By Betty Williamson
Local columnist 

Plenty of scenic byways in our area


Last updated 2/1/2022 at 5:54pm

My brother in Taos told me recently about a breakfast foray he’d taken to the nearby northern New Mexico community of Tres Piedras. 

He asked if I’d ever been there. 

I pulled out the atlas and decided that I probably have not, even though I’ve wandered around a good portion of that area over the years. 

While I was perusing the map, I happened to notice that every road that leaves Taos in every direction is marked with those tiny green dots that atlases use to designate a “scenic roadway.” 

 You don’t need an atlas to guess that our corner of New Mexico is, well, not very green when it comes to officially designated picturesque pathways. 

In fact, by the standards of those who make those determinations, we’re smack dab in the center of a natural beauty black hole.  

Using Portales as a center point, I searched for the mileages to the closest green-dotted scenic highways in my 2019 Rand McNally Road Atlas. 

Going straight north, you’d have to drive 231 miles to Des Moines to hit one. To our northwest, the nearest starts at Santa Fe — 221 miles from Portales. To the west, plan on 254 miles to Socorro. To the southwest, it’s 129 miles before you reach Picacho in the Hondo Valley, and the green dots begin. 

You’ll have to cross the state line to find designated scenic roads to the east and south, according to Rand McNally.  

The shortest route to the east, which takes one to Texas road 207 that runs north/south just past the Panhandle town of Vigo Park, is 126 miles.  

Pack a picnic if you plan to travel south in search of beauty. Rand McNally says you’ll have to drive 256 miles to Balmorhea, Texas, for some scenery. 

According to the website, the online home of the New Mexico Tourism Department, scenic roadways are designated as such by the United States Secretary of Transportation, “based on one or more intrinsic qualities — archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, or scenic.” 

Thankfully, those folks at New Mexico True, remind us, “You don’t have to take their word for it. We’ll let you be the judge.” 

I, for one, think we have plenty of places much closer than those I’ve mentioned above.  

If I were the designator of scenic byways, I’d sprinkle green dots on the various roads that wind off the edge of the caprock north of Grady and Broadview. 

 The backroad from Taiban to Santa Rosa would have more.  

I’d green dot the approaches to both Fort Sumner and Roswell, and the desert drive to Carlsbad Caverns.  

I’d sprinkle green dots all through the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge. 

Even closer to home — as in right out my front door — when I venture out for my morning and evening walks, I could leave a trail of green dots with every step. 

 If one counts the sky as part of the landscape — and I do — then in New Mexico, every road we have is arguably a scenic one. 

Add a meadowlark symphony, a sea of grama grass, a wind-sculpted stretch of sand highlighted with frost, and I’m sold. Green dots all around. 

The US Secretary of Transportation might not see it, but I do. 

You can take my word on it.  

Betty Williamson has a heart for the High Plains. Reach her at:

[email protected] 


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