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5 Best Road Trips

New Mexico and Colorado National Parks Road Trip

Stunning landscapes, culture and adobe villages await on this 2,121-mile trip starting in El Paso, Texas. See multiple national parks in both Colorado and New Mexico.

Traveling through New Mexico is like exploring a foreign country where every turn gives you a different glimpse into a magnificent blend of cultures and food. On this New Mexico and Colorado road trip, travel from El Paso, Texas, to Carlsbad Caverns National Park and White Sands National Monument. Farther north, incredible outdoor activities near Santa Fe await you, as do the impressive settlements left behind by Ancestral Puebloans in Bandelier National Monument.

On the way to Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park, stop in Farmington, N.M., for a wilderness tour and in Cortez, Colo., for wine tasting and good food. Then head to Alamosa and Great Sand Dunes National Park in the stunning San Luis Valley in Colorado.

Afterwards, head north to the historic town of Grand Lake on the western edge of Rocky Mountain National Park [see pages 4-19 for more park details]. On your way home, stop in Colorado Springs to reach a 14,115-feet-high summit by car. Farther south take a scenic drive near Trinidad, Colo., see the works of a fascinating western illustrator and explore Trinidad’s historic district.

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Road Trip Map

Start: El Paso, Texas

Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site near El Paso, Texas
Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site Visit El Paso

Border Secrets
While most people tend to associate El Paso, Texas with the U.S.-Mexico border, there’s so much more to this flavorful city. From desert adventures to historic missions, here are our top four things to do.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Slaughter Canyon Cave in Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Slaughter Canyon Cave in Carlsbad Caverns National Park Photo courtesy of Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce

Another World Down Under in Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad Caverns is a stunning place whether you’re a cave fanatic or never thought twice about one. Check out the Big Room.

Go Below in Carlsbad
There’s more to see beyond Carlsbad National Park. Dip in a natural swimming hole under a waterfall and paddle down the Pecos.

White Sands National Park

White Sands National Monument in New Mexico
Shutterstock

Sand and Sun at White Sands National Park
Play in the giant sandbox of white gypsum in New Mexico.

Space Out in Alamogordo
Just minutes from White Sands National Monument, Alamogordo, N.M., offers some must-see attractions.

Find True New Mexico in Santa Fe County

Cerrillow Hills State Park near Santa Fe
Cerrillow Hills State Park near Santa Fe (Photo: Courtesy Santa Fe County)

14 Stops along the Turquoise Trail 
Drive the 62-mile Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway and discover our top 14 things to do in Santa Fe County along the way.

Out of This World Adventures near Farmington

King of Wings, Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness in New Mexico
King of Wings, Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness in New Mexico (: Craig Bill)

At more than a mile high in elevation, you’ll find amazing high-desert adventures around every corner in Farmington, N.M. Plus Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness area, dotted by spires, sculpted rock and colorful hills, is just 35 miles away.

Mesa Verde National Park

Cliff Palace Tour at Mesa Verde National Park
Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park. Grant Ordelheide

48 Hours in Mesa Verde
Only have 48 hours to explore Mesa Verde National Park? Stick to our detailed itinerary to hit all the most important stops. There’s more to do beyond the main attraction of touring ancient cliff ruins. Take a hike, gaze from a fire tower or have dinner with a view.

Mountain biking on the Sand Canyon Trail in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
Mountain biking on the Sand Canyon Trail in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (Photo: by Emily Sierra courtesy of Mesa Verde Country)

Living History Surrounding Mesa Verde National Park
See incredible archaeological sites beyond Mesa Verde, sip local wines and learn about Native American culture in southwestern Colorado’s Mesa Verde Country.

Charming Creede

Fall car show in Creede, Colorado
Fall car show in Creede, Colorado Photo by B4Studio courtesy of Creede & Mineral County

One of Colorado’s best-kept secrets, Creede offers incredible theater, downtown charm and fun outdoor activities. Take a stroll through this colorful historic downtown nestled in one of the most striking mountain settings you’ll ever see and you may just want to move here.

