You don’t have to love the idea of roughing it in the wilderness to take advantage of New Mexico’s staggering scenery. There are plenty of easy ways to immerse yourself in nature and enjoy the great outdoors. We have some ideas to get you started. Here are New Mexico’s 12 most iconic locales that belong on every outdoor enthusiast’s bucket list.
1. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, near Carlsbad
New Mexico only has one national park but it's an astounding one - Carlsbad Caverns is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can wander through the Big Room at your own pace. However, ranger-led tours of other parts of this cave system are also available if you're feeling more adventurous.
2. White Sands National Monument, near Alamogordo
You can't help but be wowed by the sight of gypsum dunes rolling out as far as the eye can see. Amble along the accessible Interdune Boardwalk, sign up for a free ranger-led Sunset Stroll, or try a little sand-sledding.
3. Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, Cochiti
The 3-mile long slot canyon trail at Tent Rocks is one of the most unique hikes you'll ever take. Once you reach the top, you're rewarded with panoramic views of this hoodoo-filled landscape. You can also view the rock formations from the easier cave loop trail.
4. Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, San Antonio
Although this refuge is renowned for its annual crane festival and for birding opportunities, many other creatures can be spied here, from bobcats to javelina. For most of the year, this is a peaceful spot to do a little wildlife watching, although that all changes during the festival.
5. Blue Hole, Santa Rosa
Whether you want to swim, scuba dive, or just gaze into the depths of this spring-fed natural wonder, the Blue Hole is a relaxing place. If you slip into these cool waters, you'll literally be surrounded by nature because plants grow beneath the surface and you may spot a fish or two!
6. Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, near Taos (it actually takes up a notable chunk of Central Northern New Mexico)
At 242,500 acres, this monument is massive. The area includes the ever-popular Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and also the Wild Rivers Recreation Area, which is less crowded and also offers great views of the gorge.
7. Catwalk National Scenic Trail, Glenwood
This raised walkway through Whitewater Canyon follows the path of an old pipeline. A creek burbles below you and a small waterfall awaits those who make it to the end of this short trail.
8. City of Rocks State Park, near Deming
This one-of-a-kind state park offers 5.5 miles of hiking and biking trails through terrain you won't find anywhere else. Boulders up to 40-feet-high tower over you as you wind your way through the passages between them.
9. Sitting Bull Falls, near Carlsbad
Sitting Bull Falls is a dream come true if you've ever wanted to float in a natural swimming hole that's also beneath a 150-foot waterfall. Arrive early to score a parking spot at this unexpected find in the desert of Southern New Mexico.
10. ABQ Biopark Botanic Garden, Albuquerque
You don't always need to leave the city behind to discover glorious pockets of nature. Highlights of this 36-acre botanic garden in Albuquerque include the soothing Sasebo Japanese Garden and the Butterfly Pavilion.
11. Bandelier National Monument, near Los Alamos
Most people go to Bandelier to admire the cliff dwellings, but a visit here is also a great way to spend some time outside. Ladders allow you to climb inside some of the cliff dwellings and peer out so that you're both "indoors" and "outside." A shallow creek trickles through the monument and the 1.5 mile-long Falls Trail leads to a waterfall.
If you don't mind scaling a few ladders, beat the crowds by exploring the Tsankawi portion of the monument - most people have no clue it's even there.
12. El Malpais National Monument, near Grants.
Lava tubes, caving, trekking across lava flows. If you like your outdoor experiences to have a dash of danger then you'll adore El Malpais. Remote and wild, this is uncensored version of the great outdoors.