As my husband planned our sabbatical travels, I thought “Really, we are going to spend over a week in New Mexico?” I knew nothing about the state and now I know that New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment. I’ll share my memorable visit with you and why you need to visit the state of New Mexico.
We spent most of our time in the Albuquerque area, and that area alone has many amazing things to do and see. My favorite part of the state is the many National Monuments and Parks. See Link To National Parks.
First off, buy a National Park annual pass for $80 or the senior citizen deal if you are old enough. You will get your monies worth in just the state of New Mexico. Plus, you can use it for free parking in the National Forest Parks and Trails if you like to hike. At each National Park make sure you see the movies in their theaters because it will help you understand the history and landscape of the area.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
The first park we encountered was Carlsbad Caverns near Carlsbad, NM. This was my husband’s favorite because he is a fan of caves. This was by far the most I have ever walked in a cave and with the natural entrance, we walked over 3 miles. We took the elevator up on the way out.
The Big Room has wonderful draperies, ribbons, curtains, totem poles, lily pads and cave pools. I have never been in a cave as long as we were that day because the sights go on and on. They are discovering new things all the time and I am sure it will end up being the largest US cave.
White Sands National Monument
White Sands National Monument near Alamogordo, NM was my favorite. I loved the white gypsum sand dunes. When driving through the park it feels like snowdrifts on the side of the road. Many bring sleds to slide down the sandhills. My husband made a sand angel instead. The sand is soft and is cool, so on a warm day it feels the best with bare feet.
Petroglyph National Monument
In Albuquerque, you can get to the Petroglyph National Monument at a few locations scattered on the west side of the city. The hikes have amazing views of the city as well as the Petroglyphs drawn on the volcanic rocks by Indians.
Bandelier National Monument
Bandelier National Monument is near White Rock, NM and has a 1.5-mile hike to showcase the homes built into the soft rock cliffs where the Pueblo Indians once lived. You can climb up into a few of them. The walk is beautiful in a canyon with a small creek.
Tent Rock National Monument
North West of Albuquerque is Tent Rock National Monument. You can spend a couple of hours hiking 3 miles into and around the slot canyons and up to the top of the Tent Rocks for a beautiful overlook.
The view of the mountains, rocks, sun, and shadows is amazing. This is a remote location but well worth the drive. It was in the upper 50s when we were there but the hot sun made it feel like the 70s.
If you like water, like this Minnesota girl, you need to check out their Reservoirs. They have three of them and one is only 40 minutes from Albuquerque. This one called the Cochiti lake has one of the world’s largest earthen dams which is on the Rio Grande river. The lake is a no-wake lake and you can paddleboard, kayak or boat on this lake. It also has a swimming beach and you can catch native walleye, bass and croppies here. My husband was pleasantly surprised.
Albuquerque is an old city. The visitor center is a great place to get information about what to do. We visited the Old City and walked the streets and understood how the city was laid out.
The modern city offers all the metro stores and conveniences you could need. This is the largest city in New Mexico with the metro area having a population of over 900,000. It is easy to figure out where you are going since the city is laid out mostly on a grid. The Sandia Mountains are on the east side and the Rio Grande River runs north to south on the west side.
Did you know Albuquerque is also a mile-high city? So just like Denver if you are from the Midwest your body will let you know you’re not used to the elevation. Drink lots of water and your body will eventually get used to it. I felt very out of shape on hikes and have been hiking for months.
We loved hiking on all the trails in the area. We also drove up to the Sandia Mountain Crest to experience piles of snow and 0 degree temps with windchill. No problem for an hour. Just head back down to the city and it was 65 degrees.
Rio Grande River
The Rio Grande River runs through the city of Albuquerque and across the state. We encountered it many times in our travels. The city has wonderful multi-use walking/biking/running and horse trails near the river. These are very picturesque and fun to bike on. Not every day you meet horses on the trail as you are biking on them.
Cloudcroft and Alamogordo
Our visit to Cloudcroft was overnight, but the little mountain town reminds me of Hope Valley on the Hallmark show ‘When Calls the Heart” with its gravel main street and stores. The town has a lodge/resort and offers skiing since it’s 8,600 feet in elevation.
Alamogordo is the town down in the valley next to Cloudcroft and it has some wonderful pistachio farms. You won’t want to miss the pistachio farm tour and the largest pistachio picture spot. I’ve never had such great pistachios and there are many flavors to sample for free. Only 2% of pistachios are grown in New Mexico.
Los Alamos is another city high in elevation with beautiful surroundings. The city is known for its Los Alamos National Laboratory. In the 1940s during WWII this was the Secret City where the nuclear bomb was developed. The science museum is very educational and explains the Secret City and the Manhattan Project.
This city is full of art, food, and culture especially in the old neighborhood of Santa Fe. We spent the day walking the old city streets and enjoyed lunch at Chorizo which serves authentic New Mexican food with green/red chilies.
The Capitol building of Santa Fe is open to the public and displays the art of the area. You can see all of this for free during day hours. This is quite rare to find in a working Capitol.
We also went to the Lensic Performing Arts Center which is downtown. We went to a Steven Curtis Chapman concert with tickets courtesy of my friend who works for Awakening Events. Here is their website for concerts across America. Awakening Events.
We loved the mild winter weather in New Mexico which has all four seasons. I do agree that this state can be forgotten and is now unforgettable in our memory.
As I was chatting with a local, she said, “It’s the Land of Entrapment.” “What?”, I said. She said, “Once you live here you love it so much you can’t leave.”
May you visit the state of New Mexico and find new memories in the “Land of Enchantment”.
If you would like to read more about my Traveling Sabbatical see the highlighted link. More places to visit? See the links at the bottom.
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