Summer is for the time held tradition of road trips. With so much to see and do in New Mexico, an entire summer can easily be spent exploring the state’s great sites- some of which are still hidden gems and little known even to locals!
1. Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument - Located just 30 minutes outside of Albuquerque is a geographical site that is sure to pique the interest of nature lovers and avid hikers. Created millions of years ago, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks is a magnificent sight of cone-shaped rock formations produced by volcanic eruptions that occurred 6-7 million years ago. The Cave Loop Trail is 1.2 miles long and is a relatively easy and leisurely hike. The Canyon Trail is a 1.5 mile one-way hike through narrow canyons that take you in between the colorfully layered and banded deposits, up to the mesa top for beautiful views of the Sangre de Cristo, Jemez and Sandia mountains and the Rio Grande Valley. It’s a short drive for lots of fun.
2. El Malpais National Monument – Just outside of Grants, New Mexico lies a landscape that seems straight out of a Mars landing photo or sci-fi film. The richly diverse landscape of El Malpais offers exciting adventures both above and below ground. Hike the grasslands, forests and lava fields, including the El Calderon Cinder Cone. Or if you stopped at the visitor center to get a permit, head below ground and explore the lava tube caves. Hard hats and headlamps are required!
3. Sunspot Solar Observatory - Perched high up above Alamogordo in the small town of Sunspot is a little-known gem for space enthusiasts. The National Solar Observatory is one of the largest solar observatories in the U.S., with a special telescope whose sole purpose is to view and study the sun. The telescope is over 350 feet long with only 130 feet of it sticking up above ground. Take a journey down to the bottom of this goliath telescope and see first-hand how New Mexico is still playing a large role in space exploration. For an added treat, head next door to the Apache Point Observatory and see how they measure the distance from the earth to the moon by shooting a laser to mirrors installed on the moon rovers of the Apollo era.
4. Earth Ships - This site is just as weird as it sounds. Founded by Michael Reynolds, this “biotecture” compound is a home built from natural and recycled materials. Completely sustainable, it is a comment on how society can work to respect our resources and be more eco-friendly. The compound is a marvel of architecture, using hardly any fossil fuels and regulating temperature with natural cross ventilation. This home is a great place to explore if you are heading near the Taos area.
5. Mogollon Ghost Town - One of the best preserved ghost towns in the southwest, Mogollon is a fun look into the past. Located 75 miles northwest of Silver City, NM, and surrounded by the Gila National Forest and Gila Wilderness, this town has been painstakingly restored to reflect the nature of the area during its heyday as a major mining town. Founded in 1976, Mogollon housed an estimated 2,000 residents and produced an estimated $19.5 million in gold, silver and copper before the mine closed in 1942 due to WWII. Take a hike in the Gila Wilderness, grab a bite at the Purple Onion Café, visit the Mogollon Museum and more at the “ghost town that refuses to die.”
6. Morphy Lake State Park- No summer would be complete without visiting a lake. Morphy Lake is located just a couple miles south of the town of Mora and is tucked into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at the edge of the Pecos Wilderness. At an elevation of 8000ft it truly is a stunning mountain lake. This lake is great for primitive camping, hiking, kayaking and fishing for rainbow trout. One of the best features of this lake is the drive itself to get there. You just have to see it for yourself!
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