Between all my jobs (yes, plural), I don’t get much free time. I do, however, take advantage of every spare second I can do get. My boyfriend and I regularly go climbing, running, hiking and do mini-vacations (#weekendwarriors). When we do get a chance to plan a longer break from work, we make it worth it!
December happens to be a slow time between ALL jobs (that’s lucky) so we decided to take a road trip and visit a state that neither of us has had a chance to spend a lot of time in: New Mexico! I’ve personally been to Albuquerque to run a race and Ben (my boyfriend) has visited the state a long time ago as well, but I forget why he was there. With it being super close to Colorado (and has a TON of National Parks/Monuments) it made it a perfect place us to take a road trip.
We saved money by “camping” in my Jeep (i.e. we put a mattress pad in the back and slept in Walmart parking lots). It was free, convenient and free. Did I say that already? Yes, we would have loved to camp in actual campgrounds, in the wonderful outdoors, but during the day we spent a ton of time in nature and it left us with extra money to enjoy other things.
Here’s the highlights of the #MostEpicNewMexicoNationaParkRoadTripEVA
1. We left late on a Monday and made our way south, first stop: Roswell! It was NOT everything I hoped it would be. Picture a dirty, run down town that has a UFO museum. There is also a free zoo, that is closed on Tuesdays (the day we were running around), Bottomless Lakes State Park (that we did check out, but didn’t stay. I bet it’s really pretty in the summer), and a space walk I read about in a travel book (but it was super run-down and gross so we didn’t do it). Needless to say, we could have done without the stop in Roswell. Tip: They apparently have a really cool world-famous contemporary art museum that people recommended after the fact.
2. Now, time for the exciting stuff! Next stop: Carlsbad Caverns National Park. We spent three days exploring the caves and could have spent more! It was amazing, mind-blowing and the pictures can’t even do it justice. We can’t wait to come back and do more ranger led tours (we really want to do one when you free climb in the cave and have to crawl) and see the bats. Tip: Definitely do a range led tour!
3. City of Carlsbad – There is a lot to do here, and I want to come back, but we did do Christmas on the Pecos, a beautiful christmas light tour via BOAT! Houses that line the river decorate their back yards for people to see. It was such a unique way to see Christmas Lights and well worth the $30 ($15 each). Tip: They provide blankets!
4. We attempted to see Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We wanted to camp (for real) and hike the tallest point in Texas, but as you can see from the picture, that would have been miserable.
5. Onward to Las Cruces, our favorite city of the trip! Delicious food, good beer and really nice people (seriously, everyone was really nice in New Mexico).
6. If you head northwest from Las Cruces and up the road a little, you’ll find a road less traveled (this a BEAUTIFUL drive) to Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and some hot springs. We camped (for real), got a personal tour of the cliff dwellings (it was a really slow day) and soaked in the natural hot springs that came with our camp ground.
7. Back toward Las Cruces, we briefly stopped at City of Rocks, caught a quick glance and left. It was cool looking, just not much to do except look at the rocks.
8. We spent another night in Las Cruces the started to make our way back north via a bunch of stops. The first of which was White Sands National Monument, my second favorite stop on our trip.
9. Our next night was in Alamogordo. If that name sounds familiar to you but you can’t remember your history, this is close to where they tested the first nuclear bomb. While you can’t go to the actual site (only once a year), we did go to the space museum, ate awesome frozen custard and saw the movie “Arrival” (mind-blowing) to kill time.
10. The drive up to Albuquerque involved a lot of stops. The Smokey the Bear Museum, Fort Stanton, Three Rivers Petroglyphs National Monument, Valley of Fire, the Salinas Pueblos Missions National Monument and a spectacular sunset.
11. Petroglyph National Monument is a National Monument nestled right in the city. Literally, they had to act fast in the 80’s so people wouldn’t start building where the petroglyphs are.
12. Our last night was in Sante Fe when we found delicious food and Bandolier National Monument.
13. Finally (yet too soon) we were homeward bound:, but not with some stops at more National Monuments, Fort Union National Monument and Capulin Volcano National Monument.
Things I want to check out in the future:
-Tent Rocks (near Bandolier), the whole NorthWestern corner, Montezuma Hot Springs, Cloudcroft the city, the Cat Walk Trail, Sandia Mountain Wilderness and climb in The Oregon Mountains near Las Cruces.
New Mexico has A LOT to do! I highly recommend a road trip if you haven’t done one there yet!
What we spent:
-Lodging: $12 total (Gila hot springs resort and including soaking in the springs)
-Food (groceries): $80.50
-Attractions/Tours: $114 (this does not include admission to the national parks and monuments since we have an annual pass)
TOTAL: $395.77 (That’s all you need for the Most Epic New Mexico Road Trip EVA!)
Optional Stuff (This is all stuff you can do without if you’re going even cheaper than we did):
-Souvenirs/Christmas Gifts: $100 (most of that was gifts. My souvenirs are usually those squished penny machines)
-Restaurants/Breweries: $124 (roughly)
Disclaimer: We love to travel, experience new things and places and enjoy the outdoors through a variety of activities. I really have a strong desire to check out every inch of this planet. Unfortunately, travel can be expensive. I am a big proponent for doing what you love and if one of those loves is travel and exploring, then you have to make it happen. I don’t have much in terms of money and finances, but I have never let that stop me from doing what I enjoy. I choose to spend what little money I do have on things I enjoy and eliminate unnecessary expenses. I’m not always the best at this, but I’m trying. I hope that through my posts now and in the future, I can give you tips and ideas to make travel happen for you, if that is your thing.
Life is not meant to be just working and sleeping. We’re not meant to just pay bills and die. Find your passion and figure out a way to live it.