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The narrow-gauge Durango & Silverton train steams through history above the Animas River. (Photo by Scott DW Smith.)

The 20 Best Small Towns in America of 2012

From the Berkshires to the Cascades, we've crunched the numbers and pulled a list some of the most interesting spots around the country

2. Taos, NM

Taos, NM
(Scott S. Warren)

Modern art, ancient history and counter culture in the luminous high desert.

Beyond Santa Fe, the high road (Highway 76) and the low road (Highway 68) are both beautiful routes to little Taos in the enchanted upper valley of the Rio Grande. Before the counterculture found it in the 1960s, before Spanish missionaries and mountain men like Kit Carson arrived, even before the building of the Taos pueblo in the 15th century, the Anasazi were here, leaving their ghosts to walk in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. These days tourists, seekers, skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts pack the plaza of the old adobe town, dabble in its many galleries and museums, delve into history at the 1804 Spanish Colonial Martinez Hacienda and attend concerts (the Music from Angel Fire is a world-class chamber music festival). But Taos (pop. 5,700) still speaks most compellingly to writers, photographers and artists who, like Georgia O’Keeffe and D.H. Lawrence before them, come for the flash of a passing spirit and the quality of the light. -- SS

Read how these towns were selected.

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