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Day Trips From Albuquerque

Pat Garrett and Billy the KidNew Mexico is rich in old mining, ranching and railroading towns. The ghosts of Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, John Chisum, and even Pancho Villa, all famous (or infamous) figures in New Mexico history, can be felt in many of the towns. Visitors can travel to these old places on the state's beautiful scenic byways, stopping at one (or several) of New Mexico's national and state parks and monuments along the way. There are dormant volcanoes, ancient lava flows, ice caves, fossil sites, archaeological digs, and unique geology throughout New Mexico, just waiting to be explored.

Spaceport AmericaBut New Mexico isn't all about the past. New Mexico continues to be on the leading edge of new science and technology. The state is home to Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, the Very Large Array, and several observatories. The clear night sky offers an amazing view of the stars. Speaking of stars, New Mexico will soon be the launch pad to them. The new Spaceport America is a visionary project many years in the making. New Mexico’s weather and wide-open spaces have been ideal for the aerospace industry since Robert Goddard, the father of modern rocketry, began conducting research in Roswell in the 1930s. He was followed by Wernher von Braun in the 1940s, and NASA in the 1980s. With the founding of Space Port America, the nation's first purpose-built commercial spaceport, New Mexico stands on the brink of the new space age.

Acoma Pueblo

Acoma PuebloSixty miles west of the Inn , Sky City Cultural Center and Haak'u Museum illuminate the history of America's oldest continuously occupied city. Acoma Pueblo's location, believed to have been established in the 12th century or even earlier, was chosen in part because of its defensive position against raiders. Access to the pueblo was difficult as the faces of the mesa are sheer. Before modern times access was gained only by means of a hand-cut staircase carved into the sandstone.

Acoma Pueblo TourToday, you can take a 1 hour and 25 minute long tour that covers approximately three-quarters of a mile (note: there are areas of uneven/rough terrain). The tour is considered one of the best cultural tours in New Mexico and Acoma Sky City ranks in the "top 10 great places to honor American Indian Life" --USA Today. Local artisans do sell their crafts during the tour and the Yaak'a Cafe serves authentic pueblo cuisine, including bread baked in a traditional outdoor horno oven. As with most pueblos, Acomoa is still "home" to many people and there is special etiquette that must be followed and occasional dates where the pueblo is closed. Please visit the website for more information.

Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National MonumentThe national monument, named after anthropologist Adolph Bandelier was designated a National Monument on February 11, 1916. The main attraction of the monument for the casual visitor is Frijoles Canyon, containing a number of ancestral pueblo homes, kivas (ceremonial structures), rock paintings and petroglyphs. Some of the dwellings were rock structures built on the canyon floor; others were "cavates" produced by voids in the tuff of the canyon wall and enlarged by human action. A 1.2-mile (1.6 km), predominantly paved loop trail from the visitor center affords access to these features. A trail extending beyond this loop leads to Alcove House (formerly called Ceremonial Cave, and still so identified on some maps), a shelter cave produced by erosion of the soft tuff and containing a small, reconstructed kiva that the hiker may enter via ladder. Other, primitive trails enter the backcountry, which contains additional archaeological sites, canyon/mesa country, and some transient waterfalls. Hikes to many of these areas are feasible and range in length from short (<1 hour) excursions to multi-day backpacks (permits required for overnight trips). 

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Take a turn in the comfortable 56°F climate and behold Carlsbad Caverns' stunning formations borne out of the earth's own vibrant imagination. The creation of the caves began some 250 million years ago, when the region was part of a vast inland sea. The caves weren't occupied until 1,000 years ago, when paleo-Indians first sought refuge there. Visitors today can enjoy self-guided or guided tours, back country explorations and more.

The park contains more than 100 known caves, including Lechuguilla Cave—the nation's deepest (1,567 feet) and third longest limestone cave. Don't miss The Big Room; it's the size of eight football fields combined. There are self-guided and ranger-guided tours. Reservations are recommended for Kings Palace, Left Hand Tunnel, Slaughter Canyon Cave, Lower Cave, Spider Cave, and Hall of the White Giant tours.

