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6 Best Road Trips

New Mexico to Grand Canyon Road Trip

Breathtaking 1,789-mile road trip loop that starts and ends in El Paso, Texas.

Stunning landscapes, culture and adobe villages await on this 1,789-mile adventure. Wander in national parks and native lands through New Mexico’s Land of Enchantment and Arizona’s Grand Canyon country on this road trip loop that starts and ends in El Paso, Texas.


If you follow a lonely road through the rolling hills of northern New Mexico, you’ll catch sight of the Pedernal. Stretching 9,862 feet into the blue sky, it’s the mountain that captured artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s attention, repeatedly making cameos in her paintings.

“It’s my private mountain,” O’Keeffe said. “God told me if I painted it often enough I could have it.”

Her words provide a window into the New Mexican ethos where people share a deep relationship with the earth—a connection some call sacred—that stretches back more than 1,000 years. At Acoma, one of the nation’s oldest continuously occupied settlements, you’ll find a sun-baked Native American adobe village built 1,000 years ago. In El Sanctuario de Chimayo church, people have collected dirt believed to have healing powers for more than 200 years.

In Santa Fe near Banderlier National Monument, soft adobe buildings and homes climb hillsides and line streets. At Carlsbad Caverns National Park, you’ll get a rare glimpse of the Earth’s astonishing formations below ground. In Las Cruces, green chiles and grapes harvested nearby transform classic meals into sensory experiences.

Near Alamogordo, the ground turns blinding white as it sprawls across 275 square miles to form White Sands National Park. Next to this stark beauty lies White Sands Missile Range where the first atomic bomb was dropped in 1945. Herein lies the magic of New Mexico—for every breathtaking turn in the road, there’s a story. It’s your turn to uncover them in this intriguing land.

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Route

  1. Start: El Paso, Texas
  2. Carlsbad Caverns National Park
  3. White Sands National Park
  4. Trading Places in Grants and Gallup
  5. Otherworldly Farmington
  6. Petrified Forest National Park
  7. Navajo Gems
  8. Grand Canyon National Park
  9. Bears and Trains in Williams
  10. Phenomenal Flagstaff
  11. Recharge in Pinetop-Lakeside
  12. Deming’s Trails of Treasures
  13. End: El Paso, Texas

Map

Start: El Paso, Texas

Franklin Mountains hiker overlooking El Paso
Franklin Mountains hiker overlooking El Paso (Photo: Visit El Paso)

Adventure Land
Discover some of the nation’s most diverse recreation areas in and around El Paso,Texas. From desert adventures to historic missions, here are our top six things to do.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

Slaughter Canyon Cave in Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Slaughter Canyon Cave in Carlsbad Caverns National Park(Photo: Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce)

Once part of a reef in an inland sea, Carlsbad Caverns has more than 119 limestone caves, including the Big Room, which is as large as six football fields. The Big Room Trail is the most popular ranger-guided tour in the caves. From the trail’s Rock of Ages viewing area, enjoy views of famous cave formations such as the Hall of Giants, the Temple of the Sun, the Chandelier and Crystal Spring Dome.

Cool off at Sitting Bull Falls
Cool off at Sitting Bull Falls (Photo: Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce)

Carlsbad’s Uncrowded Park Gems
Base out of Carlsbad to explore Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains national parks. Then dip in a natural swimming hole under a waterfall and paddle down the Pecos River.

White Sands National Park, New Mexico

Sunset at White Sands National Park in New Mexico
Sunset at White Sands National Park in New Mexico (Photo: Abhik Mondal)

The sparkling white sands of the world’s largest gypsum field are mesmerizing at White Sands National Park in New Mexico. Hike or sled on the sand to experience them.

Kids dress in astronaut costumes at the New Mexico Museum of Space History
Kids dress in astronaut costumes at the New Mexico Museum of Space History (Photo: Courtesy City of Alamogordo)

Space to Roam in Alamogordo
Just minutes from White Sands National Park, Alamogordo, N.M., offers some must-see attractions.

Trading Places in Grants and Gallup

La Ventana Arch at El Malpais National Monument
La Ventana Arch at El Malpais National MonumentCourtesy Grants, N.M.

You’ll discover vintage Route 66-themed stops and an uncrowded national monument at this classic New Mexico town.

Rueben Richards, Navajo at 2018 Gallup Native Arts Market
Rueben Richards, Navajo at 2018 Gallup Native Arts MarketPhoto by Cayla Nimmo courtesy City of Gallup

To immerse yourself in some classic Route 66 culture as well as a strong Native American arts scene, stop in Gallup, N.M., home to 1,000 artists and a long history of being a vibrant trading post for Native American arts. Start your Gallup adventure off at the rambling El Rancho Hotel, a true route classic built in 1936.

