EXPLORING NEW MEXICO: THE LAND OF ENCHANTMENT
The year is winding down and it won’t be long until our new little one makes his or her entrance into the world. We wanted to get one last adventure in before settling down to nest for a few months as we welcome our new member into the family.
New Mexico, nicknamed Land of Enchantment for its scenic beauty and colorful history, was our destination. After exploring Taos and Los Alamos, we headed over to Santa Fe.
Santa Fe is the oldest European community west of the Mississippi and the oldest state capitol in the United States.
Downtown Santa Fe is beautiful and vibrant, full of culture and color.
The city was intentionally laid out around a central plaza. On the north side of the Plaza was The Palace of the Governors. Today it is the oldest public building in the United States.
On the east side was a church that eventually became Cathedral Basilica of St Francis of Assisi.
Also downtown is the Loretto Chapel.
The Loretto Chapel, completed in 1878, is most well known for its Miraculous Staircase. No one is exactly sure who built the staircase. Legend says it was St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, who came to build it as an answer to the Sister’s of the Chapel prayers. Another mystery surrounding the staircase is the physics of its construction. The stairs take two 360 degree turns and has no visible support. Each year, the staircase draws thousands of visitors and has been featured in articles, movies, and TV programs like “Unsolved Mysteries”.
Also in the Historic District, a short walk from the Plaza, is the Canyon Road.
Santa Fe has long attracted artist and Canyon Road is perfect place to experience the creativity that flows in the city with its half mile of galleries, boutiques, and dining.
Our day exploring historic Santa Fe couldn’t have ended on a more beautiful note.
Located east of Santa Fe in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, is Pecos National Historic Park.
We started in the visitor center where we watched a movie about the park and looked at historical artifacts.
Originally established as Pecos National Monument in 1965, the park became Pecos National Historic Park in 1990 after new lands were added.
A self-guided trail winds through the Pecos Pueblo ruins and to the mission church.
If you enjoy history and natural beauty Pecos National Historic Park is well worth the stop!
The Turquoise Trail is an approximately 50-mile drive along Highway 14 linking Santa Fe and Albuquerque. We stopped for an afternoon to explore Madrid, one of the funky small towns you’ll find along the route.
From mining town to ghost town, Madrid became the artist community it is today during the 1970s.
Old homes and company shops have been converted into galleries, boutiques, and restaurants.
Everywhere you look you’ll discover whimsical charm that is sure to make you smile.
Don’t miss the quirky magic of Madrid!
From Santa Fe we headed south to Bernalillo to both set up home base and explore Albuquerque and the surrounding areas.
The campground offered beautiful views of the mountains and the Rio Grande.
Although chilly, it was a perfect place to take walks after dinner.
Not only were there great views, there was also a playground just out our backdoor!
Albuquerque is known for the International Balloon Festival. For years, we’ve wanted to go but haven’t been able to make it so we visited the next best thing, the International Balloon Museum.
The museum is filled with exhibits about the history and mechanics of ballooning.
Albuquerque also has its own historic downtown called Old Town.
Historic Old Town has been the heart of Albuquerque since the founding of the city in 1706.
Along with the charming architecture of the southwest there were lots of chili’s.
We had fun trying on hats in kitschy souvenir store.
The Albuquerque Museum of Art and History is located in Old Town. It was a great place to escape the chill for a few hours.
Our favorite exhibit was the “Art of New Mexico” featuring artist from, you guessed it, New Mexico. 🙂
We also enjoyed the “Only in Albuquerque” history gallery.
We couldn’t leave Albuquerque without checking off Petroglyph National Monument off our list. (I think we have seen about a hundred national parks so far!)
We hiked on the developed trails in Boca Negra Canyon where you can see about 100 petroglyphs in one hour.
Petroglyph National Monument preserves one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America.
Native Americans and Spanish settlers carved the petroglyphs 400-700 years ago.
Along with the petroglyphs, the hike offered gorgeous views of the mountains and city.
Speaking of views, one of the things we really wanted to do was ride the popular Sandia Peak Tramway. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a clear afternoon and decided to drive Sandia Crest Byway in hopes of catching the views, if there were any.
We knew it would be cloudy but we didn’t know we’d be above the clouds. While it may not be the view people head up to Sandia Peak for, it was stunning in its own way.
While searching the internet for things to do in the area I came across Kash-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
We opted to take the Slot Canyon Trail a 1.5-mile trail through a steep canyon and a climb to a mesa.
The views on the way up were magnificent.
This will be one of our most memorable hikes ever with views and formations at every turn.
The cone shaped tent rock formations were formed by volcanic activity thousands of years ago.
Not too long ago a 3-mile hike wouldn’t’t have been a big deal but having a toddler and being 8 months pregnant, it felt like an accomplishment!
We had one more stop on the itinerary before heading back to Colorado. Fort Union National Monument is just a short drive off of the I-25 in Watrous, New Mexico.
It’s perfect place to stop and stretch your legs, make some lunch, and learn a little history.
From 1841 to 1891, Fort Union was an active military outpost and the largest fort in the Southwest.
The fort was a key station on the Santa Fe Trail. During the Civil War soldiers were sent to Fort Union to patrol the trail, which was the main artery of supply for the Federal forces. However, after the battle of Glorieta Pass, the Confederate troops retreated to Texas ending Civil War activity in the Southwest. Not long after Fort Union was abandoned.
From captivating history stories to magical geological wonders and stunning mountain sunsets, New Mexico really is the Land of Enchantment.
What is one of your most memorable hikes? Have you been to New Mexico? What are your favorite national parks to Go Rving?