Albuquerque is perfectly positioned within easy reach of a wide variety of interesting day trips. As the historic homeland of many Native American Tribes, the New Mexico area is especially rich in ancient historic and cultural attractions like Acoma Pueblo, Bandelier National Monument, Petroglyph National Monument and many more. Outdoor enthusiasts have a wide choice of wonderfully diverse landscapes to explore on foot, bike or horse-back, while art lovers will find that traditional New Mexican arts and crafts are alive and flourishing in almost every town. If it is rest and relaxation that you crave, you can head to one of many thermal spas and resorts.
If you are visiting Albuquerque, it makes great sense to include the colorful and vibrant city of Santa Fe in your list of day-trip destinations. You can reach historic Santa Fe in about an hour along the scenic Turquoise Trail (State Highway 14). Art lovers can spend hours in no fewer than ten world-class art museums which include the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, the Center for Contemporary Arts and the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art. To learn about the history of the city you can join a guided walking or tram tour of the historic sites. Enjoy some great New Mexico cuisine and round off your day with some shopping at a large variety of boutique stores and markets.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Located approximately two hours and twenty minutes from Albuquerque, Taos offers each and every member of the family a fun day out or an excellent overnight adventure. Depending on your interests you can spend the day visiting historic sites such as the San Francisco de Asis Church and the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, or get outdoors and active in the amazing Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. If you only have limited time in Taos you would benefit from joining a guided tour – choose from wine tours, history tours, food tours, walking tours and trolley tours. There are numerous activities to keep children happy and active including rafting, fishing, rope courses and chairlift rides.
Taos, New Mexico
3.Cumbres-Toltec Scenic Railway
Jump aboard for the ride of your life on the historic Cumbres-Toltec Scenic Railway, which follows a steep and dramatic route along the New Mexico/Colorado border between Chama New Mexico and Antonito in Colorado. The historic old steam engines and their carriages leave daily from both cities, meeting approximately half-way at Osier where you will enjoy a delicious buffet lunch. The return leg of your journey will take you back to your starting point by luxury coach. Shorter family-friendly half-day trips are also available. Drive time from Albuquerque to Chama or Antonito is about three and a half hours, so you will need to make an early start or stay overnight.
Cumbres-Toltec Scenic Railway, 500 Terrace Ave, Chama, NM 87520, Phone: 888-286-2737
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Located about 70mins drive from Albuquerque, Acoma Pueblo is the oldest continuously-inhabited settlement in North America and is a must on any visitor’s Albuquerque itinerary. The scenic journey from Albuquerque will take you through some astonishing landscape enlivened by breath-taking rock formations. As you take a guided walking tour through the village, which is dramatically located on the top of a high sandstone bluff, you will learn about the fascinating history and culture of the Acoma people, who are renowned for producing remarkable Native American pottery. You can admire their work at the Sky City Cultural Center or the Haak’u Museum or purchase pottery at the Market Plaza.
Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico, 87034
5.Bandelier National Monument
At the amazing Bandelier National Monument, you will have the chance to see how the Ancestral Pueblo people carved their homes out of sandstone, planted crops on the arid mesatops and ground their maize by hand nearly nine hundred years ago. Besides learning about ancient history and culture you will find a large variety of excellent outdoor activities including boating, hiking, backpacking, interpretive tours, picnicking and even camping. Hiking varies from short and easy family trails to demanding back-country hikes over 70 miles of trails. If one short day is not enough you can camp overnight inside the Monument or find lodging in the nearby communities of Los Alamos or White Rock.
Bandelier National Monument, 15 Entrance Rd, Los Alamos, NM 87544, Phone: 505-672-3861
6.Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge
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Wildlife enthusiasts can reach the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge in around ninety minutes from Albuquerque. The refuge is open all year around (please check their website for limited admission hours in summer) and offers excellent opportunities to observe a wide variety of wildlife in a natural setting. Energetic visitors can set off to explore along a selection of hiking trails, or bring along their bikes to ride the eleven-mile gravel cycle trail. An easier way to see the sights and wildlife is to follow the auto trail which will take you deep into the peaceful refuge. Other seasonal activities in the refuge include photography, fishing, hunting and bull-frogging.