Otherworldly Farmington

King of Wings in the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness in New Mexico near Farmington
King of Wings in the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness in New Mexico near Farmington (Photo: Craig Bill)

Venture Out of This World
At more than a mile high in elevation, you’ll find amazing high-desert adventures around every corner in Farmington, N.M.

Tip for Traveling from N.M. to Arizona: Every year Texas and New Mexico go to daylight saving time, but Arizona does not. Remember this one-hour difference as you travel between the states.

Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park log
Petrified log in Petrified Forest National ParkDepositphotos

Home to fossils older than 200 million years, and some of the largest and most beautiful concentrations of petrified wood, “painted desert” badlands, archeological sites and historic structures, Petrified Forest National Park is a very unique national park.

Petrified Park Stay in Holbrook
Have You Slept in a Wigwam Lately? If not, pull over in Holbrook, Ariz., and stay at iconic Route 66 mainstay, Wigwam Motel. In your teepee, you’ll find cable TV and air-conditioning, surprising modern upgrades in a motel village built in 1950 and still managed by the Lewis family.

Navajo Gems

Navaho Code Talker monument at Window Rock
Navaho Code Talker monument at Window Rock (Photo: David Krause)

Discover the rich history and culture of the Navajo Nation and its people. Visit the Code Talkers Memorial at Window Rock (before or after Farmington), then get a glimpse of Navajo history and modern life in Tuba City.

Exhibit at the Explore Navajo Interactive Museum in Tuba City
Exhibit at the Explore Navajo Interactive Museum in Tuba City (Photo: by Donovan Hanley courtesy of Explore Navajo Interactive Museum)

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Pink sky over the Grand Canyon
Pink sky over the Grand Canyon (Photo: Brandon Pfledderer)

48 Hours in the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
Get ready for adventure. Here are some of our favorite things to do while at the South Rim from biking in solitude to exploring some of the rim’s most historic treasures.

IMAX Theater at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center in Tusayan
IMAX Theater at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center in TusayanCourtesy Grand Canyon Visitor Center

Stop at Grand Canyon Visitor Center
Hidden secrets await in Tusayan.

Bring the Gypsy Guide App
Enjoy the freedom of driving your own car while traveling with an entertaining guide that doesn’t take up space. Learn more at gypsyguide.com/tour/grand-canyon-south-rim/

Yavapai Lodge Wants to Keep the Grand Canyon Grand
Sleep well and sustainably about a mile from the rim. The Yavapai Lodge’s restaurant, tavern and nearby market and shuttle stop make navigating the rim easy.

Tori Peglar's family hiking down the Bright Angel Trail into the Grand Canyon
Family hiking down the Bright Angel Trail into the Grand CanyonTori Peglar

Into the Deep
Read a family’s story about hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and discovering there’s more than meets the eye.

Bears and Trains in Williams

Main street in Williams
Main street in Williams (Photo: Grant Ordelheide)

Williams is a southern gateway to the Grand Canyon. A wildlife park, a train to the Grand Canyon and Route 66 history await.

Bearizona Drive-thru Wildlife Park
See bears, wolves, buffalo and more in this drive through park among the pine forests of north Arizona.

Phenomenal Flagstaff

Cruising downtown Flagstaff, Arizona
Cruising downtown Flagstaff, Arizona (Photo: Discover Flagstaff)

Surrounded by the world’s largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest, Flagstaff’s uncrowded trails offer solitude, easy social distancing, a lot of trees and outstanding views. Here are seven things to do including visiting a national monument with cliff dwellings.

Starry Nights at Lowell Observatory
Visit a legendary landmark where Pluto was discovered and scientists continue to unravel the mysteries of the universe.

Giovale Open Deck Observatory at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff
Giovale Open Deck Observatory at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff (Photo: Courtesy Lowell Observatory)

Best Eco-Friendly Flagstaff + Grand Canyon Vacation Itinerary
Experience the best of the Grand Canyon while eating locally grown food, staying at eco-friendly lodging and hiking on gorgeous trails.

Recharge at Pinetop-Lakeside

Pinetop-Lakeside in Arizona
Pinetop-Lakeside in Arizona (: Courtesy Visit Arizona)

When you get out of your car in the towering ponderosa pine forests surrounding the town of Pinetop-Lakeside, Ariz., you’ll feel much farther away from the desert than the few hours you just drove. Here’s how to connect with nature on the trails and lakes.

Deming’s Trails of Treasures

Vineyards at Luna Rossas Winery in Deming, New Mexico
Vineyards at Luna Rossas Winery (Photo: City of Deming)

Stop in Deming, N.M., to search for gems and local lore, sip wine and visit a nearby safe, vibrant Mexican town. Here are the top 9 things to do in the area. Choose your own adventure based on what you want to see and do.

End: El Paso, Texas