Albuquerque, New Mexico, already known for its art and culture within, is at the center of several excellent destinations for exploring New Mexico’s beauty and culture. From wildlife refuges to cultural museums, taking a trip outside of Albuquerque is well worth the drive and perfect for an adventure. Check out our list below for the top picks and travel times!
1. Petroglyph National Monument (18 minutes)
Less than twenty minutes outside of Albuquerque, the Petroglyph National Monument is perfect for a day of exploration into the past. As one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America, Petroglyph National Monument is home to designs and symbols from both Native Americans and Spanish settlers. The symbols you will find during your visit were carved into the sides of volcanic rocks, and date back 400 to 700 years ago.
Multiple trails are available, at varying lengths and with a number of petroglyphs to be seen, with one trail going around cinder cones where volcanos erupted. If you want more information during your hike, guides are available at the visitor’s center, and are always happy to teach visitors about the monument.
One very important thing you must take note of though, is that the Visitor Information Centre is situated between 1-6 miles away from all three petroglyph viewing trails. As such, if you wish to visit it before visiting the trails do factor in extra time for travelling. Alternatively, you could visit the National Park Service website to plan your own trip.
Petroglyph National Monument
Address: 6001 Unser Blvd NW, Albuquerque, NM
Website: Petroglyph National Monument
2. Madrid, New Mexico (52 minutes)
About an hour north of Albuquerque lies the quaint town of Madrid. Once a historic coal mining town, then a ghost town, Madrid has transformed into an artistic and creative community with over 40 shops and galleries, a spa, and a museum. As a part of the Turquoise Trail, Madrid is perfect for travelers and tourists as a unique community and art scene, different from those of Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Travel a few more miles north to the village of Cerrillos to visit a state park with awesome hiking paths and horseback riding.
If you’re looking for a tasty treat, “belly up to the bar” at The Mine Shaft Tavern & Cantina and wait to be served from the longest stand-up bar in New Mexico! For those looking for a nice cafe to rest their feet and grab a nice cuppa or some artisan kitchen items, try the Java Junction Coffee Shop & Kitchen goods.
Madrid, New Mexico
Address: Madrid, NM
Website: Madrid, New Mexico
3. Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument (54 minutes)
Explore the geologic processes that shape natural landscapes at the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. Located on the Pajarito Plateau, the monument includes a national recreation trail perfect for hiking, birdwatching, geologic observation, and plant identification. Oddly shaped liked cones, the tent rock formations are the result of volcanic eruptions 6 to 7 million years ago. Boulder caps prevent the softer pumice and turf below from completely disintegrating, resulting in the tent-shaped spires that so many come to visit each year. While at the monument, be sure to hike through Slot Canyon for a view of the rocks from above.
The national monument ranges from 5,570 to 6,760 feet above sea level and is only traversable by foot. Although fairly consistent in shape, the heights of the tent rock formations range from a few feet to 90 feet. It is sad that some of the tents have already lost their hard, resistant caprocks and are slowly disintegrating.
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
Address: Indian Service Rte 92, Cochiti Pueblo, NM
4. Sky City Cultural Center and Haak’u Museum (1 hour, 8 minutes)
Visit the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in North America, and an important part of New Mexico’s cultural heritage, the Acoma Pueblo, or Sky City. At Sky City Cultural Center and Haak’u Museum, you will learn about Acoma history and the story of the Southwest. Originally home to the Anaasazi people, the Pueblo wasn’t founded until the thirteenth century, and has since remained alive and well as a community and touchstone for Native Americans locally and nationwide.
The center offers tours you can take to better see and understand the Acoma people, and upon your departure, take home locally made Acoma pottery & Native American crafts. On your drive to the pueblo, you will see some of New Mexico’s most breathtaking landscape and stunning rock formations.
Nestled within the 40,000 square foot Sky City Cultural Center, take a walk through the history of the Acoma people at the gallery space and exhibit halls of the Haakú Museum. A trip to the museum will help you better understand the essential purpose of the museum and the Sky City Cultural Center.
Sky City Cultural Center and Haak’u Museum
Address: Haak'u Rd, Acoma Pueblo, NM
5. Town of Jemez Springs (1 hour, 13 minutes)
Beyond being home to healing mineral hot springs, Jemez Springs holds a rich sense of culture and history for all who enter. Travel along the scenic Jemez Mountain Trail one hour north from Albuquerque to the cool retreat from the summer heat, and warm, soothing hot springs in the winter months. Jemez Springs has long been a destination for spiritual and recreation retreats, thanks to its natural wonders and relaxing atmosphere.