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, 1001 NM-1, San Antonio, NM 87832, Phone: 575-835-1828
7.Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Hidden under the surface of the Chichuahuan Desert there lies an amazing network of more than one hundred caves, which are the main attraction of the Carlsbad Caverns National Park. There are two ways to explore the remarkable caves – you can explore at your own pace or join a ranger-guided tour. The main cavern (Big Room) is accessible by hiking or by elevator, and parts of the cave are wheelchair-friendly. If you explore on foot the reasonably flat trail through the Big Room takes about 90 minutes, but there is also a shorter circuit which takes around 45 minutes. The ranger-guided tours vary from easy to very challenging, to suit all fitness levels.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, 757 Carlsbad Caverns Hwy, Carlsbad, NM 88220, Phone: 575-785-2232
8.El Malpais National Conservation Area
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Located 80 miles west of Albuquerque, the El Malpais (badlands in Spanish) National Conservation Area is a must-see destination for visitors to New Mexico. The area was established in 1987 to protect and showcase numerous natural wonders surrounding the Grants Lava Flows. Included in the area you can admire the La Ventana Natural Arch, numerous dramatic sandstone rock formations, canyons and cliffs. Your first stop should be the Ranger Station, where you can get information on current conditions and the various hiking, biking and equestrian trails. Activities in the conservation area include wildlife watching, hiking, walking, cave-exploring and much more. If you have an RV you can easily spend a night or two in the Joe Skeen Campground.
El Malpais National Conservation Area, Grants, NM 87020, Phone: 505-280-2918
An easy and scenic 70min drive will take you from Albuquerque to the vibrant and interesting little town of Jemez Springs, which has something to offer for every visitor.
Many visitors come to enjoy the thermal springs for which the village is named. These can be enjoyed at a “proper” spa or bathhouse, or in a completely natural environment which you can access along your hiking route. There are numerous hiking and biking trails for outdoor enthusiasts, while culture-vultures can enjoy visiting the 500-year old Jemez Monument and Historic Site and some of the art galleries and studios in the village. Round off your visit by buying some local New Mexico arts and crafts to take home with you.
Jemez Springs, New Mexico
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10.Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
Visitors to Albuquerque should not miss the opportunity to visit the Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument to see some of the most unique rock formations in the country. You can reach the monument in about an hour from Albuquerque, making this excursion ideal for a day-trip out of the city. The main object of visiting the monument is to admire the remarkable cone-shaped rock formations which were caused by dramatic volcanic eruptions several million years ago. The best way to get up close is to pull on your hiking boots and set off to explore the Cave Loop Trail (easy) or the Canyon Trail (challenging and steep). Taking your own drinking water is essential.
Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, Cochiti Pueblo, NM 87025, Phone: 505-331-6259
You will find the quaint mountain village of Madrid scenically nestled in a narrow canyon in the Ortiz Mountains. To get there you simply follow the Scenic Turquoise Trail (State Highway 14), which runs between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Once a coal-mining ghost town, Madrid has re-invented itself to offer tourists a range of outdoor activities as well as many interesting shops, restaurants and even a museum. You can go hiking or horse-back riding in the Cirrillos Hill State Park, enjoy modern New Mexico cuisine at The Mine Shaft Tavern, shop for antiques at Cowgirl Red or visit the museum.
Madrid, New Mexico
12.Petroglyph National Monument
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If you are looking to combine a little outdoor exercise with a fascinating look into the life and culture of early tribes, the Petroglyph National Monument of New Mexico is the place to go. The monument is very easy to reach from central Albuquerque and you can drive directly to the various trail systems. The easiest and most accessible trail will lead you to the Boca Negra Canyon, where there are up to 100 primitive petroglyphs to view. If you are prepared for a longer hike to Rinconada Canyon (2.2 miles) or the Piedras Macadas Canyon you will be rewarded by the chance to admire hundreds of ancient petroglyphs.
Petroglyph National Monument, Western Trail NW, Albuquerque NM 87120
13.Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
The whole family will enjoy spending a day exploring the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, which is located near Mountainair, approximated 75 minutes from central Albuquerque. The monument safeguards the ruins of three separate Spanish missions which were established in the early 1600’s. There is a central Ranger Station which can give you all the information you need to explore the three sets of ruins at your own pace, but if you call them in advance you can arrange for a very informative ranger-led tour. There are also educational ranger programs for the kids (and adults) and, best of all, there is no entrance fee to visit the monument, where you will learn about centuries of Spanish and Pueblo culture and history.
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, Mountainair, NM 87036, Phone: 505-847-2585
14.Valles Caldera National Preserve
© Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
Protecting and showcasing the site of a cataclysmic volcanic eruption which left a thirteen-mile wide caldera, the Valles Caldera National Preserve is one of the newest preserves in the country. The preserve is a wonderful place for families to spend some quality time in the Great Outdoors, enjoying various activities such as wildlife-watching, walking, fishing, picnicking and biking. If you enjoy hiking you can choose from a wide selection of trails which vary from easy family-friendly walks to strenuous and challenging hikes for fit hikers. In addition to the above you can sign up for a guided tour or ranger-led activity or go horse-back riding. The preserve is located approximately 75 min from Albuquerque.
