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    What to see in New Mexico: itinerary among the best natural attractions

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    Lluis Enric Mayans

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    With this article we decided to check if New Mexico really deserved its high-sounding nickname of Land of Enchantment. Could this state between Texas and Arizona of the great natural parks be a "enchanted land“? Many are used to underestimate it and, when it's okay, consider it only as a departure or arrival destination for a tour of the great parks of the west or the west coast.

    Many will therefore ask themselves what to see in New Mexico? Let's find out together and we hope that once you read this article, you will not only have obtained an answer to the question, but you will also be able to decide if it truly deserves to be called a Land of Enchantment.


    • Shiprock Rock Formation
    • White Sands National Monument
    • Abiquiu
    • Bisti / De-Na-Zin Wilderness
    • Bandelier National Monument
    • Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
    • Jemez Springs
    • Capulin Volcano National Monument
    • Carlsbad Caverns National Park
    • El Malpais National Monument
    • Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

    As anticipated, in this article you will find only a selection of major natural beauty of New Mexico, taking them all into consideration would have been, if not impossible, certainly dispersive. In this way you will be able to get a general idea of ​​what you will be facing, leaving you with the taste of personal discovery.

    Shiprock Rock Formation

    In the jargon it is called a Monadnock, that is a ridge or a small mountain that stands out in the middle of a flat area. In this case it reaches a height of over 2.000 meters and is located at a distance of about 17 kilometers from the town of the same name in New Mexico. Originally it was located in the center of the territory inhabited by Anasazi and was considered a mountain of magical properties. Its current name (Ship-Rock) derives from its resemblance to a type of ship of the nineteenth century, in this case the "Clipper". The ridges that branch out from the rock formation to the outside are also particularly fascinating.

    Given the considerable importance it holds for the native populations, it is not possible to climb the mountain or get that close. A dirt road (be very careful if you do not have a suitable vehicle) however leads to the vicinity, where it will be possible to take some remarkable souvenir photos. In any case, be respectful of the place where you are.

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    White Sands National Monument

    Like No Place Else on Earth: or “Like no other place on Earth”. That's what the header on the official National Park Service website says. Indeed, if you think of a desert, the first image that comes to mind will probably be that of an expanse of golden sand dunes. Here, however, the sand dunes are completely white. Does that seem strange enough to you? Well I haven't told you yet that the park is closed from time to time for security reasons, due to the missile tests that are carried out in the area of ​​the White Sands Missile Range. A further notable fact concerning the missile area is that in the so-called Trinity Site (about 60 miles north of White Sands National Park) on July 16, 1945, the world's first atomic bomb.

    Do you think the Trinity Site area is completely off-limits? Of course… no. Twice a year in fact (generally on the first Saturday of April and October) the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce organizes tour dell’area. If you happen to be in the area at that time why not consider this option? You will surely have an anecdote to tell for a lifetime.

    If I have piqued your curiosity enough and you want to know which are the most beautiful paths to walk inside the park, as well as all the other necessary information, I invite you to read our article entirely dedicated to the White Sands National Monument.


    We are not talking about a real natural attraction, but about one small town which offers incredible views to all those who decide to visit its surroundings. To make you understand that we are not talking about one place among many, let's start by saying that these were the main sources of inspiration for the works of the American artist Georgia O'Keeffe, who decided to live in this city most of her life. . In this regard, the Georgia O’Keeffe Home & Studio it is certainly an attraction not to be missed, from which you can admire the same views that the artist found himself contemplating.

    Still on the subject of fascinating landscapes and places that inspired Georgia O'Keeffe, it is necessary to point out about 20 kilometers away from Abiquiu, the Ghost Ranch, a structure now managed by the Presbyterian Church, from which fascinating paths start for walking among the splendid red rock formations. Among these it is certainly worth mentioning the popular one Chimney Rock Trail.

    Chimney Rock
    Georgia O’Keeffe Home & Studio
    Ghost Ranch

    The areas surrounding Abiquiu also have the advantage of not being very popular with tourists, thus allowing you to experience a more authentic and unspoiled experience of the American West. They are also places that over time have fascinated Hollywood film producers who have chosen them as the set of, among other things, some scenes of Indiana Jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull, Cowboys & Aliens and It is not a country for old men.

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    Bisti / De-Na-Zin Wilderness

    If you are familiar with the American West, but also with the United States in general, you should already be quite prepared for the natural quirks you may face. In this case we are talking about an expanse of rock formations, canyons and pinnacles from stranger and more unpredictable forms which, combined with the particular coloring of the rocks, give the area a mysterious and fascinating, almost alien aura.

    Words cannot convey this concept as well as the images that you can observe by watching the following video.

    If you are planning to visit this area you have to keep that in mind there are no marked routes. So be very careful not to go too far into the interior without having an abundant supply of water with you and suitable clothing; also because, after leaving the car in the parking lot, you will have to walk for at least an hour before seeing something interesting. If you need a home base the nearest town you can consider is Farmington.

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    Bandelier National Monument

    Add to the splendid natural setting that will surround you the fact of being able to touch the ancient houses carved into the rock by the natives who populated this area, and you will have a vague idea of ​​what awaits you by visiting the Bandelier National Monument.

