8 Adventures That Prove Why New Mexico Truly is the Land of Enchantment

New Mexico has some of the most beautiful and unique outdoor opportunities this country has to offer. It is no wonder why it is called the Land of Enchantment.

Do me a favor. Close your eyes...are they closed? Imagine the most picturesque place you've ever seen or place you have always wanted to see in the United States. Were you picturing the snow capped mountain peaks of the Rockies or a beach sunset on the west coast, maybe it was even the big city views of New York City; but chances are you weren't thinking about anything in the state of New Mexico. True outdoorsy folks are certainly aware of the wonderful gem that is the Land of Enchantment, but for average joe outdoorsmen, New Mexico is most likely looked over or forgotten.

New Mexico is a true treasure with an array of outdoor adventures ranging from hiking trails through the towering mountain peaks of Santa Fe & Taos, dark underground explorations within  Carlsbad Caverns National Park, or sledding the powder soft dunes of White Sands National Monument. Read on to discover my list of extraordinary adventures in the BEAUTIFUL Land of Enchantment.

1. The Rio Grand Gorge Bridge

Photo: Jason Hatfield

Listed as the 7th highest bridge in the United States, the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge or "Gorge Bridge", rests over the Rio Grande River just 10 miles northwest of the popular ski city of Taos. The giant steel bridge is a sight to see, with multiple overlooks and views of the winding river below. During the summer, street vendors and merchants set up shop along the highway selling local food and trinkets. Learn More.

2. White Sands National Monument

Photo: Nicholas Garcia

In southern New Mexico, 50 miles northeast of Las Cruces, you will find White Sands National Monument. The openness of this park allows you to venture on your own and blaze your own trail. You can even rent sleds at the Visitor Center to take a ride down the dunes. Keep in mind that if you are traveling during the summer time, the sand temp can exceed 100°, so come prepared with lots of water. Learn More.

3. McCauley Hot Springs

Photo: Nicholas Garcia

In the gorgeous setting of the Jemez Mountains, McCauley Hot Springs is an excellent location to rest, when you can find it. Most first time visitors to the trail complain about getting lost as the signage isn't the greatest and at times there is an abundance of overgrowth. Make sure to keep an eye out for trail markers along the way and you will be just find. If you are lucky enough to make it on your first try, it is worth taking a dip in the warm waters and take in the beauty and serenity of the area. Learn More.

4. Kasha-Katawe Tent Rocks National Monument

Photo: Nicholas Garcia

This has to be my families favorite New Mexico hike, BY FAR! The slot canyons make it a safe place for our young daughter to meander through while feeling like a "big girl hiker"! The tent like rock formations (hence the name Tent Rocks...go figure) are spectacular and a unique site to behold. The final vantage point of the trail allows for 360° views of the vast desert to the west and wilderness to the east. Learn More.

5. Gila Cliff Dwellings

Photo: irmiller

Take the opportunity to visit the home site of the Mogollon people from when they inhabited the cliffs in the late 1200's. The National Monument has various trails to hike that pass near the Cliff Dwelllings. This site on my list is in the most remote area of all the rest, so it's important to set aside enough time to drive out there and explore. Learn More.

6. Sandia Peak Tramway

Photo: Nicholas Garcia

The Sandia Peak Tramway takes you on a 2.7 mile journey to the top of the Sandia Peak. The views of Albuquerque as you climb higher and higher up the mountain are breathtaking, especially if you go during a rain storm. Noted as the 3rd longest tramway in the world, this will be a ride you will surely never forget. Also make sure to explore the trails and overlooks on the peak of the mountain. Learn More.

7. Albuquerque International Balloon Festival

Photo: Lucas Pols

One of the largest festivals in the country, and mostly certainly the state of New Mexico, the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival has something for everyone. People from all over the world travel to ABQ to witness the beauty of the first morning flight, where hundreds of hot air balloons take to the sky in unison. This event is a must for any outdoor photographer. Learn More.

8. Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Photo: Nicholas Garcia

Take the 79 story, 1.25 mile "plunge" through the Natural Entrance Trail, going deeper and deeper into the depths of one of the most unique National Parks in the 59 park system. Enjoy the quietness of the caves while weaving through stalagmites and countless other cavern formations. During the summer through mid fall, you can catch the "Bat Flight" program, which gives viewers the opportunity to watch hundreds of thousands of bats leave the cave entrance at night fall to hunt for food. Learn More.

Hopefully, this list will have inspired you to take a look at your calendar and block off some days to visit New Mexico in the near future. 


Cover photo: Jason Hatfield

Published: November 11, 2016

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Nick GarciaExplorer

United States

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