WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT “views” in New Mexico, it helps to clarify what exactly you’re seeing here. There are tremendous landscapes, for sure — everything from the high peaks of the southern Rocky Mountains, to painted desert and badlands, to river gorges and vast cave systems. But what makes New Mexico so unique in the US is that you’re also seeing true history, true culture. People lived on and passed through this land thousands of years ago, and many of the most ancient left traces that are still visible today. There are cultures in modern-day New Mexico that trace their lineage back to those original inhabitants, and who work hard to preserve their heritage.

New Mexico is its own special amalgam of all these influences, a mixture reflected in the views you see here, and in the memories you make when you visit.


Ojito Wilderness

The Ojito Wilderness Area lies about an hour and a half north of Albuquerque and protects a starkly beautiful landscape where ancient Puebloan ruins and relics have been found. The area is administered by the BLM, and there are a couple trails for hiking and horseback riding. You'll probably have it all to yourself.
Photo: John Fowler from Placitas, NM, USA



The great monolith of rock named for its resemblance to a masted ship defines the landscape in this northwestern corner of the state. You can spot it from miles away from either of the main highways out of the city of the same name, and a network of dirt roads will get you closer. Please note, though, that Shiprock stands within the Navajo Nation, and climbing it is illegal. The best way to explore the area is with a Navajo guide.
Photo: Pierce Martin


White Sands National Monument

You've seen the photos, but until you've been here, you just haven't seen a view like this. Over a hundred square miles of bright white gypsum sand covers White Sands National Monument, in southern New Mexico, less than an hour's drive northeast of Las Cruces. This represents the largest gypsum dune system in the world, and it's a true New Mexico icon.
Photo: Skeeze


Carlsbad Caverns

In New Mexico, the views aren't confined above ground. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, southwest of the town of Carlsbad near the Texas border, protects a subterranean network of 119 discovered caves, including the massive "Big Room," one of the largest cave chambers in North America. You can explore many of the showpieces on a self-guided tour, though ranger-led tours can take you deeper. If you have time, the above-ground sections of the park offer some great hikes and bird watching.
Photo: Martin Str


Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

The formation of the otherworldly hoodoos of Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument began millions of years ago with the eruption of volcanoes in the region. They deposited the raw materials, and erosion did the rest. Marvel at nature-as-artist on a hike through the national monument—the easy Cave Loop Trail and more challenging Canyon Trail are recommended.
Photo: Bureau of Land Management


Very Large Array

With so many natural wonders to look at in the state, it can be a little disconcerting to round the bend on US-60 and catch sight of 27 of the massive radio antennas pictured above, arranged in a Y formation on the New Mexican plain. The Very Large Array (VLA) is one of the top radio observatories in the world, helping astronomers map the cosmos. It isn't super developed for tourism, but there's a visitor center and you're welcome to walk the site on a self-guided tour.
Photo: Terry Robinson


Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Not much captures the heritage of New Mexico better than Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, a site deep in forest wilderness where you can learn about a culture represented nowhere else in the National Park System. The 700-year-old dwellings in cliffs along the Gila River were constructed and abandoned over a period of just 20 years. While you're here checking them out, make sure to take advantage of the hikes and hot springs in the area.
Photo: Howard Cheng


Route 66, Tucumcari

It's hard to road trip this part of the country without running into remnants of the famous Route 66, and Tucumcari was a prime stop on the old highway. This small city in eastern New Mexico is proud of its heritage, and when you visit you'll find a museum, art, and artifacts celebrating this legend of Americana.
Photo: David Mark


Bisti Badlands/De-Na-Zin Wilderness

New Mexico is home to some of the last true wilderness in the US. Some of it takes the shape of national forests and high peaks, but head northwest of Santa Fe and you'll eventually run into terrain that looks like this. The badlands of the Bisti Badlands/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, less than an hour south of Farmington, stretch for mile upon mile, over an area that was once a swampy inland sea. Relics of the past take the form of fossils and fantastically shaped rock formations—most definitely a unique sight.
Photo: Bureau of Land Management


Taos Pueblo

Long before the nearby town of Taos became a Southwestern art hot spot, the adobe homes of Taos Pueblo were looking out over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. You can visit this historic community, but make sure to honor the off-limits signs on some buildings, and check ahead for closures that happen from time to time during traditional ceremonies.
Photo: Ron Cogswell


Cerro Pedernal

North-central New Mexico is Georgia O'Keeffe country. This is where you'll find Ghost Ranch, the artist's home for most of the later decades of her life, set within a landscape that in many ways served as her muse. One of the central features of the region (and also the site where O'Keeffe's ashes were scattered) is the 9,860-foot Cerro Pedernal. Its flat mesa top makes it easy to identify if you're looking at it from the right angle, as in this shot taken from Abiquiu Lake.
Photo: New Mexico Tourism Department


Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta™

You'll definitively witness this nowhere else. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta™ sees 500+ balloons ascend to the sky, to the delight of close to a million spectators, over nine days each October. Note, though, that while this may be the largest, it isn't the only balloon fiesta in the state. Other smaller but still surreal balloon vistas are created in Gallup, Angel Fire, Taos, and elsewhere.
Photo: Skeeze


El Morro National Monument

The name of this small national monument means "headland" in Spanish and refers to the steep standstone bluff that defines its topography. Of more interest to early inhabitants and explorers of the area, though, was the perennial waterhole located at its base. Learn about this natural feature through exhibits at the visitor center, and hike the 2-mile Headland Trail to check it out for yourself. El Morro is located in western New Mexico, south of Gallup.
Photo: David Mark


Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

The wetlands of Bosque del Apache offer refuge to hundreds of bird species, but the undisputed star is the sandhill crane. Flocks of thousands of cranes pass through the area each fall on their annual migration, and the Festival of the Cranes is held every November in celebration of this fact. Find Bosque del Apache near the small town of San Antonio, on I-25 about midway between Albuquerque and Las Cruces.
Photo: Larry Lamsa