From deserts to mountain ranges, New Mexico offers an incredibly diverse and inviting landscape. Consequently, it’s become a top vacation destination for travelers of all ages. Whether you want to traverse caves or go scuba diving, you’re sure to find an adventure suited to your tastes. Here are five places to visit in New Mexico you won’t want to miss on your getaway.
1. Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad Caverns National Park offers over 100 spectacular limestone caves ready for exploration. Beautifully contrasting the dry, hot Chihuahuan Desert above, the cool caverns are open to the public year-round, accepting guests on a daily basis. While they’re not dog-friendly, there is a kennel available at the entrance, along with more options in the Carlsbad, NM, area.
During your visit, start at the visitor’s center to learn more about the caves and the history of the site before taking on a self-guided tour. Check out the Big Room Trail to explore the largest cave chamber in the U.S. or opt for the Natural Entrance Trail. While it’s a more strenuous journey, the pathway covers popular attractions, like the Devil’s Spring and Iceberg Rock. There are also ranger-guided tours available.
After finishing up, stick around for the Bat Flight Program to watch thousands of bats leave the caverns for the evening. On certain nights during the summer, the flight is followed by ranger-guided Star and Moon Walks through the reserve. The entrance to the park is $15 for visitors ages 16 and up, but the additional programs are all free.
2. Ghost Ranch
Located about an hour outside of Santa Fe, NM, Ghost Ranch offers 21,000 acres of peace, quiet, and creative inspiration. The former home of famed artist Georgia O’Keeffe now serves the various needs of visitors through spiritual retreats, art classes, and outdoor exploration. Stop by the Florence Hawley Ellis Museum of Anthropology and the Museum of Paleontology before stepping outside for a horseback trail ride. If you prefer to stay on two feet, go for a hike on one of the ranch’s three trails.
3. White Sands National Monument
Of all the places to visit in New Mexico, White Sands National Monument is one of the most breathtaking. The white sand dunes cover 275 miles and welcome guests of all ages as well as leashed dogs. While you can trek the area on your own during the day, the monument offers special full moon festivities monthly with hikes and live music. There’s also the ranger-led Sunset Stroll, which is available daily.
Before you head out, don’t forget to grab an Adventure Pack at the visitor center for the kiddos. They’re free to use, and each one is filled with helpful information about the wildlife in the area. If you want to take your bus trip to the next level, pitch a tent at one of the 10 backcountry camping sites. A reservation is required, and you need to bring your own gear.
4. Valles Caldera National Preserve
Ever wanted to visit a volcano? Put Valles Caldera National Preserve at the top of your bucket list. The site is home to one of only three volcanos in the U.S. While Valles Caldera is inactive, the preserve offers incredible views, lush vegetation, and diverse wildlife. In fact, the hardest part of planning this trip is deciding what to see first.
To truly understand the beauty of the preserve, go on a hike. There are a variety of trails in the area that can be completed on foot, mountain bike, or horse. If you’re not ready to tackle it on your own, there are also guided hikes and van tours available. Regardless of how you choose to explore, you won’t want to miss the East Fork of the Jemez River or the historic Cabin District.
5. Blue Hole
The Blue Hole in Santa Rosa, NM, is like a mirage come to life. Surrounded by desert, the vividly blue lake is 80 feet deep and attracts divers from all over the world. However, you don’t have to use scuba gear to enjoy it. The site is open to the public and allows swimming, so just be sure to pack a bathing suit.
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