive in the center of Silverton, an old mining town. Here, the train is turned around while you have lunch in one of the several restaurants available. I suggest taking first class, as the seats are more comfortable than the wooden ones in coach.
At about 1 p.m. you return to the train and begin the trip south returning to Durango later that afternoon. The rail station is in the middle of town and there will be no problem finding it. Be sure to take your cameras for both of these train trips because they are unforgettable. You will be pulled by a very old and massive steam engine. The train cars are more than 100 years old, but in perfect condition.
The hotels and motels are fine in town and offer reasonable rates. The most famous is the Strater Hotel in the center of Durango. There are some very fine restaurants here also, check the tourist guide in your hotel room for suggestions. We enjoyed the Bar D Chuckwagon one night with entertainment. This is perfect for getting into the Western mood. Be sure to take time to walk through old town where there are interesting shops, a theatre, as well as restaurants.
While here, you can also do a two-hour rafting trip, which is exciting through the rapids.
If you have an RV, take it on this trip. You will find good facilities to park your rig in all locations we have mentioned.
On the return home you might wish to visit Four Corners to photograph that location. Be aware, this is Indian country and they impose a charge to park and sightsee.
You will not be far from Monument Valley if you have the time for a visit, plus you can take in several Indian Reservations and ruins.