Treasures are always found near rivers and the treasure along the Rio Grande River of Manby hotsprings is no exception. This short hotsprings adventure is not far from the town of Taos, New Mexico. The half-mile hike down into the Rio Grande canyon is filled with large boulders which may require using the 3 point system of one hand on the boulder to move easily without falling. The year’s abundance of moisture made the landscape especially appealing as normally dormant wildflowers and cactus were blooming.
Trying to Find the Water!
Finding these outdoor hotsprings turned into a challenge the day we ventured out because we had two sets of directions on how to get there. Turns out we should have stayed with my directions. We first turned right onto a dirt road but there weren’t any signs that said Tune Road. However, there was a sign ahead that said “hot springs on B-007” So, we turned around. The road B-007 led us to the John Dunn bridge on the other side of the river. So, we turned around again and drove back according to my directions. Back to signless Tune Road. Later we figured locals probably discouraged anyone to turn onto this road and took down the sign.
We proceeded cautiously, not sure if this was the right way or not. Many “no trespassing” signs were scattered helter-skelter. We followed the directions I have listed below and eventually, came upon a huge parking lot that ended at a cliff overlooking the Rio Grande River. The road is a little rough going in and you may require a 4-wheel drive. If you are in a low sedan, you can park a little before this.
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Once known as Stagecoach hotsprings, it is now called Manby hot springs. This location was a raucous resort, complete with a bar, lodge and according to some, prostitutes. Beautiful canyon walls grace both sides of these primitive hot springs.
The largest pool is a rock-lined tub at the edge of the river, several feet deep and several feet across, and only holds about 6 people. This pool’s temperature is around 98 degrees F. However, because it is so close to the river, it tends to get washed out periodically. A slightly warmer and smaller pool lies at the foot of the stagecoach station, provided it doesn’t get washed out too.
Over the Years, Many Have Enjoyed the Warm Waters
Manby hot springs were first used and enjoyed by Native Americans. Then the Spanish Americans explorers, and then in the late 19th century, Americans exploited the area and built a road that connected their toll road across the Rio Grande at Tres Piedras. The road was cut into switchbacks on both sides of the gorge. A stage line traversed the route and stopped at the springs for years immediately prior to the rise of the automobile. You can still see some of the switchbacks across the river.
In 1906, Arthur Manby acquired this property and decided to put the hotsprings to good use. The large stone bathhouse he built is only remnants today. This is closest to the hot springs. Unfortunately for Manby, the hotsprings never became that popular and he never turned a profit. Sadly, he was found decapitated in his Taos home in 1929. Local legends state that Manby’s ghost still roams the area. Following Manby’s death, other entrepreneurs attempted to also make a profit with little success.
New York Socialite Knew Manby
Mable Dodge Luhan wrote a memoir called, Edge of Taos Desert, An Escape to Reality. She was a back east socialite that moved from New York to Taos in the early 1920s. She fell in love with a Taos Pueblo Indian and before building her home, rented part of Arthur Manby’s huge home. Her story reveals the early days of Taos and Mable’s depiction of Manby wasn’t always congenial. He wasn’t well-liked and it is sad about his demise.
Therefore when you visit, the most well-defined remnant is the stagecoach station itself. The view can’t be beaten and this is still a hauntingly popular destination. Because the hot springs are small, I would suggest visiting early in the day or during the week to be able to enjoy them and not have to wait your turn.
Directions to Manby Hotsprings:
From Taos, travel 4 miles north on New Mexico Highway 522 to a blinking light at the intersection with U.S. Highway 64. Turn left or west and drive about 4 miles to Tune Drive. Tune Drive is a grated dirt road and about a third of a mile past the airport on your left. The sign for Tune Road is no longer up, just watch your mileage instead.
Follow this road for about 2.8 miles, where you bear left at a Y intersection and continue for 1.7 miles on a lesser maintained dirt road to a broad parking area overlooking the Rio Grande canyon. You will need a 4-wheel drive for this road. Park here and on your left closest to the canyon is a narrow trail that descends to the river for about 1/2 mile. You will see the hot springs at the end of the trail at the river.