Valles Caldera National Preserve, 39201 NM-4, Jemez Springs, NM 87025, Phone: 575-829-4100
15.Pecos National Historical Park
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Surrounded by the outstanding natural landscape of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Santa Fe, the Pecos National Historical Park is another of New Mexico’s must-see destinations. A good place to start your outing would be the Visitor’s Center where you can get all the info you need for a good day out. History buffs can learn all about the famous Civil War Battle of Glorieta Pass – you can join a guided walk or go on a ranger-led hike through the famous battle fields. There are hikes for all levels of fitness including a short family-friendly loop which will lead you through the Ancestral Sites. In summer you can enjoy some fishing on the scenic Pecos River.
Pecos National Historical Park, Pecos, NM 87552, Phone: 505-757-7241
16.Aztec Ruins National Park
A visit to Albuquerque will open up a whole new world of fascinating history and culture. Visiting the amazing Aztec Ruins National Park may be a little too far for a day trip, but you should certainly consider an overnight trip to this remarkable park where you can walk in the footsteps of the ancient Pueblo people. Here you can explore the ruins of a 900-year-old Pueblo Grand House which once boasted over 400 individual masonry rooms. Marvel at how this ancient civilization could have constructed such sophisticated buildings without any modern tools and materials. There is a self-guided trail through the historic site and you can find all the info your need at the Visitor’s Center.
Aztec Ruins National Park, 725 Ruins Rd, Aztec, NM 87410, Phone: 505-334-6174
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17.Museum of International Folk Art
© Museum of International Folk Art
If you and your family are art lovers you owe it to yourselves to visit the fascinating Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, which offers an educational and fun-filled day out, which is free for all children less than sixteen years of age. You can take the youngest children to have hours of fun in the Tree of Life Toy Lounge, where little minds will be entertained with stimulating books and toys. Older children (and adults) will love the many hands-on interactive exhibits throughout the galleries. The museum hosts regular family oriented folk art workshops, lectures and talks. There is something for everyone and docent-led tours are available three times a day.
Museum of International Folk Art, 706 Camino Lejo on Museum Hill, Santa Fe, NM 87505, Phone: 505-476-1200
© City of Las Vegas New Mexico
Not to be confused with its glitzy and glamorous Nevada name-sake, Las Vegas New Mexico has a wonderful small-town atmosphere and offers visitors a wealth of outdoor activities for the whole family. You can get there in less than two hours from Albuquerque and spend the day exploring wildlife and hiking trails in two national forests. If you enjoy water sports you need to visit Storrie Lake State Park where all the locals come to enjoy fishing, boating and other water sports. When you have had your fill of outdoor adventures you can spend a few hours in the charming Old Town Historic District, where there are restaurants, coffee shops and many interesting stores to discover.
Las Vegas, New Mexico
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Gallup is another example of New Mexico’s many towns which combine excellent outdoor recreational facilities with history, arts and Native American culture. You can reach Gallup along the I-40, and the journey from Albuquerque should take around two hours, depending on how many stops you make along the way. To get an overview of all the city offers you can enjoy a self-guided walking tour - itineraries are available from the website. The town is full of fascinating public art installations and there are several art galleries to be explored. If you are more interested in outdoor activities you will find that the amazing red rock landscape offers excellent opportunities for biking, hiking, rock climbing, hot-air ballooning and an off-road track.
Gallup, New Mexico
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Located on the legendary Route 66, Tucumcari was once home to ancient civilizations who hunted mammoths and dinosaurs along the shores of a vast inland sea. Today the town is proud of its fascinating Mesalands Dinosaur Museum, which is gives children the chance to come face to face with a stunning collection of life-size bronze dinosaur skeletons. You can also visit the Railroad Museum, the Tucumcari Historical Museum and the fun and quirky New Mexico Route 66 Museum. A walk through the town will give you the chance to admire several enormous wall-art panels. Outdoor enthusiasts can visit Conchas Lake State Park which offers a good variety of water sports including boating, fishing and water skiing.
Tucumcari, NM 88401
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21.Truth or Consequences
The little resort town of Truth or Consequences got its strange name from a radio show (of the same name) back in the 1950’s. You can reach Truth or Consequences from Albuquerque along the I-25 in approximately two hours, making this little New Mexico gem ideal for a day trip. Not a great deal has changed in Truth or Consequences in the last fifty years, and visiting the town is like stepping back in time. The main draw-card is the city’s natural hot springs which is located in the downtown Hot Springs Bathhouse Historical District. Here you are welcome to while away an hour or two in the odorless hot mineral waters or treat yourself to a relaxing massage or other spa treatment.