Keeping Up with South Fork

Riding an off-highway vehicle (OHV) on the Bachelor Loop in the Rio Grande National Forest near South Park, Colorado
Riding on the Bachelor Loop Photo by B4 Studio courtesy of South Fork

Bring a car, ATV, jeep or bike. The area offers hundreds of miles of trails designated for motorized traffic and scenic drives. These trails and roads will take you to mountain peaks and amazing vistas of the San Luis Valley, to creek bottoms and dense forest growth.

Scenic Train Ride From Chama, N.M. to Antonito, Colo.

Conductor in the caboose of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad train
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

Take a Journey through Time on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
Board the train for a full day of jaw-dropping views. If you didn’t know better, you might think you’d been transported back to 1880.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Great Sand Dunes National Park in Springtime
Great Sand Dunes National Park in Springtime Sheba Olenik

48 Hours in Great Sand Dunes National Park
Make your time in the park count with our detailed itinerary! This other-worldly park boasts the tallest sand dunes in North America.

Sand-Filled Stay in Alamosa
Base in Alamosa to tackle the top 6 things to do in and near Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, plus two quirky side trips. Read more.

4 Places to Shoot in Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
It’s hard to understand this park’s scale. But don’t be daunted—we asked professional photographer Andre Costantini where to approach the dunes for the best photos.

Grand Gateway to Rocky Mountain

Kayaking on Grand Lake in Grand County Colorado
On the water on Grand Lake Photo: Courtesy of Grand County Colorado Tourism Board

Grand Adventures
Leaning up against Rocky Mountain National Park’s west side, Grand County, home to Winter Park Mountain Resort and Grand Lake, offers unparalleled outdoor opportunities. See our list of thrilling, nature and water adventures.

Cabins overlooking the lake at River Run RV Resort
Cabins overlooking the lake at River Run RV Resort (Photo: Courtesy of River Run RV Resort | Sun Outdoors)

River Run’s Rocky Mountain Resort
Just 20 minutes from the park’s West Entrance, which sits in Grand Lake, Colo., lies River Run RV Resort, a new 200-acre resort with unparalleled amenities for the area. There’s actually so much to do on property that it may be hard to leave it.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Moose at Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
Moose at Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park Shutterstock

Enter the Park at Grand Lake, the West Entrance

48 Hours in Rocky Mountain National Park
Only have 48 hours? Make the most of your time by following our itinerary covering both sides of the park.

GyPSy Guide Audio Driving Tour
Download the Rocky Mountain National Park tour app that’s like having a tour guide in your car. GyPSy Guide automatically plays interesting and entertaining commentary as you go.

Exit the Park at Estes Park, the East Entrance

Fun, Family-Friendly RV and Cabin Resort in Larkspur

Cabins at Jellystone Park in Larkspur, Colorado
Modern vacation rental cabins (Photo: Courtesy of Jellystone Park™ at Larkspur)

Stay in a wonderful family-friendly camping resort at Jellystone Park Larkspur. With multiple pools and family-friendly amenities, it has fun covered for the kids and sleek, modern amenities and accommodations for adults.

Adventures in Colorado Springs

Garden of the Gods in front of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs
Garden of the Gods in front of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs Photo: Courtesy of VisitCOS.com

From Bigfoot sightings to driving to the top of a 14,000-foot-peak, Colorado Springs is a place to spend several days. Here are our tips to making the most of your time.

Gazing at the view from the Pikes Peak Visitors Center in Colorado Springs
Gazing at the view from the Pikes Peak Visitors Center in Colorado Springs (Photo: by Vic Moss courtesy of Colorado Springs)

Drive the Pikes Peak Highway to the Summit
Point your wheels to the Pikes Peak Highway to reach Pikes Peak, the only 14,000-foot peak in Colorado that you can drive all the way up to the summit.

Enjoy the Ride in Trinidad, Colorado

Art meets architecture in Trinidad, Colo.
Art meets architecture Courtesy City of Trindad

Scenic drives, stunning landscapes and strolls through a historic downtown await in Trinidad, Colo. Explore an extinct volcano, check out Kit Carson’s coat and eat an amazing vegan meal.

End: El Paso, Texas