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Top 17 hidden gems to visit in New Mexico

  1. White Sands National Monument: A magical landscape of sparkling white sand dunes that stretches across 275 square miles in the heart of the Tularosa Basin. Located in southern New Mexico, this unique natural wonder is a must-visit for anyone traveling through the state. Visitors can hike, sled, or even take a leisurely drive through the dazzling gypsum sand dunes, which offer breathtaking vistas and unique photo opportunities.
  2. Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument: Travel back in time and explore the fascinating history of the Mogollon people at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, located in southwestern New Mexico. The monument features ancient cliff dwellings, built by the Mogollon people between the 1270s and early 1300s. Visitors can hike through the beautiful Gila Wilderness and explore the dwellings, which offer a glimpse into the daily lives of the Mogollon people.
  3. Chaco Culture National Historical Park: A sacred site of the ancestral Puebloans, located in northwestern New Mexico, Chaco Culture National Historical Park is a must-visit for history buffs and archaeology enthusiasts. The park features a collection of ancient ruins, including pueblos, kivas, and roads, which showcase the incredible architecture and engineering skills of the ancestral Puebloans. Visitors can explore the park’s museums and learn about the cultural and spiritual significance of this important site.
  4. Carlsbad Caverns National Park: Descend into the underground wonderland of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, located in southeastern New Mexico. The park features a network of more than 119 caves, including the stunning Big Room, which boasts impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations. Visitors can take a self-guided tour or join a ranger-led program to learn about the geology and ecology of the caves.
  5. Bandelier National Monument: Step back in time and explore the fascinating history of the Ancestral Puebloans at Bandelier National Monument, located near Santa Fe, New Mexico. The monument features ancient cliff dwellings, ceremonial sites, and petroglyphs, which offer a glimpse into the lives of the people who once called this area home. Visitors can hike through the beautiful canyons and explore the ruins, which are nestled among towering cliffs and rock formations.
  6. Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument: Marvel at the unique cone-shaped rock formations created by volcanic activity at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, located in northern New Mexico. The monument features a network of hiking trails that wind through the surreal landscape, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Visitors can also learn about the geology and ecology of the area at the visitor center.
  7. Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness: A remote and otherworldly wilderness area in northwestern New Mexico, the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a must-visit for adventurers and nature enthusiasts. The area features unique geological formations, including hoodoos and rock spires, as well as Native American petroglyphs and fossils. Visitors can hike, camp, and explore this rugged and beautiful landscape.
  8. Valles Caldera National Preserve, located in the northern part of New Mexico. This natural wonder boasts a large volcanic caldera, which provides a varied range of habitats for an abundance of wildlife, including forests, meadows, and streams. Visitors can take in the awe-inspiring sights of the preserve’s natural wonders through hiking, fishing, and exploration of the caldera, which is home to a plethora of rare and endangered species.
  9. Another must-see destination for outdoor enthusiasts is Clayton Lake State Park, located in the northeastern part of New Mexico. This scenic park features a picturesque lake surrounded by breathtaking natural scenery. Visitors can enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities, such as fishing, boating, and swimming, as well as hiking on several trails that wind through the park’s lush forests and meadows. Additionally, the park offers excellent opportunities for bird-watching, as it is home to a diverse range of wildlife species.
  10. Cibola National Forest: If you’re looking to get lost in nature, then the Cibola National Forest is the place to be. With over 1.6 million acres of land to explore, you can hike, bike, camp, fish, and hunt to your heart’s content. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the wildlife – from high peaks to deep canyons, you never know what might be lurking in the shadows. And if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, head over to the Sandia and Mount Taylor Wildernesses for some unspoiled nature vibes.
  11. Fort Union National Monument: Are you a history buff? Then head on over to Fort Union, where you can take a step back in time to the 1850s. Learn all about the fort’s vital military role during the Civil War and Indian Wars through exhibits and guided tours. And if you’re lucky, you might even catch a reenactment or two!
  12. Leasburg Dam State Park: Who says the desert is boring? At Leasburg Dam State Park, you can fish, boat, hike, and explore the nearby Rio Grande. And if you’re feeling particularly studious, check out the small museum for some fun facts on the area’s wildlife and history.
  13. City of Rocks State Park: Are you a geology nerd? Then don’t miss the City of Rocks, where the unique rock formations were created by volcanic activity and weathering. Explore the towering spires and balanced rocks on the hiking trails, and don’t forget to check out the stargazing events and educational programs.
  14. Puye Cliff Dwellings: Do you like to walk in the footsteps of the ancients? Then make your way to the Puye Cliff Dwellings, where the Puebloans lived over 1,000 years ago. Explore the ruins and petroglyphs for a glimpse into their daily life and spiritual beliefs.
  15. Rio Grande Gorge Bridge: Are you afraid of heights? If not, then take a walk or drive across the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge – just don’t look down! With a depth of over 650 feet, the views of the canyon and surrounding landscape are truly breathtaking.
  16. Angel Fire Resort: Are you a thrill-seeker? Then head over to Angel Fire Resort for some skiing, snowboarding, zip-lining, disc golf, and other outdoor activities. And if winter sports aren’t your thing, enjoy some golfing, hiking, and mountain biking in the summer.
  17. Taos Pueblo: Do you love learning about other cultures? Then check out the Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has been continuously inhabited for over 1,000 years. Explore the adobe buildings and learn about the Puebloan culture and traditions. And don’t forget to catch one of their traditional dances or festivals!