Best things to do in New Mexico and sightseeing in New Mexico
El Morro National Monument - New Mexico
As a road tripper, I try to stay off the interstates and main highways…discovering El Morro is a perfect example of why I do this. Located in west central New, Mexico, along an ancient trail off highway 53, is this historic site that was once home to 1500 Zuni Indians from about 1275 to 1350 A.D. El Morro National Monument is a wonderful example of why New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment. The area is surrounded by soaring sandstone bluffs that rise more than 200 feet from the valley floor. After a leisurely hike, you’ll reach the summit of a mesa where you’ll discover a fascinating mixture of both human and natural history, which includes the remnants of a pueblo that housed Native Americans who once inhabited the area. If you keep your eyes open, you’ll run across a number of petroglyphs (images carved into the sandstone). The softness of the sandstone made it easy for the early people to carve pictures and symbols into the rocks. Today, the park protects over 2,000 inscriptions and petroglyphs, as well as the Ancestral Puebloan ruins.
Antonito Highway - New Mexico
In Antonito I had reservations at the River’s Inn Bed and Breakfast. The owner/innkeeper (Ursula,) told me to give her a call when the train got in and she’d come pick me up. At first I thought it was because I was a VIP, but come to find out, it’s a service she offers all train riders. The B&B is certainly within walking distance (about half a mile or so), however if you have luggage and your car is at the other end, it’s nice to know that someone is willing to pick you up. Ursula was kind enough to give me a quick tour around the small town of Antonito. To be honest, there isn’t much to see or do right in town, but there are a few interesting sights. For starters…if you go, you have to check out “Cano’s Castle.” This extremely odd, yet creatively unique home, was built by a Native American Vietnam Veteran. One might assume that Cano did not come back from the war in the same state in which he left—anyone who would build such an odd structure, has to be, well, a bit odd himself. Nonetheless, Cano has created a structure that continues to inspire a community, while captivating onlookers. Some might call “Cano’s Castle” Antonito’s, “Ball of String, “ or “Cadillac henge,” two other odd creations that attract visitors by the thousands.
Santa Fe - New Mexico
I’ve been to Santa Fe, New Mexico on several occasions, each time I visit I find something new to explore. Santa Fe is a small community rich in history and culture, dating back some 400 years—its so distinctive that it has its own well-known style named for it…”Santa Fe Style.” The colors, textures, tastes and smells of Santa Fe are bright, vibrant and inviting. Santa Fe is a mecca for the creative, 100s of galleries, world-class museums, fantastic culinary scene—when you’re there, you can’t help but feel its overwhelming energy…it’s a feeling that envelop the soul. While visiting Santa Fe, I would recommend taking an open air tram ride…this will give you a good overview of the downtown area and will allow you to get a lay-of-the-land so that you don’t end up walking in circles. You’ll also be able to take notes of the spots you want to go back and further explore.
Bandelier National Monument - New Mexico
Bandelier National Monument is located just outside of Los Alamos, New Mexico and makes for a great day trip when visiting nearby Santa Fe. The indigenous people that lived in the area dating back some 10,000 years, enjoyed the rugged arid landscape due in part to the the flowing streams and beautiful canyons. Many of the ruins in Frijoles Canyon have been excavated, studied and preserved. The main loop trail from the visitor center passes by several types of restored dwellings, many of which welcome visitors to explore. There are miles of trails, some are even paved to make a few of the sites more accessible. The highlight of the park for me was the trek to the “Alcove House,” which was about a 4-5 miles round trip, then required a 140 foot climb up a four tier series of ladders. This climb is not for the faint-of-heart. I however find these things extremely exciting. Unfortunately there was some sort of filed trip of kids at the park and I got caught in some pretty good congestion climbing both up and down. Once reaching the top tier you enter a massive cliff dwelling with sweeping views of the canyon below. There was also a kiva (an underground ceremonial structure) at the top, which visitors are allowed to enter and explore.
Chaco Canyon - New Mexico
Coming from Santa Fe, I was working my way through New Mexico. Chaco Canyon is located in the northwester part of the state, near the “Four Corners” area. The elevation is around 6500′ and so the weather this time of year was absolutely perfect, maybe 80 for a high and 50s for a low. As I neared the area of Chaco, taking several remote county roads, I began the arduous drive down a rough dirt road. I knew I was in the right area, going in the right direction, but kept questioning how there could be a national park in an area this seemingly inaccessible. After arriving at the visitors center, I learned that the road is not paved for a reason…they intentionally want to minimize the amount of people in the park to help preserve it. It was a fairly rough journey, even in my four wheel drive truck, but let me tell you…so worth it. Chaco Canyon is a special place for many reasons. For one, it’s not that popular, so it’s a joy to explore without being inundated by crowds or traffic. One of the reasons for the lack of tourists, as I mentioned, is the dirt road as you approach the park, however once inside Chaco, all the roads (except for the camp grounds) are paved. Chaco is remarkable for its multi-storied “Great Houses,” ceremonial structures and distinctive architecture. The buildings of Chaco required considerable planning, designing, organizing of labor, and industrious engineering to construct. It’s a marvel like nothing I’ve seen before. It’s also feels like a very spiritual place…very peaceful.