Are you gearing up ready for a vacation to Albuquerque?
Well, if you are then you will not be spoilt for choice. There is so much to do and there will be something to cater for everyone – whether you are an avid hiker or prefer a train ride, you will be able to pull together a range of day trips and weekend getaways to make your trip that extra bit more memorable.
If you’re planning a road trip to Albuquerque and you’re struggling to find things to do when you get there, then don’t worry, we’ve got your back (if you need something to read on the way, see our favorite Steven King audiobooks for roadtrips)! Read on for information on some of the hottest spots to visit in and around Albuquerque.
Situated at the location of one of the most popular day trips from Albuquerque is Santa Fe, and this city is so underrated. It is rich with history and culture, and in lots of ways Santa Fe is very reminiscent of a small town, so it will feel very homely and calming.
But, this is also the capital city of New Mexico, so you might want to give yourselves a few days to explore this hidden gem, so booking an overnight stay would definitely give you the chance to explore the city. For an immersive experience into the city of Santa Fe, you should head to The Railyard.
This is a walkable district that stretches wide and the main paths are full of shops and boutiques, and along this walk you will spot a variety of art and murals. Also – if you visit on a Saturday, there will be a farmer’s market waiting for you.
Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
An hour and a half away from Albuquerque is this wildlife refuge. We hope you have your binoculars packed as this wildlife refuge is a great spot for bird watching.
The animals that you will see at the wildlife refuge vary from season to season. So, in the winter you will come across sandhill cranes and snow geese.
The landscape is dry and marshy, so you should really pack your walking boots for this one.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
So, this is a four and a half hour drive from Albuquerque and is situated on the southernmost edge of New Mexico. This national park is visually incredible, and it will take you at least two hours to explore the area.
This is a great trail for beginners, and it is already lit up so do not worry about any jump scares in the dark! There are incredible stalagmites and stalactites which are shaped incredibly, and this almost does not feel as though you are in New Mexico.
You can participate in bat tours, cave walks or self-guided audio tours. If you complete all the underground tours, there are lots of hikes above the surface too.
There is a gift shop inside the caverns, which is quite commercial but everyone loves a souvenir. Also, most of this national park is wheelchair accessible.
White Sands National Monument
This is visually one of the most impressive hotspots on the list. It might look like snow – but actually, this is a thick sheet of gypsum. The dunes themselves are made up of white gypsum sand and can reach up to 60ft in length and are the perfect place to undertake a sandy adventure.
There are a variety of trails in-and-around White Sands, one of these is the interdune boardwalk which is a relatively straightforward ramp walk. You may even see some wildlife, such as jackrabbits and bleached earless lizards.
Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen and water for this one, when the sun is on you then it gets pretty HOT!
Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area
This is not such an easy day trip to make, but visually it is worth the trek. It will take you four hours to get here, and you will most likely need four-wheel drive for this day trip as this is situated in one of the most remote areas of New Mexico.
In fact, it is highly unlikely that you will encounter many people here so you should definitely download an offline map and bring a spare tank of gas too.
There are no facilities or phone reception in this area.
This is definitely for the more experienced walkers, as this is an unmarked trail so it can be very easy to get lost. If you love hiking and have all the gear – and know how to use it, then this is definitely worth the adventure.
Los Poblanos Historic Inn And Organic Farm
We thought it would only be right to include somewhere to stop for food and drinks, and we have found this amazing inn that will give you the real Albuquerque experience. This is a quick fifteen-minute drive and sits in a village slightly north of Albuquerque.
This is a lovely property that is a blend of being a boutique hotel, a lavender farm and a farm shop.
Each room is tyled in a southwest fashion, and the food served on site is made fresh so here you really get a taste of Albuquerque. Supporting local trade and immersing yourself into the full Albuquerque experience, what’s not to enjoy?
Near Taos Ski, this is a brilliant body of water and the trail is just over two miles and is shaded for the most part. The views here are incredible, and the scenery looks like it is straight out of a travel guide – so have your cameras at the ready for this one.
This hike can be quite busy in the summer, but the views are absolutely worth it. You will pass alpine sweeps and you will witness the peaks of the Sangre De Cristo mountain, which again is absolutely majestic and will really add to your experience of exploring Albuquerque.
A three hour drive from Albuquerque, you have to pay Amarillo a visit. This city screams classic Texas and is a vibrant and colorful city. After all, there is that catchy song named after it, so it can’t be all that bad!
