Chama (New Mexico)

Chama is a small town in north central New Mexico, located in a mountain valley near the Colorado border. The town is noted for its mountain scenery, outdoor recreation, and for being the terminus of a scenic narrow-gauge railroad.

Get in

Driving is the primary way to access Chama, and given the town's remoteness, it can be a very long drive. The nearest major airport is in Albuquerque, about a three hour drive south. Santa Fe is closer (a two hour drive) but has very limited commercial air service. Amtrak's Los Angeles-Chicago Southwest Chief route stops in Albuquerque and the town of Lamy, about 15 miles south of Santa Fe on US Highway 285, with a shuttle that transports passengers between Lamy and Santa Fe.

Chama is located along US Hwy 64 and US Hwy 84, which overlap through the town proper. US 64 continues east over mountainous terrain to Taos (about an hour and a half's drive) and west into Northwest New Mexico. US 84 heads south to Española and Santa Fe, and north into Southwestern Colorado to Pagosa Springs (an hour's drive). No matter which direction you come from, it's a beautiful drive. US 84 from the south is generally open year-round; approaching from Colorado can be problematic in the winter, although it's open more often than not. Limited commuter bus service to Española (with connections to Santa Fe and Taos) is offered by the regional NCRTD service.

Get around

If you've gotten there, you've gotten around; Chama is a small town in which all of the in-town points of interest are within walking distance of each other and the in-town lodging. For reaching the recreational sites near Cumbres Pass, a vehicle with 4-wheel drive and snow tires is desirable during the winter, although the road is plowed frequently. There is a 2500' elevation gain between town and pass that may challenge some automobiles.


The Cumbres and Toltec


There is plenty of outdoor recreation available in the area year-round, including a couple of trail riding stables, fishing, game hunting and fishing, hiking and just overall sight-seeing. Rio Chama and Rio Brazos offer challenging white-water for rafters and kayakers. Snowmobiling, xc-skiing and snowshoeing are popular in the winter.


Weavings for sale at Tierra Wools

Several souvenir shops are located near the railroad station. There are several shops across from the train station that offer high end and low end articles for sale, original oil paintings with a western theme, eclectic stained glass and southwest jewelry.





There are a number of motels and lodges along the southern approaches to town. Most cater primarily to hunters and fishermen.


Several of the lodges have associated RV parks, and there are other developed campgrounds in the area, including lakeside camping at El Vado and Heron.


The trails around Chama are a haven for the outdoor enthusiast. Many day hikes are accessible at Seargent's Wildlife Park and at the El Vado and Heron Lakes area. The Chama Trail extends between the two lakes for 6-miles. There are unlimited miles of trail for overnight packing trips in the mountains north of Chama, toward Colorado. The historic Continental Divide Trail is undergoing improvements and is open to packers.

Serious adventure in winter camping is available near Cumbres Pass, in the form of a small network of yurts, cabins that can be reached on Nordic (cross-country) skis or snowshoes. The Southwest Nordic Center, based in Taos, maintains the yurts and the reservations for using them; PO Box 3212, Taos NM 87571, +1 575 758-4761. Most of the yurts are 2 to 3 miles (on skis) from the parking lots along the road over the pass; intermediate-level Nordic technique is a good idea for the ski in. Another yurt, the Spruce Hole Yurt, is also available for rental. It is maintained by a local Chama outfit called Cumbres Nordic Adventures.

Go next

The Brazos Cliffs, viewed from Heron Lake
Routes through Chama

Four Corners Farmington  W  E  Jct N SRio Grande del Norte N.M. Taos
END Pagosa Springs  N  S  Abiquiu Santa Fe

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