The weather is getting warmer, making this a great time to head outdoors. Luckily, there are always new places to explore in our state – from parks to wilderness areas. If you’re up for an adventure, check out these 15 exciting places in New Mexico.
1. Bisti Badlands, near Nageezi
Driving out to Bisti is half the adventure. If you arrive from US-550, your journey involves a bone-jarring ride along a washboarded gravel road, which turns into packed sand.
After walking approximately 0.75 miles from the parking lot, you're suddenly surrounded by rock formations. Boldly striped bands of color create a unique landscape. If you venture further, you'll find truly eerie formations.
The wind howling across the landscape adds to the creepy effect and reminds you of just how remote this place truly is.
2. The Rio Grande, near Taos
Several companies offer whitewater rafting experiences along this stunning section of the Rio Grande. These excursions range from leisurely paddles to much more challenging rapids. Bolder rafters love the Racecourse, which has a Class III-IV rating and Razorblades, which is Class IV+. Experienced kayakers thrill at the challenge of the Upper Box, which is rated Class V-VI.
3. Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, near Taos
While you’re in the area, be sure to cross the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. If you’re scared of heights, this will prove an adventure because there's a 650-foot drop down to the gorge below. This is the fifth tallest bridge in the country.
4. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, near Carlsbad
While the Big Room in Carlsbad is something you must see, also sign up for one of the ranger-led cave tours. (Book at least 48 hours in advance.) Depending on the time of year, you can explore places like the King’s Palace or Slaughter Canyon Cave. Tours range in length from 1.5-5.5 hours.
5. Blue Hole, Santa Rosa
The Blue Hole is truly a natural wonder. Its pristine teal waters allow for 100 feet of visibility and the water, which is spring fed, completely changes every six hours. The temperature remains steady at about 62 degrees Fahrenheit. This spot is gorgeous and ideal for scuba diving.
6. City of Rocks State Park, near Deming
This park is sure to bring out the kid in you! Have an old-school adventure weaving between the passageways formed by these huge boulders. Some of the rocks tower 40 feet high. City of Rocks is also a great place to go mountain biking.
7. Capulin Volcano National Monument, near Raton
Although this cinder cone volcano is now extinct, it’s still exciting to walk along its rim. You can even descend into the volcano’s mouth.
8. Mescalero Sands North Dune OHV Area, near Tatum
If you’re into ATVing, this is the place to do it. While the sand at White Sands is formed from gypsum, here it consists of quartz particles. The recreation area includes 610 acres of dunes, some of which are more than 90 feet high.
9. Angel Peak Scenic Area, near Bloomfield
Angel Peak soars above the surrounding badlands, a dramatic landmark in an area that is stark almost to the point of desolation. The trails around the rim are relatively short, so this is great for anyone who wants the wilderness experience without a lengthy hike. There are spots for tent camping here, if you want to start your day with a killer view.
10. El Malpais National Monument, near Grants
Hiking across a lava field takes guts because the terrain is not only uneven; it’s also riddled with giant cracks like this one. The harsh beauty of this landscape makes it all worthwhile. Just be certain you’ve spotted the next cairn before leaving the last one behind. It’s easy to lose all sense of direction on a lava flow.
11. Hot air ballooning in Albuquerque
There’s a reason that Albuquerque hosts a massive balloon fiesta every year. Conditions for hot air ballooning in the city are ideal. Take a ride to see New Mexico from a whole new – and spectacular - vantage point. Now, that’s an adventure.
12. Cimarron Canyon State Park, Eagle Nest
There are virtually endless recreational opportunities in this beautiful state park. Fishing is a big draw, but you can also go horseback riding, hunting, or just hit the trails for some hiking.
13. Sitting Bull Falls, near Carlsbad
Sitting Bull Falls is nestled in the canyons of the Guadalupe Mountains. The water tumbles 150 feet over a limestone cliff into a natural pool – perfect for a dip.
About 250 million years ago, this part of New Mexico was concealed by an inland sea. As a result, there are loads of caves here for you to investigate (remember to get a permit). If you’d prefer to stay above ground, there are 26 miles of hiking trails in the area.
14. Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, between Albuquerque and Santa Fe
Hiking through the hoodoos at Tent Rocks is as surreal as it is fun. Don’t miss the Canyon Trail. Your scramble up a 650-foot rock face (there is a path) is rewarded with panoramic views of the formations below and the mountain ranges in the distance.
15. Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, near Las Cruces
This national monument was only established in 2014, so maybe you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, but you should. There are equestrian trails, mountain bike trails, and of course hiking trails. These include shorter jaunts like the 3-mile long Bar Canyon loop all the way up to the 29-mile long Sierra Vista Trail.
Opportunities for adventure are endless in our state. This list just scratches the surface. What’s your favorite place to have an adventure in New Mexico?