25 Best Places to Visit in New Mexico

New Mexico Tourist Attractions: Are you looking for the Best Places to Visit in New Mexico? There are so many beautiful places in New Mexico. These are the best places in New Mexico to visit.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

These cool places to visit in New Mexico are a lot of fun. There is something for everyone on the list.

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Santa Fe

Santa Fe, or La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis, as it is officially known, is unlike anything else in the world. It has been the state capital of New Mexico since 1607, and is located just an hour north of Albuquerque. As a result, it is the oldest US capital.

It has a long history, dating back to the Spanish settlers in the seventeenth century and the Pueblo people who lived here as early as 900AD. Buildings here are still built of adobe, which means earth and organic materials, and have flat roofs. Even the most modern structures use stucco that mimics the appearance of older structures.

The New Mexico Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, for example, are both known for their art. The Santa Fe Plaza and the San Miguel Chapel are two other popular tourist destinations (the oldest standing church in the USA circa 1610)

Santa Fe is also one of the highest cities in America, standing at over 6,000 feet. Not far from here, they even have a ski resort. Santa Fe is a great place to unwind and see a capital city unlike any other, and it should be on your bucket list for that reason.

To visit any of the National Parks in the USA, I recommend buying a National Park Pass. The America the Beautiful Pass is valid for one year and costs $80. Plus 10% of sale proceeds go to the National Park Foundation.

White Sands National Park

The perfect Southwestern symbol for those searching for a one-of-a-kind spot to let their inner child’s imagination run wild is White Sands National Park, situated in southern New Mexico.

Best Airbnb New Mexico

White Sands, no matter what degree of outdoor enthusiast you are, has otherworldly adventures to bring! If you don’t have much time, take a drive along Dunes Drive to see the magnificent gypsum slopes. Hiking trails crisscross White Sand’s diverse landscapes, ranging from quick half-mile strolls like the Playa Trail to strenuous day hikes like the 5 mile Alkali Trail.

Each hike offers glimpses of the dune environment’s distinctive features, such as resilient wildlife and crystalized lake beds. It’s also possible to camp at White Sands and see some of the most dramatic sunrises and sunsets on the planet!

Last but not least, don’t forget about sand sledding! White Sands’ gypsum mounds provide a rare opportunity to reconnect with your inner child when navigating the ups and downs of sand sledding. You may either carry your own saucer or buy one at the Visitor Center.

Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument is an unexpected delight, with some of the Southwest’s most rare and fascinating ancient ruins, petroglyphs and pictographs, steep narrow canyons with abundant wildlife, mountains rising to 10,200 feet, thousands of acres of undeveloped backcountry, and a colorful portion of the Rio Grande valley.

Over 33,000 acres of rugged yet scenic canyon and mesa country, as well as evidence of a human presence dating back over 11,000 years, are protected by Bandelier National Monument. Petroglyphs, homes cut into soft rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls pay homage to a civilization that is still alive and well in the local communities.

Carlsbad Cavern National Park

In a word, visiting Carlsbad Caverns is stunning.  The Carlsbad Caverns are located about 40 minutes from Carlsbad and makes a great day trip.

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There is so much to do in Carlsbad and the caves will leave you awe-struck, especially the Big Room.  This guide has all the information you need to have a memorable trip and help you plan your trip.

Visiting the Carlsbad Caves in New Mexico is a memorable experience. I was really expecting to go for a couple of hours but there is so much to do there that it is worth spending the day there.

Check out my post on the Best Things to do in Carlsbad Caverns

Albuquerque Balloon Festival

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta transforms the city into an enchanted world of special-shaped balloon rodeos, twilight balloon glows, and colorful balloon-filled skies for nine days in October.

The majestic beauty of our most famous gathering, the Mass Ascension of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, is set against a surreal backdrop of brisk autumn mornings in the Rio Grande Valley.

Loretto Chapel

The Loretto Chapel attracts visitors from all over the world who want to learn more about the miraculous staircase, which is located in the heart of historic Santa Fe, New Mexico. The chapel is a historic sight that must be seen when on your travels.

The Miraculous Staircase of The Loretto Chapel

This chapel draws the most religious, the most curious, and others who are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see the staircase. Three mysteries surround the spiral staircase in the Loretto Chapel: the identity of its builder, the type of wood used, and the physics of its construction. It’s a puzzle that needs to be solved by you!

Chaco Culture National Historical Park

The Chacoan Canyon was once a cultural centre for Ancient Pueblo peoples. Huge, complex compounds with evidence of archeoastronomy in their architecture, with many buildings aligned to absorb the sun and moon cycles. Until the 19th century, the canyon’s 15 complexes also housed the largest buildings north of Mexico.

Excavated ruins at the massive Pueblo Bonito Great House

Between AD 900 and 1150, the Chacoans and their complex, astronomically-influenced architecture flourished, eventually succumbing to a climate change that resulted in a half-century-long drought.

The park also has an observatory, which hosts nightly night sky programs on summer weekends, as well as special solstices and equinox observances in the great kivas. Despite the fact that the park is normally closed from dusk to dawn, there are campsites open.

