From Truchas, on Highway 76, heading toward Taos, you’ll reach the village of Las Trampas, which was settled in 1751, and its showpiece, San José de Gracia Church (10 a.m.–4 p.m. Sat. and Sun. June–Aug.), which was built nine years later.
It remains one of the finest examples of New Mexican village church architecture. Its thick adobe walls, which are covered with a fresh coat of mud every year or two, are balanced by vertical bell towers; inside, the clerestory at the front of the church—a very typical design—lets light in to shine down on the altar, which was carved and painted in the late 1700s.
Other paradigmatic elements: the atrio, or small plaza between the low adobe boundary wall and the church itself, used as a cemetery; and the dark narthex, where you enter, confined by the choir loft above, but serving only to emphasize the sense of light and space created in the rest of the church by the clerestory and the small windows near the viga ceiling.
Unfortunately, chances are slim that you’ll be in town when the church is open—but it’s worth trying the door anyhow.
As you leave the town heading north, look to the right—you’ll see a centuries-old acequia that has been channeled through a log flume to cross a small arroyo.
Less than a mile north of the village, you pass the turn for El Valle and Forest Road 207, which leads to the Trampas Lakes trailhead. This 6.1-mile hike goes through gorgeous alpine scenery—steep rock walls jutting from dense forest, myriad wildflowers, and the two lakes themselves, which are clear and frigid.
A spur trail at the last junction leads to Hidden Lake (two miles round-trip). This route makes a very pleasant overnight trek, giving you time to fish and relax at the end, but with an early start, you could also do the trail as an intense all-day outing.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition