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Day trip Ideas from Albuquerque, New Mexico

Day trip Ideas from Albuquerque, New Mexico

My mom has lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico since 2006 and so we have had plenty of opportunities in the past 12 years to explore the area.  Albuquerque is an amazing little city that I recommend everyone visit, but there is a lot more in the surrounding areas to explore as well.  Here is a list of our 6 favorite day trips from Albuquerque.   


1.  Bosque Del Apache

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is about an hour and a half south of Albuquerque.  We visited Bosque Del Apache in late November as my mom told us that was the most spectacular time to visit and we were already in town for Thanksgiving.  There are thousands of sand hill cranes and snow geese that winter in this area, but other bird species can be found here if you are visiting in another season.  Sunset and sunrise is when you will see the most spectacular bird shows in the winter. So you may want to schedule your "day trip" over two days so you can catch both a sunset (when all the birds fly in to roost on the lake) and a sunrise (when all of the birds take off in mass flight for their daily adventures).  When we visited, there were tons of professional birder folks with some very impressive camera set-ups, so it can be a good spot for bird appreciation and lens appreciation.  

 Sunset at Bosque Del Apache

Sunset at Bosque Del Apache

 Sand Hill Cranes coming in for a landing at sunset

Sand Hill Cranes coming in for a landing at sunset

 Sand Hill Cranes taking off during sunrise at Bosque Del Apache

Sand Hill Cranes taking off during sunrise at Bosque Del Apache

If you stay overnight, I recommend The Fite Ranch Bed and Breakfast which is where we stayed.  We left Albuquerque around 3 PM to enjoy the sunset and then caught the sunrise the next day.  On the way back to Albuquerque, there are two good options to break up your trip.  You can stop at the Mineral Museum in Socorro to learn about local gems.  Or you can visit the Very Large Array west of Socorro.  The Very Large Array is a collection of radio telescopes that have been used to learn about all sorts of things from black holes to the gas motions in the Milky Way.   The Visitor's Center includes many educational displays and there is a self-guided walking tour to get up close to the telescopes.  Anyone under 17 is free!  

 Very Large Array  

Very Large Array  

If you want to make this into a long weekend adventure from Albuquerque, you could head an hour further south stopping at Elephant Butte Lake State Park and the Hot Springs in Truth or Consequences.  If you are doing this adventure during the first weekend in September, stop in Hatch for their annual Chile Festival before heading about an hour and a half east to visit White Sands National Monument.  From there it's about a three and a half hour drive back to Albuquerque which you can break up with a stop at Pistachio Land for a tour of a pistachio farm .  But I have gotten carried away, this post is supposed to be about day trips and I've given you enough for a four day trip. 

2. Santa Fe

It takes about one hour in a car and one hour and 20 minutes on the Rail Runner to get to Santa Fe from Albuquerque.  Santa Fe is known for its art, and you can definitely spend an entire day going from gallery to gallery perusing.  Canyon RoadThe Railyard, and the State Capitol are popular spots for galleries and collections. If you are visiting on a Saturday, check out the The Railyard's farmer's market as well which is fabulous.  

 Canyon Road

Canyon Road

 Santa Fe Railyard

Santa Fe Railyard

Santa Fe is also home to one of a handful of Meow Wolfs across the country which is another surreal artistic experience that would be a nice contrast to the more traditional southwestern art you’ll find in Santa Fe.

The Santa Fe Plaza is a popular place for tourists to stroll around and shop.  If you are in this area, you could also check out the George O'Keeffe Museum and have lunch at the famous Plaza Cafe.  

If horticultural delights are more your style, you can check out the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens and stop in for lunch and a slice of the best coconut cream pie at the nearby Museum Hill Cafe. 

 Santa Fe Botanical Gardens

Santa Fe Botanical Gardens

If you are in the area in winter, you can go skiing in Santa Fe.  This area also has beautiful Aspen trees in fall color in early October.  