New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science is known for its life-size dinosaur skeletons and is a popular New Mexico tourist attraction.

The museum, located just outside of Old Town Albuquerque, attracts visitors of all ages who want to learn about the region’s 12 billion years of natural history.

Learn about the method of extracting valuable vertebrate fossils from the rocks that have hid them for millennia at the FossilWorks show, which takes you back to the Jurassic period.

The Planetarium, with its 55-foot screen and interactive displays on astronomy and space science, is not to be missed.

Chiricahua National Monument

Chiricahua National Monument, located in southeastern Arizona, is one of the country’s most beautiful national parks. In contrast to some of the larger US National Parks, it is small in size but high in visual spectacle. This little gem, located just west of the Arizona-New Mexico border and east of Tucson, Arizona, has some of the most impressive rock formations you’ll possibly never see anywhere else.

The formations, known as balancing rocks, were sculpted by nature. The views are incredible, particularly now that you can drive to the top. Visitors can see much of the scenery from the top thanks to easy trails. Up-close views of unique natural sculptures, such as ducks, ‘Punch and Judy,’ and mushroom rocks, are only accessible through longer, more strenuous hikes, but they are well worth the effort.

If you are unable to complete the 9-mile challenging hikes, a drive to the top for views of these unique formations is worthwhile. We stayed for two nights and hiked; three to four nights is preferable since there are many easier hikes. Since Chiricahua is so far away, bring food and water. On-site, there is a Visitor Center and a small campground; camping reservations are needed.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

Kasha-Katuwe should be on everyone’s South West bucket list because of its rare cone-shaped tent rock formation. This Monument, which is located between Santa Fe and Albuquerque in New Mexico, is one of the many fun things to do in both cities that you should not miss.

Pumice, lava, and tuff deposits from volcanic eruptions 6 to 7 million years ago created these rock formations. While these cone-shaped rocks can be seen from the ground, it is much easier to see them from a higher vantage point.

The Canyon Trail in the Monument is a 1.5-mile one-way hike through a narrow slot canyon, with a steep 630-foot climb to the mesa top at the end of the trail. There’s a picture spot overlooking the tent rocks a few yards before you hit the top. The views from this vantage point are simply breathtaking.

Views of the Sangre de Cristo, Jemez, and Sandia Mountains, as well as the Rio Grande Valley, are available from the summit. The quick 1.2-mile Cave Loop Trail is another trail in the park that you can do on your way back. Because of the volcanic eruptions, geologic observation, in addition to bird watching and plant identification, is another activity in this Monument.

Cumbres-Toltec Scenic Railway

This National Historic Landmark is rated one of the America’s most scenic trains.

Climb aboard our National Historic Landmark for an unforgettable 64-mile day ride. As you zig-zag between Colorado and New Mexico, our coal-fired steam engine takes you across steep mountain canyons, high desert, and lush meadows. Open your eyes to breathtaking and rare Western scenery that can only be seen from our train’s one-of-a-kind track.

Since 1880, when the first tracks were laid across Cumbres Pass, this railway has sped through history and through the Rocky Mountains. In 2021, the states of Colorado and New Mexico will mark the 50th anniversary of their joint possession. This is your chance to join them in making history. To travel through time and see life outside of the grid.

Petroglyph National Monument

Five volcanic cones, hundreds of archaeological sites, and an estimated 24,000 photographs carved by Ancestral Pueblo peoples and early Spanish settlers are among the cultural and natural resources protected by Petroglyph National Monument. Many of the pictures are easily recognised as creatures, humans, brands, and crosses, while others are more complicated. Only the carver would have known what they meant.

Archaeologists estimate that the 17-mile escarpment within the monument’s borders contains more than 25,000 petroglyph photographs.

The petroglyphs you’ll see were carved between around 1300 and the late 1680s, and are thought to have been made by the ancestors of today’s Pueblo people.

Santa Rosa Blue Hole

Blue Hole emerges as a great blue gem in the middle of the desert. Chiquita Agua Negra It is one of seven sister lakes linked underground by a vast water system that was once known as Blue Lake. Santa Rosa is described by this wonder, which appears to defy the surrounding red mesas. The Santa Rosa sink, which is the product of a natural process, is magical—as water always is in a land with little rain.

Route 66

The most popular American road trip, Route 66, passes through the Southwest! You can either begin in Chicago and drive all the way to Santa Monica, or you can start in New Mexico and drive just a portion of the way to the coast.

Many people are familiar with Route 66 as a route for Americans going west, but they are less familiar with its actual layout. In New Mexico, you can explore Santa Fe and Albuquerque, as well as seeing typical roadside kitsch like the Twin Arrows in Arizona. 

Make sure to go slowly! The trail is designed to be enjoyed. Have a good time at each pit stop and sight!

Montezuma Hot Springs

Montezuma Hot Springs is considered as one of Mother Nature’s countless blessings found in northern New Mexico because of its warm and healing properties. It is located on a private property, but the owners allow free public access to the springs. 

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The trail going to the site is moderately easy but you need to scramble on some confusing paths. The water temperature varies so be careful and there could be a little bit of slippery algae and it has a strong sulphur smell. But still, this hot spring is fabulous and worthy to visit.

