New Mexico Day Trips

It’s hard to resist the call of the open road, especially in a state that’s as picturesque as New Mexico. The state offers plenty of interesting destinations that make for the perfect day trip. Whether you’re looking for an escape from the ordinary or just want to see and explore new and interesting places, here are a few must-see destinations to discover.

Salinas Pueblo Missions

Salinas Pueblo Missions in New Mexico

If you want to immerse yourself in New Mexico’s fascinating history, there’s no better way to do just that than with a day trip to the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. Located in the heart of the Mountainair region of the state, the national monument features three historic missions dating back to the early 17th century. The preserved ruins give an insightful glimpse into the Pueblo peoples and their early encounters with Franciscan missionaries.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns

Some of the best gems New Mexico has to offer are right underneath your feet. Carlsbad Caverns National Park makes a great day trip destination, especially if you love spelunking through massive subterranean caverns. Carlsbad Caverns feature nearly 120 limestone caverns of various sizes. Explore the Big Room and Natural Entrance trails at your own pace via the self-guided audio tour or tag along with a ranger and explore the Hall of the White Giant and other cave formations.

Up top, Carlsbad Caverns offers several above-ground hiking trails that showcase the area’s natural beauty and wildlife diversity. Don’t forget to pack your hiking essentials, especially if you plan on spending the day exploring the backcountry.

White Sands National Park

If dramatic scenery is what you crave, the ever-shifting landscape of White Sands National Park will scratch that itch. The park’s defining feature is the glistening white gypsum sand that covers over 275 square miles of desert, creating a one-of-a-kind dune field that’s also teeming with all sorts of desert wildlife.

It’s not just the park’s natural beauty that’ll capture your attention. The surrounding area is also steeped in military lore, with places like Holloman Air Force Base and the White Sands Missile Range in close proximity.

Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad

Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad

Whether you’re an avid railfan or just want to explore a slice of New Mexico’s history, the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad is a must-see destination. Steam through the formidable Cumbres Pass and take in the awe-inspiring Toltec Gorge from the comfort of a plush train car pulled by one of five coal-fired, steam-operated locomotives. The steam locomotive travels along the scenic rail line, built in 1880, at a brisk 12 mph, giving you plenty of opportunities to take in the beautiful scenery that’s accessible only by rail.

Geronimo Springs Museum

Geronimo Springs Museum

A trip to the Geronimo Springs Museum in Truth and Consequences is a must for avid history buffs. The museum features a wide variety of artifacts, fossils and memorabilia detailing the region’s rich history and the stories of notable Native American figures including Apache chief Geronimo. The museum’s outdoor exhibits feature preserved farming and construction equipment used to build the Elephant Butte Dam and Reservoir during the 1910s.

Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array

If you’re traveling along U.S. Highway 60 Between Datil and Magdalena, the Very Large Array makes for an interesting detour. As its namesake suggests, the Very Large Array consists of 28 large radio telescopes that make up the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s VLA Sky Survey, constantly scanning the skies and stars above for celestial activity. Stop by the visitor’s center to learn more about the array and take a self-guided tour to get an up-close and personal view of the site.