The village, once known as the pueblo of Guisewa, is full of history and culture, including the Jemez State Monument which dates back at least 500 years. Another structure you need to check out while visiting is the 16th-century San José de Guisewa (Jemez) Church—one of the largest missions in the country. Whether you’re in town for the history, to get away from the hustle and bustle of Albuquerque, or to just soak in the springs, you’re sure to love Jemez Springs.
Town of Jemez Springs
Address: Jemez Springs, NM
Website: Jemez Springs
6. Salinas Pueblo Missions (1 hour, 18 minutes)
Three different historical sites await on your visit to the Salinas Pueblo Missions. Dating back long before the Spanish invasion, huge Pueblo structures stand tall in remembrance to the Native Americans that used to live there. Abó, Quarai, and Gran Quivira are the pueblos names, and while you don’t have to visit all three to appreciate the history, each offers something new to be learned. At Abó, walk through the 17th-century Mission of San Gregoiro de Abó. Like to bird watch? Quarai is the place to be. For more information about the people of Las Humanas, check out the museum at Gran Quivira where you will see their various tools and artifacts. Guided tours are also available, ensuring you a wonderful experience at this astounding structure, straight out of history.
Salinas Pueblo Missions
Address: 102 South Ripley St., Mountainair, NM
Website: Salinas Pueblo Missions
7. Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge (1 hour, 30 minutes)
Since 1939, the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge has been a crucial stopover for migrating waterfowl. Every year, thousands of sandhill cranes, geese, and other waterfowl make their way to the refuge for the winter months, creating a spectacle many humans flock to see. A wild stretch of the Rio Grande runs through the refuge, located between the Chupadera and the San Pascual Mountains. Petroglyphs throughout the refuge tell the story of ancient people who called the area home, showing that the river and its diversity has drawn in people for at least 11,000 years. Today, you can visit the refuge and see the diversity yourself. With hiking trails and birdwatching, you’re sure to discover something you’ll never forget.
Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge
Address: 1001 NM-1, San Antonio, NM
Website: Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge
8. El Malpais National Conservation Area (2 hours, 2 minutes)
Explore the remains of a volcanic eruption at El Malpais National Conservation Area. When the volcano exploded, it left behind a black scar of volcanic rock on the New Mexico landscape. Native Americans crossed over the lava flows with trail cairns, telling stories and creating ceremonies about the area. Spanish explorers detoured around the flow, giving it the name El Malpais, or “the bad country.” Homesteaders were more determined, settling along its edges, and trying to make the desert bloom. Trail cairns, petroglyphs, wall remnants, and other fragments tell the stories of these people, and remain in the country for you to discover. In fact, many of the trails you will see are actually routes marked with cairns, or a series of rocks piled to mark the way.
At the conservation area, you will find multiple trails perfect for exploring the lava field, trails that lead you around El Calderon Cinder Cone and up the sandstone bluff for a spectacular view. For the more adventurous traveler, trek through lava tube caves, home of amazing geology, hidden ice formations, and ecosystems you won’t find anywhere else on the planet.
El Malpais National Conservation Area
Address: NM-117, Grants, NM
9. Very Large Array (2 hours, 5 minutes)
Visit one of the world’s premier astronomical observatories, The Very Large Array. Consisting of 27 radio antennas, configured into a Y-shape, the data collected shows scientists celestial activity that would otherwise be invisible. You can learn more about radio astronomy at the Visitor Center where a film narrated by Jodie Foster describes the science. Walk around exhibits that further explain the process and the VLA telescope before embarking on a self-guided tour to the base of a dish. Spanning 25 meters (82 feet) in diameter, you will be in awe at the power of human ingenuity. When planning your visit, be sure to check the configuration schedule online to know when the giant satellites will be moved across the plain.
Very Large Array
Address: Socorro, NM
Website: Very Large Array
10. Bandelier National Monument (2 hours, 13 minutes)
View the ancient dwelling sites of not only the Pueblos, but people pre-dating the Pueblos at Bandelier National Monument. Built into the walls of the canyon and along the canyon floor are the houses of Ancestral Pueblos who farmed and hunted on the land around them. After 400 years, the land could no longer support the people, forcing them to move to the south and east of the Rio Grande. Today, trails will lead you around the ancient structures, allowing you to view into the past and reconnect with the original Americans. Boating and camping are also available in the canyon, perfect for an outdoor adventure or in-depth exploration. If you’re on your way to the monument during the fall, check out the Opera on the Rocks, held in September, and the Fall Festival, held in October. Both are great ways to experience and interact with today’s Pueblo community.
Bandelier National Monument
Address: 15 Entrance Rd, Los Alamos, NM
Website: Bandelier National Monument
Explore New Mexico!
While Albuquerque is a great place to visit in itself, the surrounding area provides a wealth of awesome day trips for you to choose from. With both natural beauty and diverse culture, New Mexico will keep you entertained, even when you travel out of the big city.
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