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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. From El Paso, Texas, drive to Carlsbad Caverns National Park and White Sands National Monument. Farther north, a string of charming towns near Santa Fe await you, as do the impressive ruins left behind by ancient people in Bandelier National Monument. On the way to Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park, stop in Farmington to visit a trading post, a brewhouse and even a cave where you can spend the night. Then head to Alamosa and Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in the stunning San Luis Valley in Colorado.

After you’ve removed the sand from your shoes, head north to the historical town of Grand Lake on the western edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. 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 Capulin Volcano National Monument 53 miles to the south.

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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.

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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.

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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. Read more on our sister website at www.mygrandcanyonpark.com/road-trips/alamogordo-nm.

7 Hot Spots in Las Cruces, New Mexico
Once part of Mexico, the area offers an incredibly rich culture woven together with strong strands of traditional Mexican influences. Here are the top seven things to do.

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Find True New Mexico in Santa Fe County

The Black Bird Saloon in Cerrillos in Santa Fe County, N.M.
The Black Bird Saloon in Cerrillos in Santa Fe County Courtesy Santa Fe County

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

Albuquerque vs. Santa Fe Personality Quiz
Driving through New Mexico en route to the Grand Canyon, do you spend more time in Albuquerque or Santa Fe? Take this quiz on our sister website to find out www.mygrandcanyonpark.com/road-trips/albuquerque-santa-fe.

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Yá’át’ééh to Farmington

Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness in New Mexico
Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Deposit photo

In Navajo, yá’át’ééh means “welcome.” Dive deep into Navajo culture with these four stops in Farmington, N.M. Plus Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness area, dotted by spires, sculpted rock and colorful hills, is just 35 miles away.

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Mesa Verde National Park

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

Palaces of the Past
Experience the lives of the Ancestral Puebloans who inhabited this enchanting landscape for more than 10,000 years.

Mesa Verde’s Lost People
Turkeys, language and oral histories tell the story of the vanished people of Mesa Verde National Park, who, as it turns out, weren’t lost at all. Read more.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Stones that Hold Secrets
Discovered in the sands of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, oddly shaped stones play rock music.

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Grand Lake Gateway to Rocky

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 near Granby, Colorado
Cabins overlooking the lake at River Run RV Resort near Granby, Colorado

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.

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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.

Erik Stensland, the Light Catcher
A revolution and a refugee crisis spur on a photography career for Rocky Mountain National Park’s Erik Stensland.

Exit the Park at Estes Park, the East Entrance
Perched at 7,200 feet and 90 miles away from Denver, Estes Park is a fantastic basecamp for exploring Rocky Mountain National Park’s eastern side. Read about three local entrepreneurs who share their recommendations and why they love their town next to Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Hidden Colorado Gems in Central City

Opera House in Central City, Colorado
Opera House in Central City Courtesy Central City

Strike gold in Central City, a historic Gold Rush town south of Rocky Mountain National Park.

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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.

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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.

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End: El Paso, Texas