6 Best Road Trips to the Grand Canyon

New Mexico to Grand Canyon Road Trip

Stunning landscapes, culture and adobe villages await on this 1,789-mile adventure.

Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico
Bandelier National Monument in New MexicoDepositphotos


Land of Enchantment

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.


Start: El Paso, Texas

Socorro Mission in El Paso
Socorro Mission in El PasoVisit 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 ParkPhoto courtesy of 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.

Sitting Bull Falls near Carlsbad, N.M.
Sitting Bull FallsPhoto courtesy of 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 hiker in White Sands National Park in New Mexico
White Sands National ParkDepositphotos

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.

Kid playing astronaut at the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo
New Mexico Museum of Space History in AlamogordoCourtesy of City of Alamogordo

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

Albuquerque vs. Santa Fe

Albuquerque hot air balloons, Santa Fe sculpture
Albuquerque hot air balloons, Santa Fe sculptureAdobe Stock composite

Albuquerque vs. Santa Fe Personality Quiz
Driving through New Mexico en route to the Grand Canyon, do you spend more time in Albuquerque or Santa Fe? Take this quiz to find out.

Grants, New Mexico

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.

Trading Places in Gallup, N.M.

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.

Farmington, New Mexico

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 FarmingtonCraig 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.

Explore Navajo Country

Navaho Code Talker monument at Window Rock
Navaho Code Talker monument at Window RockDavid 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.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

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/

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.

Yavapai Lodge's Tavern Patio in the evening
Yavapai Lodge’s Tavern Patio in the eveningCourtesy Delaware North

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 Brews in Williams

Main street in Williams, Ariz.
Main street in WilliamsGrant Ordelheide

Williams is a southern gateway to the Grand Canyon. A wildlife park, a brewery 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.

Grand Canyon Brewing Co.
Savor a Sunset Amber Ale at the new Grand Canyon Brewing Co. location. There’s a tasting room and restaurant with burgers, brats and pizza. Take a tour of the brewery. 

Flagstaff, Arizona

Hiker in Walnut Canyon National Monument near Flagstaff
Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau

7 Stops in Phenomenal Flagstaff
Located two hours from six national monuments and Grand Canyon National Park, Flagstaff is a thriving university town with a charming historic downtown. Here are seven things to do.

Clark Telescope Dome at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff
Clark Telescope Dome at Lowell ObservatoryCourtesy Lowell Observatory

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

Silver City’s 3 Places to Explore

Catwalk National Recreation Trail, Gila National Forest in New Mexico near Silver City
Catwalk National Recreation TrailGila National Forest

Tucked in a rugged corner of New Mexico, you’ll discover the vibrant historic town of Silver City. Once a booming silver mining town, it was here Billy the Kid was first arrested in 1875 for theft. Here are the top places to explore.

Las Cruces, New Mexico 

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument near Las Cruces, New Mexico
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument near Las CrucesBLM/Bob Wick

The Best of Las Cruces
Visit two under-visited national parks, vintage shops, hip restaurants and vineyards that are part of the nation’s oldest wine-producing region. Here are the top seven things to do while visiting this university town

End: El Paso, Texas