Truth or Consequences, New Mexico 87901
Situated about ninety minutes drive from Albuquerque, Chimayo is an historic New Mexico town which is famous for its weaving heritage and for being home to the pilgrimage church of El Santuario de Chimayo. The church, which was built in 1814, is widely believed to have healing powers and attracts thousands of pilgrims every Good Friday. Needless to say, it would be a good idea to avoid visiting at Easter if you want to have the chance for a quiet walk through the church to see the renowned panels of sacred paintings. After visiting the church you can learn all about the ancient art of weaving and see an historic 100-year old loom at the Trujillo Weaving Shop. The pretty Santa Nino Chapel and the Chimayo Museum are also worth a visit.
Chimayo, NM 87522
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Conveniently located on the Pecos River, about one hundred miles west of Albuquerque, Santa Rosa offers something really extraordinary – a superb year-round natural scuba-diving site. The amazing Blue Hole is over eighty foot deep and maintains a constant temperature, making it one of the best natural scuba diving spots in the country. Besides enjoying a swim or dive (lessons available on site), visitors to Santa Rosa can enjoy a walk through the historic district, go hunting for Route 66 cars and neon or visit Park Lake where a waterslide, an aqua park and a variety of water sports offer hours of family fun. No visit is complete without tasting the local specialty, PDL (Puerto de Luna) Chile.
Santa Rosa, NM 88435
24.Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa
Celebrating the famous sacred thermal waters of New Mexico, the Ojo Caliente Resort is the ideal place to visit to restore mind and body. Day visitors (over the age of thirteen) are welcome to come and enjoy the restorative powers of the various pools and baths, all of which are fed from naturally-occurring thermal mineral springs. Offering a holistic approach to various health problems, the resort encourages visitors to experience mindfulness, as they take the waters, practice yoga or simply walk or cycle through the spiritual landscape. If you need more than just a short day-trip you can check into the resorts’ hotel, suites or camp ground for an overnight experience.
Ojo Caliente, 50 Los Banos Dr, Ojo Caliente, NM 87549, Phone: 888-939-0007
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© Earthship Biotecture
If you have ever wondered what it would be like to live a completely self-sufficient life off the grid, an overnight stay at the Earthship headquarters in Taos could be a great add-on to your visit to New Mexico. If you are not up for an overnight stay, you should still consider visiting the Earthship Biotecture Visitor’s Center, where you and the family can learn all about the project on a guided or self-guided tour. Overnight visitors to the Earthship are constantly amazed to find that life’s little luxuries like internet access, TV, heating and power are all provided in an ecologically-friendly and cost-effective way.
Earthship Biotecture, 2 Earthship Way, Tres Piedras, NM 87577, Phone: 575-613-4409
25 Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Albuquerque, NM
- Santa Fe, Photo: DON/stock.adobe.com
- Taos, Photo: flocu/stock.adobe.com
- Cumbres-Toltec Scenic Railway, Photo: spiritofamerica/stock.adobe.com
- Acoma Pueblo, Photo: Ralf Broskvar/stock.adobe.com
- Bandelier National Monument, Photo: traveller70/stock.adobe.com
- Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge, Photo: Martha Marks/stock.adobe.com
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Photo: Melastmohican/stock.adobe.com
- El Malpais National Conservation Area, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Jemez Springs, Photo: PhotoElite/stock.adobe.com
- Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, Photo: sumikophoto/stock.adobe.com
- Madrid, Photo: stellamc/stock.adobe.com
- Petroglyph National Monument, Photo: Frank Fichtmüller/stock.adobe.com
- Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, Photo: traveller70/stock.adobe.com
- Valles Caldera National Preserve, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Pecos National Historical Park, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Aztec Ruins National Park, Photo: PhotoElite/stock.adobe.com
- Museum of International Folk Art, Photo: Museum of International Folk Art
- Las Vegas, Photo: City of Las Vegas New Mexico
- Gallup, Photo: Brian Scantlebury/stock.adobe.com
- Tucumcari, Photo: Brian Scantlebury/stock.adobe.com
- Truth or Consequences, Photo: SailingAway/stock.adobe.com
- Chimayo, Photo: lizcoughlan/stock.adobe.com
- Santa Rosa, Photo: Sue Smith/stock.adobe.com
- Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa, Photo: Shelley/stock.adobe.com
- Earthship Biotecture, Photo: Earthship Biotecture
- Cover Photo: Ralf Broskvar/stock.adobe.com