    The paths that you can face are many, and those that will allow you to have a rather complete idea of ​​everything that is found in this park branch off along the Canyon Beans. If you don't have much time available, you can opt for the simpler and faster one Main Loop Trail and, halfway, take the detour to theAlcove Home, which will allow you to enter one of the largest rooms carved into the rock.

    The park is open from sunrise to sunset and you can find useful information about the history of the place and the routes to follow Frijoles Canyon Visitor Center (of which you can check the opening hours by consulting the official website). Entry is not very cheap ($ 20 per vehicle) unless you have the parks card America the Beautiful.

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    Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

    Still on the subject of unconventional natural attractions with unpronounceable names, once again you will find yourself in front of particularly curious rock formations.

    Caused by volcanic eruptions that occurred between 6 and 7 million years ago, these hoodoos even over 30 meters high, both because of their white color and their picturesque shape, they are definitely a “photo opportunity” not to be missed if you want to take home an original memory of this part of America.

    You will have the opportunity to take various routes to closely observe this unusual spectacle of nature. Particularly recommended, even if challenging, is the Canyon Trail (1,5 miles one way) with an elevation gain of more than 600 meters that will take you above the mesa from which you will dominate the entire area below. A simpler route is the Cave Loop Trail which will allow you to walk among the high pinnacles. Another recommended and easily accessible point of view is the Veterans Memorial Scenic Overlook.

    Although this national monument is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, it can be accessed by presenting the America the Beautiful parks card. Otherwise, $ 5 per vehicle must be paid.

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    Jemez Springs

    New Mexico is not only a state in which to find historical testimonies, natural attractions and beautiful cities but also a place of renowned hot Springs. So if you are looking for a way to organize a relaxing break from your busy itinerary, you may want to consider a stop in Jemez Springs. This location is not only recommended for a regenerating break but also for the natural attractions it offers in its vicinity.

    Battleship Rock
    Soda Dam
    • Soda Dam: a real natural dam, created thanks to the mineral deposits brought to the surface by the thermal springs that flow underground, easily reachable from Route 4.
    • Battleship Rock: a rock formation that stands out above the river as if it were the prow of a ship.
    • Jemez Falls: waterfalls that flow from the multicolored Jemez Mountains. The walk to reach them is short and pleasant.
    • Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway: a route that passes through the Valles Caldera National Preserve and reaches the Bandelier National Monument, combining mountain and forest views perfect for capturing with your camera. If you have a day to spare, you can consider walking this entire scenic drive to get to know the best that Northern New Mexico has to offer.
    Jemez Falls
    Scenic Byway

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    Capulin Volcano National Monument

    A real volcano no longer in activity, which rises in the middle of a flat area in northeastern New Mexico. It is a recommended attraction to visit even for the lazy, because a road will allow you to park your car practically on the edge of the volcano. Once on the top you can enjoy a 360 ° view over the whole surrounding area and take a path that will take you right into the crater.

    Bird's eye view
    Interior of the crater

    To enter, you must pay a $ 7 admission ticket or show your America the Beautiful card.

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    Carlsbad Caverns National Park

    One of the parks most visited in the entire state despite being a little out of the way from the main tourist routes. You will therefore have to be particularly motivated to decide to visit it.

    What to expect from these caves? In addition to a profusion of stalactites and stalagmites, modeled in the strangest forms by the work of water erosion, it is also the home of about a million bats. If you are not particularly afraid of this type of animals, every evening from April to October at sunset, you can sit in the amphitheater and watch the exit of these birds that go hunting for insects in the plains below.

    The cave complex is also accessible to those with walking difficulties, or to those who do not want to walk too much, since there is the possibility of using an elevator that leads to the Big Room of the Carlsbad Caverns for both the outward and return journeys. You can find the updated opening hours depending on the time of year you are in by consulting the official website. Admission costs $ 10 per person unless you have the America the Beautiful card with you.

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    El Malpais National Monument

    An area covered in lava material that is now millenary, where you can observe one of the most amazing architectures of nature, namely the Ventana Natural Arch. Given its orientation, the most recommended time of day is from noon onwards, when the colors of the light reflecting on the rock will allow you to take unforgettable souvenir photos.

    Whereas there is no need to pay an entrance fee, and its proximity to I-40 and ad Acoma Pueblo, it can be a stop to consider to combine two of the most particular attractions of this region. The city to consider for a support may be that of Albuquerque which offers various accommodation solutions.

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    Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

    Close to Silver City is this national monument, which has its strength and beauty in the Cliff Dwellings. We are talking about details houses built inside natural cavities of the ancient Mogollon people who inhabited this area of ​​New Mexico. If you have already been to Mesa Verde National Park or Canyon De Chelly you will understand what it is.

    Despite the beauty of the place it is one of the natural / historical sites less visited of the region, also due to its somewhat secluded position compared to the classic tourist itineraries. For this reason there are many chances that, even in high season, you can enjoy this beauty in complete tranquility.

    For admission, the ticket costs $ 5 per person unless you have signed up for the America the Beautiful card

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