You can also find several small soaking pools and the water temperature ranges from very hot to warm. And bathing suits are required so make sure to bring one and enjoy springs’ healing properties.  

Check out my post on the Best Hot Springs in New Mexico

Nambe Falls

Nambe Falls is one of the most beautiful and anticipated falls in New Mexico. It is situated in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and it is a series of two waterfalls. The highest part of the Nambe falls is 100 ft tall, while the lower tier is 75 ft tall. 

A waterfall in between huge rocks

This is a must visit for anyone who is in the Santa Fe or Albuquerque area. It’s just a short trip out of Santa Fe, and after a few windy roads, you will find the parking area. 

To reach the waterfalls, you’ll have to take two trails. One trail climbs up the hill ending in a breathtaking view of the waterfalls from above. The other trail traverses a river winding up at a beach area at the lowest pool. 

If you are visiting in the summer, make sure to carry drinking water because the temperature may often go high.  

Check out my post on the Best Airbnbs in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Jemez Falls

Jemez Falls has been hailed as the most stunning waterfall in New Mexico and it is located in Santa Fe National Forest. Although there is not much development in the area, locals and visitors still visit this site especially if they want to get lost in nature.

Jemez Waterfalls in New Mexico

The falls has a total height of 70 ft and it appears to be not safely accessible for swimming. However, you can still take on the neighboring smaller waterfall that is more suitable and safer for swimming. 

Check out my post on the Most Beautiful Waterfalls in New Mexico

West Ridge Trail near Albuquerque

West Ridge is a pleasant, long trail that runs from the Birdhouse Ridge all the way around the top of Otero Upper. Over the years, some changes have been introduced to this trail to make it less difficult for hikers. However, a huge part of the trail is moderately difficult and if you want that extra challenge, then this trail is definitely for you. 

Nevertheless, this is a great hike with beautiful scenery. But you can also do mountain biking and running in this area because the elevation is gradual and it doesn’t kill your knees going up. 

Manby Hot Springs

Manby Hot Springs near Taos area of New Mexico and it is also known as Stagecoach Hot Springs. It is a secluded spot with two springs and both have fine sand bottoms which will make your experience comfortable and enjoyable. 

This is a very accessible hot spring and it will only take 20 mins from Taos and another 20 mins to hike. And since this hot spring is a popular destination for nudists, you may bring a bathing suit with you if you are not comfortable. 

Riverbend Hot Springs

The natural and mineral-rich water of Riverbend Hot Springs has been giving a relaxing and rejuvenating feeling to all those who have tried. The world-class mineral water is pumped directly from deep within the Earth and it doesn’t emit any bad odor. 

There are three ways in which you can soak on the hot spring: buy a property pass, rent a private pool, or rent a room or RV site. 

For the first option, their one hour property pass entitles you to access the Common Hot Spring Pools, the Sauna, and all common parts of the ground. It is a first-come first-served basis and it does not include a pass into the private pool. 

For the second option, you can rent their deluxe and classic private pools via a 50 minute sessions and you can reserve one or multiple sessions in advance, 

For the third and last option, being an overnight guest entitles you to unlimited access to the Common Pools, Sauna, and Ground during pool hours and discounted rental of your Private Pool sessions. 

Rinconada Canyon Trail

Rinconada Canyon Trail is a 2.2 mile loop trail situated in Petroglyph National Monument. The trail is usually used for hiking, walking, bird watching, and even simple nature trips. 

This trail is great for people who are just beginning in hiking or climbing because the hike is not too strenuous as far as elevation gain. The trail is a loop so you can make an out and back hike and it is in the high desert with partial shade, and primarily sandy. 

You can expect 200 petroglyphs in the canyon and some are more visible than others and they are worthwhile seeing. Once you reach the end of the canyon, you can return via the trail and you can witness wonderful views of the Sandia Mountains. 

Tips for Visiting New Mexico

New Mexico is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts.  Get outdoors and explore this beautiful state. Here are some tips for Visiting New Mexico:

  • Bring a reusable water bottle and lots of water! Remember you are in the sun and you will need to drink lots of water. I love my LifeStraw Filtered Water Bottle.  I can refill this bottle anywhere and it comes with a carabiner to connect it to my daypack.
  • Check the Weather – days over 100 degrees are very common.  Make sure to check.
  • Hiking boots or sandals that will protect your feet! I love good shoes.  I need all the support and help I can get.  I actually love these sandals for hiking and have a whole post on Merrell vs Keen shoes for hiking.  I also love these hiking boots which I used for Hiking in the Grand Canyon.

Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!

Before you leave for your trip make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I have used World Nomads when I travel since 2015 when I went to Africa and I love them.

Getting coverage is important as you never know what will happen and need assistance when you are more than a hundred miles from home in case of an accident, sickness, theft, etc.

Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.

American Southwest Obsessed

Nicole is a travel expert who has been traveling to the American Southwest since 1992. There is so much to see and do in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and California. I spend part of the year in Phoenix and travel around the area visiting all the best places and going on the best hikes. Check out my detailed destination guides, the best hiking in each state guides, and the travel gear you need for your next trip.

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