Although we have lived in Colorado for five years, New Mexico is a state that we just had not gotten around to visiting. We decided to change that and make the road trip south for spring break. Between the delicious Mexican food, the two national parks, the hot springs, and the welcoming people, New Mexico is certainly an underrated, must-see state.
Below is the itinerary we followed for spending a week, or 7 days, in New Mexico. Please keep in mind that we began our journey in Fort Collins, Colorado, but the road trip can be adapted for any initial starting point.
On our original itinerary, we had hoped to see Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado on our way to New Mexico; however, the weather had other plans. If you are able to extend your road trip, this would be an excellent stop to add either at the start or end of your trip!
Day 1: Fort Collins to Taos
(343 miles; 5.5 hours)
We began our journey driving to the small but magical town of Taos, New Mexico. In addition to exploring the town and learning about its history, some spots worth visiting include the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa.
We used our Harvest Hosts membership to stay the night at a winery outside of Taos down highway 68. The drive into the winery through the canyon is stunning, and you will enjoy views of the Rio Grande on your path.
Day 2: Taos to White Sands
(303 Miles; 5.25 hours)
We headed further south to see our first national park of the trip: White Sands. For those interested in checking out Santa Fe, this is along the path. Once we got to White Sands, we spent the afternoon and evening exploring the dunes, taking photos, and watching families sled down the dunes. Although the visitor center was pretty busy, it is a good spot to rent sleds if this is something you’re interested in. We highly recommend staying for sunset – it was surreal!
At night, we used our Harvest Hosts membership yet again to boondock in a neighborhood near Las Cruces. Although this spot was about 40 minutes from White Sands, it put us in a good position to check out Riverbend Hot Springs the following day.
Day 3: Las Cruces to Albuquerque
When we woke up from a day at White Sands, we decided we needed a shower and a bit of relaxation time. So, without further ado, we made our way to Riverbend Hot Springs in the town of Truth or Consequences. This was about an hour and 15 minute drive from Las Cruces. When we went in March of 2023, the cost was $25 per hour for 2 adults and included both a shower before and after entering the public hot springs. There were several public pools to choose from, including a bigger one with two hammocks for lounging while in the springs. In addition, there was complimentary coffee.
Once we were done soaking at the hot springs, we decided we wanted to check out Albuquerque. If you are in the mood for authentic Mexican food, we highly recommend Sadie’s of New Mexico on 4th street. We tried the enchiladas with green chile, queso, and margaritas – it was delicious. Another fun spot that we visited was Tin Can Alley. This spot is a collection of food counters, a Sante Fe Brewery tap room, a “Brotique,” and an arcade. Plus, it is dog friendly! We enjoyed hanging out here for an afternoon.
We used our Harvest Hosts membership yet again to spend a night at a brewery. Always a good way to spend a night!
Day 4: Albuquerque to Carlsbad Caverns
(308 miles; 5 hours)
After spending some time in the city, we decided it was time to venture onto more national parks. This is also an excellent lag of the journey to explore the town of Roswell, which is famous for its UFO museum and “aliens” around the town. We didn’t stop here but enjoyed driving through.
Since we had spent a long day driving, we decided to head straight to our camping spot for the night: Sunset Reef Campground, which is on BLM in between Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains.
Day 5: Carlsbad Caverns and guadalupe mountains national park
(86 miles; 1.75 hours)
We woke up and headed 20 minutes from our BLM spot to Carlsbad Caverns. We had purchased two entry tickets for a self-guided tour the week prior, and we arrived just a little before our entry time at 8:30am. We had the option to either hike or take the elevator; we chose the hike, and it was about 2.75 miles and close to 2 hours (due to stopping for “oohs” and “ahhs,” along with photos). The cave was dark and actually more humid than we anticipated – we highly recommend wearing layers and closed-toe shoes, as well as bringing a water bottle.
When the cave tour was over, we drove 40 minutes to Texas to see Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We accidentally visited the McKittrick Canyon Visitor Center first, then headed to the Pine Springs Visitor Center to walk the Pine Springs Trail with our dog (the only dog-friendly trail in the park). This is a paved trail and only about a mile round-trip, but Willow really enjoyed getting out and stretching her legs.
We made our afternoon pour-overs in the parking lot then headed out for another night at Sunset Reef Campground. We were treated to a breathtaking sunset!
Day 6: Carlsbad Caverns to Maxwell
(361 miles; 5.75 hours)
To begin our journey home, we decided to split up the trip and spend a night in Maxwell, New Mexico. While this town is not particularly popular or touristy, it was a good stopping point for us. We saw a National Wildlife Refuge and a ranch with a herd of camels on our way into town.
We used our Harvest Hosts membership one more time to spend the night at a bar/restaurant. We enjoyed eating their pizza, drinking from a wide selection of beers, and listening to live music. It was a truly perfect night to end our trip!
Day 7: Maxwell to Fort Collins
(310 miles; 4.5 hours)
We slept in a bit from our fun the night before, made some pour-overs, and headed back home to Fort Collins. While we were sad to leave New Mexico, we were grateful to get back in the early afternoon and have time to unpack and unwind before heading to bed.
While we came into New Mexico unsure of what to expect, we left feeling inspired and welcomed by all of the kind people we met along our journey. The food was yummy, and the vast desert landscapes were stunning. We hope to be back soon!