Top 5 Day Trip Destinations in New Mexico

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New Mexico is a truly enchanting place to live. It’s a place where the most interesting attractions are no more than a days drive in every direction. There is tons of history and culture to explore as a family. A couple hour car ride and you can transport to the most impressive natural wonders or historical monuments.

Albuquerque’s central location along Interstate 25 and Interstate 40 makes it the perfect jumping off point for numerous day trips. Here is a list of my favorite National Monuments and State Parks that will fascinate you and make you fall in love with New Mexico. Grab your family for a Southwest adventure you will not forget.

These are my favorite day trips around New Mexico.

Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument is located just outside of Los Alamos, NM and is less than a 2-hour drive from Albuquerque. Bandelier National Monument is an archeological site with acres of trails, camping, hiking throughout the Aztec Ruins.

When I was a kid we used to hike the trails and climb the ladders of the Falls Trail and I distinctly remember Park Rangers keeping a close eye on my mother because she was wearing my baby sister in a wrap and I was running along at the tender age of “pays-no-attention”. This is my favorite trail and it is only 1.5 miles long, and 400ft. practically straight up. Although there are steep drop-offs and narrow trails it is still doable for a family.

The Bandelier Main loop trail is an “all inclusive” trail of under 2 miles that allows families easy access to the ruins and minimal climbing. You can access the caves using ladders, but if you have little ones is strollers they will be able to access the first section of the trail with ease.  Shuttle access to the Main Loop is required, as you are unable to drive into the monument. You can camp in the number of campgrounds, but you have to pack in.\

The National Parks are offering FREE Passes to the Parks for their Every Kid In A Park campaign. Fourth Graders (and their families or educators) qualify for the passes with a simple download. YES – homeschool counts! Grab yours here!


Bandelier National Monument
15 Entrance RD 

Los Alamos, NM 87544


(505) 672-3861 x517

 White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument is located about 3 hours south of Albuquerque. It is only a very short drive from Las Cruces, NM which is hands down one of my favorite cities in New Mexico. Las Cruces is technically just a few hours away qualifying it as a day trip, but there is so much to do that I suggest at least staying the night!

White Sands National Monument - Best things to do in Las Cruces, NM

White Sands National Monument is a natural wonder in the Tularosa Basin that is nearly 300 sware miles of natural gypsum dunes. It is the largest gypsum dunes in the world. It is also part of Holloman Air Force Base and part of White Sands is the Missile Range, used to test missiles. Luckily that part is separate from the National Monument.

You can learn about the wildlife adaptations, history and more in the Visitors Center before renting a sled and driving into the dunes. It’s the most surreal experience and super fun sledding! There are day use structures and trails you can use to go deeper into the park. There is no RV camping but you can pack into the park and stay at a primitive site if you’re up for some adventure.

Visiting White Sands National Monument in the summer can be kind of dangerous if you are not familiar with the weather or used to the desert heat so make sure to take lots of water! We love these backpacks for our hiking trips. If you do plan on heading to White Sands, early spring and fall are great times to go. The weather is warm but not unbearable. Rent a sled at the visitors center and slide the dunes all day long!

Petroglyph National Monument – Boca Negra Canyon

The Petroglyph National Monument is a very short drive within Albuquerque city limits and makes for the perfect day trip for exploring nature and history. The City of Albuquerque Open Space Division operates the monument and there is a parking fee of $2.00. There is a fully developed day-use area at the trailhead with shade, bathrooms, and water fountains. It’s a fun place to explore and as near to us as the local Zoo.

Boca Negra Canyon is only 70 Acres of the over 1000 acre monument. There are three trails accessible from the canyon and you are able to see over 100 Petroglyphs on a simple, one hour hike on the self-guided trails.

The monument houses over 25,000 Petroglyphs carved into the volcanic rock of the mesa dating back at least 3,000 years. Learn more about the monument and plan your trip.

Located off of Unser Boulevard, ¼ mile north of Montaño Road

Sandia Man Cave (Trailhead & Trail 72)

Sandia Man Cave is now known as Sandia Cave. It’s located just outside Bernaillio on the North end of the Sandia Mountains, only a few miles north of Albuquerque on NM 165. It is open year-round, weather permitting.

The cave was discovered in 1935 by a UNM student and was found to contain primitive tools, basket remnants, woven Yucca moccasins and skeletal remains of Ice Age animals. Although no human remains were discovered in the cave, you can imagine it’s former resident(s) vividly while you explore.

The trail is slightly rocky, though manageable for beginners. The cave is located less than .5 mile from the trailhead and there are stairs making the ascension to the cave easier for visitors.

From Albuquerque, drive north on I-25 to Exit 242 Bernalillo/NM 165, stay to your right as you exit the ramp. Proceed east on NM 165. The drive to the Sandia Man Cave is approximately 11.3 miles from I-25. NM 165 veers south and heads into the Sandia Mountains. When the pavement ends the road is bumpy. The parking area is on your left.

Sandia Peak Tramway

The base of the Tramway is inside Albuquerque City Limits off Tramway Blvd. You can ride the aerial tram 2.5 miles to the top of Sandia Peak where you can see the expanse of the city from an elevation of over 10,000 ft. The ride only takes about 15 minutes and there are trails that you can hike once atop the peak. Construction is currently happening on a restaurant at the peak and will be open in Sporing 2019.

You can call for tickets reservations for groups of 20 or more. Kids under 5 years are free and adults are $20 for a round-trip ticket. Unless you’re skiing down, I suggest a round trip!

Find more information here 



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