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6 Best Road Trips

New Mexico to Grand Canyon Road Trip

In New Mexico, you’ll feel a connection between humans and the landscape that stretches back thousands of years.

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

There’s a spot in southern New Mexico where you can stand in the middle of a never-ending sea of glittering white, even on a summer afternoon. There’s nothing visible for miles around besides the white sand under your feet, the brilliant blue sky above your head and the dark smudge of distant mountains on the horizon.

Modernist artist Georgia O’Keefe, who called New Mexico home, said “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way…things I had no words for.” Perhaps you’ll feel the same about this land as you drive through the high desert from El Paso, Texas, nestled on the border, to Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.

In El Paso, wander through two of the oldest-operating missions in the country. Go deep underground to explore geological history at Carlsbad Caverns. Just past the edge of White Sands National Park, you’ll find the site where the first atomic bomb was dropped in 1945. Near Los Alamos, you can walk in the footsteps of Ancestral Puebloans at Bandelier National Monument. Everywhere you look, you’ll find connections stretching back thousands of years between people and this land. But it’s not all ancient history. You’ll find vibrant communities of mountain bikers, vineyards producing exciting wines and the Indigenous people of the region still living in harmony with the land today.

At every bend in the road, you’ll find another story to uncover and leave you feeling, well, enchanted.

Map

Start: El Paso, Texas

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 favorite things to do.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park visitors at Rock of Ages viewing area on the Big Room Trail
Carlsbad Caverns National Park visitors at Rock of Ages viewing area on the Big Room Trail (Photo: NPS Public Domain)

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.

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.

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

Journey Through Time at 3 Park Sites in Los Alamos, N.M.

Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico
Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico (Photo: Depositphotos)

Set atop five mesas separated by beautiful canyons, Los Alamos, N.M., is home to three lesser-known national park sites that will give you a fascinating look at the history of the Southwest from ancient geology to settlements of the past to the area’s nuclear history.

Otherworldly Farmington

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.

Mesa Verde National Park

Cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park
Cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park (: Depositphotos)

2 Days in Mesa Verde National Park
You could spend weeks exploring every nook and cranny of Mesa Verde National Park, a cultural gem located in southwestern Colorado. But what if you only have 2 days? Don’t worry. We have you covered! Stick to our detailed itinerary, and you’ll hit all the most important stops.

Living History Surrounding Mesa Verde National Park
See incredible archaeological sites beyond Mesa Verde, sip local wines and learn about Native American culture in southwestern Colorado.

Mesa Verde’s Lost People
Turkeys, language and oral histories tell the story of the vanished people of Mesa Verde National Park, who, as it turns out, weren’t lost at all.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

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

2 Days 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.

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/

A Grander Stay at Yavapai Lodge
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

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.

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.

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

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

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


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