3. Taos

Taos is about a 2.5 hour drive north of Albuquerque, so might be better suited for an overnight adventure.  There’s also plenty in Taos to keep one entertained for a few days.  Taos Pueblo is a great place to visit if you only have a day.  It’s a Native American community that is also a UNESCO world heritage site.  The entrance fee is $16 for adults and free for kids under 10.  Tours are at no additional cost, but as is standard in Native American communities, it will cost you extra to take photos.  

The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is about 20 minutes outside of Taos and will give you a gorgeous view of the Rio Grande if you are brave enough to get out of the car and walk across.  The bridge shakes a lot every time a car drives past, so this can be nerve wracking to those with a fear of heights).

 View from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge on a snowy day.

View from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge on a snowy day.

The Angelfire Ski Resort and the Taos Ski Valley are just outside of Taos if you are visiting the area in winter and the powder shredding urge hits you. 

However, my favorite part about Taos is the rugged, independent, hippy culture which can be appreciated fully with a visit to the Earthship Village.  Earthships are autonomous, off-grid homes built of rammed earth and tires.  While Earthships can now be found all over the world, Taos was their birthplace.  Here, you can visit the headquarters and visitors center, take a guided tour, or rent an Earthship for the night.  We chose to rent an Earthship and got to visit all the other unoccupied rentals in a free guided tour.  It got down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit during our visit, but our Earthship never dipped below 72 without any heating source.  We were super impressed.  If you don’t have time to do an overnight stay, I still highly recommend a visit to the visitors center.  

 Our 2 bedroom Earthship rental 

Our 2 bedroom Earthship rental 

 Grand entrance to our Earthship

Grand entrance to our Earthship

 Our lovely Earthship bedroom

Our lovely Earthship bedroom

 Greenhouse corridor inside our house with lemon trees and herbs you can incorporate in your dinner. 

Greenhouse corridor inside our house with lemon trees and herbs you can incorporate in your dinner. 

4. Acoma Pueblo (Sky City)

Acoma Pueblo which is also sometimes referred to as Sky City is a Native American Community located an hour west of Albuquerque.  The community is located atop a gorgeous plateau and requires a guide to take you to the top.  There are tour options ranging from $17-25 per person.  Youth under 5 are admitted for free.  We visited Acoma on a public feast day which I highly recommend.  Acoma, which doesn't have many permanent residents anymore, really comes alive on feast days. Unfortunately photography is prohibited on feast days, so you will have to use your imagination.  Picture a Native American Mardi Gras that is family friendly and with Little Debbie cakes thrown from balconies in lieu of beads.  There are also a ton of vendors out selling Native American crafts and food.  If you would like to balance out your feasting with some exercise, you can join the bike tour held in association with the San Estevan feast day. 

5. El Malpais National Monument

El Malpais National Monument is about an hour and half drive west of Albuquerque.  There are many short walks in this area that allow you to see some lovely sandstrone bluffs, lava fields, and New Mexico's second largest arch.  You can also go caving in lava tubes here!  You can grab lunch at the Kiva Cafe in Grants which has sopapillas, indian tacos, and all the other classic New Mexican dishes.   

 Sandstone Bluff overlooking an ancient laval flow.

Sandstone Bluff overlooking an ancient laval flow.

 The sandstone here makes for some interesting rock formations.

The sandstone here makes for some interesting rock formations.

El Malpais - New Mexico
 La Ventana Arch - only a half mile round trip  to see this beauty.  

La Ventana Arch - only a half mile round trip  to see this beauty.  

6. Tent Rocks

The Kasha -Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is about one hour north of Albuquerque.  This area is full of cone-like rock formations that are a result of layers of volcanic pumice and harder rock that have eroded over time.  I highly recommend the 3.1 mile loop hike which will allow you to explore a variety of tent rocks and slot canyons.  The trail also takes you to a beautiful 360 degree vista of tent rocks.  

Tent Rocks - New Mexico
 Inside a slot canyon on the tent rocks loop trail.

Inside a slot canyon on the tent rocks loop trail.

 360 degree view from the summit on the tent rocks loops trail - on a snowy day.  

360 degree view from the summit on the tent rocks loops trail - on a snowy day.  

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