Experience The Ultimate Outdoor Vacation On Half A Million Acres At Vermejo, A Ted Turner Reserve — Ted Turner Reserves
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Experience The Ultimate Outdoor Vacation On Half A Million Acres At Vermejo, A Ted Turner Reserve

One of the many lakes at Vermejo, A Ted Turner Reserve PHOTO BY ADAM MORGANSTERN
by Adam Morganstern

After a year without travel (and realizing just how small home can feel) I’ve hiked up a hill in northern New Mexico. My guide points to snow-capped mountain peaks miles away in Colorado and says “that’s on our property.” I turn towards mountains in the other direction and get the same response before I even ask the question. “And the last half hour you were driving before you got to the main gate,” my guide smiles, “that’s our property too.”

Picture a resort large enough to be its own U.S. state and you’ll get a sense of the open spaces you’ll experience on a vacation at Vermejo, A Ted Turner Reserve. Set on over 550,000 acres in New Mexico (and spilling into Colorado) its numerous mountains, lakes and landscapes offer the perfect antidote to a past year spent indoors — and without the hassle of ever-changing travel requirements for leaving the country.

After purchasing Vermejo in 1996, Media mogul Ted Turner transformed it from a personal hunting and fishing spot to a combination luxury hotel, outdoor paradise, land conservancy and animal repopulation center. “Save Everything,” is the motto here, and for guests the most beautiful result of this philosophy are the herds of bison, elk, deer and antelopes you’re likely to pass when traveling from one activity to another. Vermejo is actually one of four properties Ted Turner Reserves operates in New Mexico, which combine to protect over 1 millions acres across the state, working with both his Turner Foundation and Turner Endangered Species Fund.

On the luxury side, Vermejo offers numerous accommodation options for all group sizes and preferences. The Casa Grande mansion, originally Turner’s 25,000 square-foot private house, offers 7 rooms with early 19th Century charm, a billiards room and conservatory (Clue anyone?) and a stunning two-story Great Room to bring out your inner railroad tycoon. And just added recently — those wishing to follow in the owner’s footsteps can now reserve Casa Grande’s Vermejo Suite, where Turner himself stays while visiting.

The 10-room Turner House has recently undergone a complete renovation, featuring suites (many with fireplaces), new bathrooms, coffee and beverage bars, sitting rooms and a large sun porch to enjoy the scenery. It also houses the Vermejo Spa. For families or groups wanting their own home on the ranch there are five premium cottages, ranging from 3-5 bedrooms. And to really get away from it all, the Costilla Fishing Lodge (solar-powered and LEED-certified) is 45 minutes away from the main lodge and offers closer access to prime fishing spots. It has its own dedicated chef and dining room, so no need to worry about long drives to the lodge for meals.

For activities, consider Vermejo its own private back-to-nature old-school national park. Leave the zip-lining and bungee jumping for another trip. Here, the ranch’s team works with each guest to carve out the perfect itinerary for everything you’d want to experience during your visit. There are 19 lakes and over 30 miles of streams for fishing, which you can explore on your own or arrange for a fishing guide. There are numerous hiking paths for all skill-levels, both guided and self-guided, and a “4 Peaks in Five Days” adventure for the truly dedicated. Horseback riding for beginners is available, or more advanced High Country riding for a richer experience. A wide range of shooting sports include archery (with 3-D targets), shotguns (five-stand and wobble deck) and rifles. Mountain biking allows you to take advantage of stunning views, just be prepared to take some time to get used to pedaling at high elevation.

There are also programs that let you experience the heart of Vermejo’s conservation missions, such as the Guided Bison Expedition, Guided Wildlife Tour and Riverbank Restoration Tour. Your guide will explain how their programs have benefited the wildlife while you keep your eyes peeled to get that perfect photograph. You can even improve your shutter skills at one of Vermejo’s seasonal photography workshops.

For most guests, dining will be in the main lodge where Executive Chef Giovanni Lanzante oversees the resorts’s American-style menu, with many game dishes and local produce. Craft cocktails, beer and wine, are always a pleasure to sip after a long day of activities on the long porch, watching the sunset and some passing herds. Multi-course wine dinners, cooking classes, cookouts, barbecues and a lakeside campfire “Cowboy Breakfast” can also be arranged.

Getting there: Vermejo, A Ted Turner Reserve is located in Raton, New Mexico. Closest airports are Denver International (DEN), Colorado Springs (COS) and Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ). See their website for up-to-date prices, seasonal activities and COVID-19 policies. 

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