Everything here is visually incredible, there are huge cadillacs half-sunk into the ground – which are slightly strange but are definitely worth having a look at and posting onto your social media feeds. If automobiles are your thing, then you will definitely enjoy the RVs which are at home in a museum.
We would also recommend that you come here hungry – as you can head to the local steakhouse and accept their challenge: you have to attempt to eat a big steak of 72oz in under an hour, and you can get it for free if you are successful.
Situated along the renowned Route 66, this is a really fun day trip that will liven up your Albaquerque trip. This is not necessarily a typical tourist hotspot, but paying Route 66 a visit is definitely one to tick off your bucket list.
In fact, here you can visit New Mexico’s famous Blue Hole. Don’t be fooled, this is pretty chilly even on the days where the temperature is soaring, but feel free to take a dip. Once you get past the initial cold shock, this is actually really fun.
During your time in Santa Rosa, you can explore lots of other attractions. For instance, there are also a few lakes and an auto museum for you to enjoy.
The Low Road
A two hour drive from Albuquerque, The Low Road from Taos to Santa Fe gives you some scenic landscape views.
This is definitely a road trip where you will want to make a few pit stops just to take in some of the incredible views. In fact, this state highway passes bighorn sheep, stunning wineries and bustling campgrounds.
Sitting atop a nearly 400ft tall mesa in the middle of the desert, you will find the small town of Acoma which is most well known for being the oldest continually inhabited settlement of the entirety of North America.
The Acoma people have been living here for nearly 800 years and you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about them and their home on a guided walking tour of the town.
To discover the fascinating art and culture of the people here, be sure to visit the Haak’u Museum, whilst the Sky City Cultural Centre offers exhibits and activities concerning Acoma Pueblo itself.
This trip is so reminiscent of the authentic Wild West, you will be surrounded by red rock formations and dusty grasslands that will remind you of some of the best Western films.
One of the hotspots of the area is undoubtedly the visually spectacular network of hot springs that you can visit and spend the day relaxing in.
Of course, if you are looking for a more active way to spend your time in Jemez Springs there are lots of hikes and trails that you can enjoy. You will come across some incredible viewpoints or you can go into the town and explore the restaurants and shops.
With an intriguing past as a former coal boomtown, then a diminishing ghost town, Madrid is now experiencing a comeback as an artist’s dominion which is definitely a hidden gem.
Snuggled comfortably in a canyon in the incredible settings of the Ortiz Mountains, Madrid is thriving as far as the art scene is concerned with over forty shops and galleries, several restaurants, a spa and museum.
A couple miles north is the quaint village Cerrillos that includes a state park with hiking paths and horseback riding.
Additionally, you could book an overnight stay in Java Junction Bed & Breakfast which has been trading for thirty years, and have a meal at Madrid’s historic landmark, The Mine Shaft Tavern & Cantina.
Madrid has opened itself up widely to creativity, with lots of shops and boutiques opening where local artists display their creations – be it handcrafted jewelry pieces or American Indian arts and crafts.
Valles Caldera National Preserve
This is an amazing city escape, and this volcanic caldera forms over 900,000 acres of incredible countryside called Valles Caldera National Preserve. The natural beauty of the Jemez Mountains are surrounded by desert, grasslands and lakes.
There are some incredible world-renowned hiking trails, not to mention the alternative options for when snow falls. During the winter months, you can try your hand at fly-fishing, and when there is snowfall you can try cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Cumbres-Toltec Scenic Railway
For a journey like no other through the deserts and mountains of New Mexico and further afield, one of the best day trips to try out is along the Cumbres-Toltec Railway.
You will step back in time when you board the steam locomotive and you will feel completely at ease with the comfortable interior and you will be able to soak up the views outside your window.
Built in 1880, the train travels through the enormous Cumbres Pass and traverses the majestic Toltec Gorge, both incredibly beautiful and straight out of the nation’s favourite Western movies.
One Last Note
Some excursions require that you book in advance for some activities. The majority on our list are very casual, but in some of the towns you might have to book particular events and experiences just to make sure that you have a place. But, apart from that, make sure you have plenty of fuel, snacks and sunscreen – and you are pretty much ready to hit the road.
So, you have made it to the end of our 15 Best Albuquerque Road Trips: Weekend Getaways and Day Trips. Of course, we have recommended some places where you should stay for more than one day, just to fully make the most of the visit to the place.
It is important to note some spots will take you longer to drive to and from than the time you might actually spend there, but, what’s a road trip without clocking up some miles?!