Expect ladder climbs, pool crossings, tight crawls and climbing. Oh, and bats - at dusk between May and October, you can witness 400,000 Mexican freetail bats take to the night! Please visit their website for season and guided tour information.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park

Chaco Culture National Historical ParkChaco Culture National Historical Park preserves one of America's most significant and fascinating cultural and historic areas. From AD 850 to 1250, Chaco Canyon served as a major urban center for the Ancestral Puebloan culture. Remarkable for its monumental public and ceremonial buildings, engineering feats, astronomy, artistic achievements and distinctive architecture, it served as a hub of ceremony, trade and administration for the prehistoric Four Corners area for 400 years—unlike anything before or since. To construct the buildings, along with the associated Chacoan roads, ramps, dams, and mounds required a great deal of well organized and skillful planning, designing, resource gathering and construction. The Chacoan people combined pre-planned architectural designs, astronomical alignments, geometry, landscaping and engineering to create an ancient urban center of spectacular public architecture—one that still amazes and inspires us a thousand years later.

Pecos National Historical Park

Pecos National Historical ParkPecos National Historical Park preserves 12,000 years of history including the ancient pueblo of Pecos, two Spanish Colonial missions, Santa Fe Trail sites, 20th century ranch history of Forked Lightning Ranch, and the site of the Civil War Battle of Glorieta Pass. The visitor center contains exhibits (text in English and Spanish), book sales and 10-minute introductory film available in English. The park has a one and a quarter mile, self-guided trail through Pecos Pueblo and mission ruins. Guided tours available to groups with advance reservations. Tours of the Glorieta Battlefield are also available with advance reservations. Reservations for school groups and tour groups should be made two weeks before visit. Summer program includes weekend cultural demonstrations. There are lovely picnic grounds near the mission ruins.

Petroglyph National Monument

Petroglyph National MonumentPetroglyph National Monument stretches 17 miles (27 km) along Albuquerque, New Mexico's West Mesa, a volcanic basalt escarpment that dominates the city’s western horizon. Authorized June 27, 1990, the 7,236 acre (29.28 km²) monument is cooperatively managed by the National Park Service and the City of Albuquerque. It also protects a variety of cultural and natural resources including five volcanic cones, hundreds of archaeological sites and an estimated 25,000 images carved by native peoples and early Spanish settlers. Many of the images are recognizable as animals, people, brands and crosses; others are more complex. Their meaning was, possibly, understood only by the carver. These images are the cultural heritage of a people who have long since moved into other areas and moved on through history. The monument protects them for visitors to see and appreciate for generations to come.

White Sands National Monument

White Sands National MonumentAt the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert lies a mountain ringed valley called the Tularosa Basin. Rising from the heart of this basin is one of the world's great natural wonders - the glistening white sands of New Mexico.

Here, great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert and have created the world's largest gypsum dune field. The brilliant white dunes are ever changing: growing, cresting, then slumping, but always advancing. White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of this gypsum dune field, along with the plants and animals that have successfully adapted to this constantly changing environment.

A variety of activities are available at White Sands including: Auto Touring, Backpacking, Biking, Bird Watching, Hiking, Interpretive Programs, Nature Walks, and unbelievable Stargazing.

An eight-mile scenic drive leads from the Visitor Center into the heart of the dunes. Wayside exhibits at pullouts along the drive provide information about the natural history of the park.

Numerous parking areas along the drive allow visitors to stop and walk in the white sands. Allow 40 minutes driving time for the 16-mile roundtrip, plus additional time for walking, photography or stopping at pullouts. The Interdune Boardwalk has interpretive exhibits.

For those who would like to explore the dunes on foot, the Big Dune Trail is a one-mile self-guided nature trail.

