Get outdoors in New Mexico on your next vacation and see where the Rocky Mountains begin. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, time with friends, or a family outing, you’ll find your perfect adventure. Raft a river, go scuba diving, explore ruins, and hike breathtaking peaks. In the evening, enjoy Southwestern cuisine with local wine or green chili ale, and watch sunsets blaze across the sky. You’ll find the grandeur of national parks without the crowds in New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment.
Choose a Grand Place for Adventure:
Wheeler Peak: At 13,161 feet, Wheeler Peak, near Taos, is New Mexico’s highest point. Wheeler is an experienced hiker’s dream. There are thick pine forests, lakes, creeks, wildflowers, and pasturelands. It’s eight miles from beginning to end, and the paths aren’t often gentle. There’s an altitude gain of almost 3,000 feet—no easy task. But, if you’re a devoted hiker, the pay-off is unbelievable vistas and wild space.
Elephant Butte Lake State Park: This 37,000-acre surface area lake on the Rio Grande is the largest lake, and the largest state park, in New Mexico. There are sandy beaches for lounging after a swim, three marinas, coves, and islands. Watersports include boating, waterskiing, jet skiing, sailing, and sail boarding. Explore the east side of the lake on paddle craft, especially popular during the autumn.
Raft the Rio Grande: The Rio Grande flows from the Rocky Mountain peaks in Colorado, cutting canyons, for 1,885 miles, until it empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The river has historical significance as well as exceptional whitewater. Using Taos as a base, you can raft the Taos Box Canyon, rumble through parts of the Rio Grande de Norte National Monument, and take on the Racecourse Rapids. Unlike other whitewater destinations in the west, much of the Rio Grande can be run all year around. And, depending on which section of river you choose, it’s great for everything from family floats to high-energy whitewater.
Skiing with a Side of Golf, Culture, and Cuisine: New Mexico’s mountains are as wild and high as those in Colorado, and the skiing is world-class. The Red River Ski Area is a cowboy town with a rodeo on skis. Angel Fire is ideal for families and cross-country fans. Taos Ski Valley is known as a skier’s mountain, and there is a terrific snow sports school for skiers of every level. At Taos Ski Valley, you can take on black diamonds, discover the 1,000-year-old culture at Taos Pueblo, and be wowed by Spanish folk art at the Harwood Museum. Or you can ski in the morning, golf in the afternoon, and enjoy green chili cuisine at night.
Chaco Canyon—Hike the Anasazi Empire: By 1050, Chaco was the ceremonial and economic heart of the entire San Juan Basin. You can still stand on summits and view a wagon-wheel of roads leading to Chaco and more than 150 Great Houses. For hikers, there are four backcountry trails in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Each provides a rare chance to experience sweeping vistas, Great Houses, ancient roads, wildlife, and unique vegetation.
Chaco’s architecture is the extraordinary backdrop for a complex community that had busy trade networks, throughout the southwest, all the way to Southern California. More than 200,000 pieces of turquoise, usually embedded in jewelry and carved figures, have been found there—they were the Chacoan diamond. If you’re not a hiker, it’s easy to drive through the park and enjoy lookout points.
Scuba Diving in Santa Rosa: Visibility remains constant for divers at 100 feet and aquatic life flourishes. The Blue Hole is set aside for Open Water Diving, Advanced Open Water, Rescue, Dive Master, and Diving Instructor. (Swimming is also allowed with a permit.) Long ago, when the area’s limestone bedrock collapsed, it was filled by an artesian well, pumping 3,000 gallons of water per minute—the temperature is 61 degrees year-round. Blue Hole, along with more than 20 lakes and sinkholes in Santa Rosa, feeds the Pecos River. It is the finest open-water diving spot in the southwest, and part of a vast, unexplored network of caves.
Hot-Air Ballooning: Albuquerque is the undisputed hot air balloon capital of the world, and nearby Taos is a gem. There is no blue quite like the sky above New Mexico, and the air is clear and fine. Soar above mountain meadows, ancient ruins, Spanish villages, and endless plains. Feel the peace, and then make a toast with local champagne. If you want a full-on event, you’ll find hot-air balloon festivals in Albuquerque, Taos, White Sands, Gallup, Angel Fire, and Elephant Butte. It is all a glorious adventure.