5 Day New Mexico Road Trip

The Perfect New Mexico Road Trip

by Michael Satterfield - 02/10/2021

New Mexico is one of my favorite states in the US, home to incredible scenery, fantastic food, and rich history. For this trip, I am starting in Santa Fe, the oldest capital city in North America having been founded around 1607. Generally, I will stay at the La Fonda On The Plaza one of Santa Fe's premier hotels and the only one on the city's historic Plaza. Another favorite of mine is the Hotel Chimayo, both offer amazing hospitality, great Santa Fe style, and Hotel Chimayo even hosts Low Rider Cruises several weekends a year. 

Be sure to give yourself at least a few days so you have time to explore the shops and art galleries along Canyon Road, take in the Palace of the Governors and the New Mexico History Museum, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, and of course, you have to make time for a Frito Pie from the Five & Dime. There really is so much to do in Santa Fe that it will be hard to leave once checkout time comes. 

The Perfect New Mexico Road Trip

Once you do leave Santa Fe, head south along State Road 14, towards the sleepy mountain town of Madrid, if you are heading out in the morning Madrid makes a great place to stop for breakfast as it just takes about 40 minutes to reach from Santa Fe. The city is along the turquoise highway and is home to a number of artists, galleries, cafes, and shops.

The Perfect New Mexico Road Trip

Back on the road, pick up the I-40 east and head towards Santa Rosa, before getting on Highway 84, headed towards Fort Sumner. The small town is home to the Billy The Kid Museum and his gravesite, the old western town is perfect for an afternoon of exploring, for a sobering look at an often glossed-over part of our history the Bosque Redondo Memorial tells the story of the forced march of the Navajo and Mescalero people by the US Army. If you plan on grabbing lunch in Fort Sumner, Outlaw Meats offers some great BBQ and Rodeo Grill has some classic roadside diner choices. Both can be found on the main street, Highway 60 that runs through the middle of town. 

The Perfect New Mexico Road Trip

Heading south on Highway 20, there isn't much to see until the junction at Highway 285 which will take you to Roswell, the home to more than just the International UFO Museum and Research Center. Roswell has a vibrant downtown historic district, great wineries, and lots and lots of alien-themed restaurants. Hotels are all major chains and despite its alien-themed sign, the Roswell Inn is pretty much your standard roadside motel. Your best bet is the Holiday Inn or one of the other branded hotels.

Roswell UFO Museum

The International UFO Museum and Research Center is a must-visit, adults are just $5 and kids under 15 are $2. The museum takes a look at UFOs in light of the infamous Roswell Incident, as well as aliens and UFOs in popular culture. From movie props to items recovered from the Roswell crash site, the museum is a fun way to spend an afternoon and has a great gift shop. For dinner be sure to put Antigua Cocina Mexicana on your list, they offer a contemporary spin on traditional Mexican cuisine that shouldn't be missed. If you are collecting photos for your Instagram feed, Roswell is replete with opportunities with dozens of murals, many alien-themed, decorating downtown.

Fox Cave Cowboy, New Mexico

Heading west out of Roswell, Highway 380 splits with Highway 70 in Hondo and takes you through some of the prettiest mountain roads in the country. A worthwhile stop along the way is Fox Cave, a historic landmark that is hard to miss thanks to its eclectic collection of statues that includes a cowboy, a t-rex, and of course some crashed UFOs and aliens. Fox cave was once used as a hideout for Billy the Kid. It has been a roadside attraction for more than 70 years and today offers a small museum, gift shop, and the chance to pan for gold.

The next stop is Ruidoso/Ruidoso Downs, the area is home to the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino, The Spencer Theater for the Performing Arts, the Ruidoso Downs horse race track, and much more. In the winter the nearby Ski Apache resort offers skiing and snowboarding. I recommend staying at the Inn of the Mountain Gods, while it might be a little outside of town it is a world-class resort offering a lot of outdoor activities, great dining, and even guided hunting trips.

White Sands National Park Road Trip

After a few days of fresh mountain air, it is time to head to our final destination and one of the most amazing places I have ever been to, White Sands National Park. Only about an hour from Ruidoso, White Sands National Park can be experienced as a day trip or over several days. Camping with a permit is allowed, but if you aren't looking to rough it, the city of Alamogordo offers a number of hotel accommodations. The National Park is adjacent to the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range, home of the Trinity Test Site where the first detonation of a nuclear device was held in 1945 as part of the Manhattan Project. The site is open to the public, but only two days a year. If you want to make the Trinity Test Site part of your trip, check to see what day in April or October they have designated and if the event is still being held. 

The Perfect New Mexico Road Trip

While there is so much more to do in New Mexico from Carlsbad Caverns, Route 66, and Red River, this trip is a good highlight reel of what the Land of Enchantment has to offer. To plan your own trip visit NewMexico.org.

The Perfect New Mexico Road Trip

This trip was made possible by our friends at Chevrolet, through the loan of the 2021 Chevrolet Silverado Trail Boss.