National Parks

New Mexico National and State Monuments

  • Aztec Ruins National Monument - The Aztec Ruins National Monument in northwest New Mexico preserves structures and artifacts of Ancestral Pueblo people from the 1100s through 1200s.
  • Bandelier National Monument - Head into the extensive back country in north-central New Mexico to hike, camp, and explore at leisure the lands and dwellings once occupied by the ancestors of present-day Pueblo Indians.
  • Capulin Volcano National Monument - Mammoths, giant bison, and short-faced bears traversed this territory in what is now northeast New Mexico around the time the volcano was formed.
  • Coronado State Monument - Where Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, with 300 soldiers and 800 Indian allies from New Spain, entered the central Rio Grande valley while looking for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold.
  • El Malpais National Monument - El Malpais—the Badlands—in northwest New Mexico have a diverse volcanology of lava flows and associated features dating from 115,000 to 2,000 years old.
  • El Morro National Monument - A reliable waterhole hidden at its base made El Morro (or Inscription Rock) a popular campsite in western New Mexico. Beginning in the late 1500s, Spanish, and later, Americans passed by El Morro.
  • Fort Selden State Monument - Fort Selden was established by United States Government in 1865, in an effort to bring peace to the south-central region of present day New Mexico. Several units of Buffalo Soldiers were stationed here.
  • Fort Union National Monument - As a key stopover point for travelers along the Old Santa Fe Trail, Fort Union in northeastern New Mexico was witness to countless expeditions, Indian raids and commercial gatherings during its short but storied existence.
  • Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument - Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument in southwestern New Mexico offers a glimpse of the homes and lives of the people of the Mogollón culture who lived in the Gila Wilderness from the 1280s through the early 1300s.
  • Jemez State Monument - Six hundred years ago, the Jemez people built villages in the narrow mountain valley and on the tops of the steep, sculptured mesas, naming one valley village "Giusewa" for the many hot springs in the area.
  • Lincoln State Monument - This frequently visited state monument in southeast New Mexico is part of a community that remains much as it did in the 1870s and 1880s.
  • Petroglyph National Monument - The Petroglyph National Monument west of Albuquerque in central New Mexico protects a variety of cultural and natural resources including five volcanic cones, hundreds of archaeological sites and an estimated 25,000 images carved by Native Americans and early Spanish settlers.
  • Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument - Once, thriving American Indian trade communities of Tiwa- and Tompiro-speaking Puebloans inhabited this remote frontier area of central New Mexico. Early in the 17th-century, Spanish Franciscans found the area ripe for their missionary efforts.
  • White Sands National Monument - Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert and have created the world's largest gypsum dune field, located in southwest New Mexico.

New Mexico State Parks

  • Bluewater Lake State Park - Rolling hills studded with piñon and juniper trees encircle the lake, near Prewitt, which is stocked with trout and catfish.
  • Bottomless Lakes State Park - Outside of Roswell, this park has seven small park lakes bordered by high red bluffs.
  • Brantley Lake State Park - New Mexico's newest state park, near Carlsbad.
  • Caballo Lake State Park - In southwest New Mexico, this park is well known for the majestic bald and golden eagles that migrate through it.
  • Cimarron Canyon State Park - Part of the 33,116-acre Colin Neblett Wildlife Area near Cimarron—the largest wildlife area in the state.
  • City of Rocks State Park - Near Faywood in the southwest part of the state, the park's rock formations are so unique that they are only known to exist in six other places in the world.
  • Clayton Lake State Park - Set among rolling grasslands of eastern New Mexico, the park offers excellent trout, catfish and bass fishing.
  • Conchas Lake State Park - Water sports activities abound, including boating, fishing and water-skiing at this refreshing 25-mile long reservoir.
  • Coyote Creek State Park - This secluded park is nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Mora County.
  • Eagle Nest Lake State Park - Set in the scenic Moreno Valley and surrounded by two of the state's highest peaks, Baldy Mountain and Wheeler Peek, this 2,400-acre lake is known for its kokanee salmon.
  • El Vado Lake State Park - Beautiful lake in a mountain setting, El Vado also features a scenic trail along the Chama River in northern New Mexico.
  • Elephant Butte Lake State Park - New Mexico's largest and most popular lake, this lake near Truth or Consequences is a boater's paradise.
  • Fenton Lake State Park - A popular year-round retreat surrounded by beautiful ponderosa pine forests near Jemez Springs.
  • Heron Lake State Park - Located in the north-central part of the state, this lake is ideal for sailing and windsurfing, as well as fishing for record-size trout. Ice fishing is popular in winter for the arctic set.
  • Hyde Memorial State Park - Enjoy camping and picnicking among towering pines and aspen trees just outside of Santa Fe.
  • Leasburg Dam State Park - Outside of Radium Springs in southern New Mexico, the dam here is one of the oldest diversion dams in the state.
  • Living Desert Zoo & Gardens - An indoor/outdoor living museum displaying more than 40 native animal species in Carlsbad.
  • Manzano Mountains State Park - The park is an excellent place for bird watching, photography, hiking, and cross-country skiing. Salinas National Monument is located nearby, as is the town of Mountainair.
  • Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park - This park follows along the Rio Grande in southern New Mexico and includes a variety of trails and natural habitats including the Picacho wetlands.
  • Morphy Lake State Park - Near the Pecos Wilderness, this is a pack-in and pack-out lake with great trout fishing and rustic charm.
  • Navajo Lake State Park - Located in far northern New Mexico along the San Juan River, Navajo Lake is New Mexico's second largest lake. It offers the full gamut of water sports and services.
  • Oasis State Park - Near Portales and Eastern New Mexico University, this oasis on the plains offers amazing bird watching; it's home to over 80 species.
  • Oliver Lee Memorial State Park - Outside of Alamogordo in the Sacramento Mountains, the flowing water and abundant plants and animals in Dog Canyon attracted both prehistoric and historic inhabitants to the area.
  • Pancho Villa State Park - On the border with Mexico, this park offer extensive historical exhibits depicting the raid on Columbus, New Mexico in 1916.
  • Percha Dam State Park - Percha Dam State Park in southwest New Mexico may well be the greatest hidden treasure of the New Mexico State Park system.
  • Rio Grande Nature Center - In Albuquerque, this park is the winter home to Canadian geese, sandhill cranes and various species of ducks and other waterfowl.
  • Rockhound State Park - Outside of Deming, rock and mineral specimens of volcanic origin are scattered across the park, making it a great destination for rockhounds.
  • Santa Rosa State Park - On the high plains of eastern New Mexico, this Pecos River reservoir offers a variety of water sports.
  • Storrie Lake State Park - Near Las Vegas, this lake is known for consistent winds that provide excellent conditions for sailing and windsurfing.
  • Sugarite Canyon State Park - This unique park located on the border with Colorado outside Raton features heavily wooded mountains and meadows painted with wildflowers.
  • Ute Lake State Park - Outside of Logan in the eastern part of New Mexico, this lake has some of the best walleye fishing in New Mexico.
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park - Built in Angel Fire by the Westphall family in honor of their son, who was killed during the Vietnam War, this memorial is a moving tribute to our nation's military men and women.
  • Villanueva State Park - A charming riverside park situated in a canyon of red and yellow sandstone cliffs in San Miguel County.


  • Apache Point Observatory - Tours of the 3.5m and 2.5m telescopes and their control rooms may be available for astronomy clubs, church organizations, school groups, and other interested organizations. We are unable to offer daily tours or general access for the public. Tour requests must be received no later than 48 hours in advance.

  • Bradbury Science Museum - The Bradbury Science Museum is a component of Los Alamos National Laboratory. Galleries explore history, technology and national security.

  • Frank T. Etscorn Campus Observatory - The Frank T. Etscorn Campus Observatory, dedicated 25 April 1993, is on the campus of New Mexico Tech in Socorro, NM. The observatory is one of the sites of the annual Enchanted Skies Star Party (ESSP).

  • The Lightning Field - An earth art project where a grid of metal poles attract lightning, creating an Elmo's fire attraction.

  • Los Alamos National Laboratory - Known for its nuclear science, the atom bomb, and world-leading research

  • The National Atomic Museum - The National Atomic Museum is the nation's only Congressionally chartered museum of nuclear science and history.

  • National Solar Observatory - The National Solar Observatory at Sacramento Peak welcomes visitors during the daytime.

  • New Mexico Museum of Space History - The Museum of Space History in Alamogordo is a complex consisting of the space museum, Planetarium, IMAX dome theater, Hubbard Space Science Education Facility and the International Space Hall of Fame.

  • Sandia National Laboratory - Since 1949, Sandia National Laboratories has developed science-based technologies that support our national security.

  • The Enchanted Skies Star Party - The Enchanted Skies Star Party offers several exciting features, including a unique opportunity for a night of observing at an elevation of 10,000 feet.

  • Trinity Site - On July 16, 1945, the world changed with the explosion of the first atomic bomb. The explosion took place at Trinity Site, on what is now White Sands Missile Range.

  • University of New Mexico Campus Observatory - Part of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque

  • Very Large Array (VTA) - The Very Large Array, one of the world's premier astronomical radio observatories, consists of 27 radio antennas in a Y-shaped configuration on the Plains of San Agustín fifty miles west of Socorro.

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Rio Grande Inn sunfire logoRio Grande Inn Green logoBEST WESTERN PLUS Rio Grande Inn
1015 Rio Grande Blvd. NW
Albuquerque, NM 87104
Tel:505-843-9500 | Fax: 505-843-9238
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