Road Trip Day 6 – New Mexico is Surprisingly Awesome

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I'll admit that New Mexico was not really a state I was looking forward to on this road trip. In fact, in my first post about my road trip plans, I basically wrote it off as just a passing-through state, assuming that there wasn't much here beyond a lot of turquoise jewelry.

Well, how wrong I was!

New Mexico

After getting a lot of tips from readers to skip Albuquerque, my sister and I opted, instead, for the capital of Santa Fe. I was a bit skeptical that a state capital could really be cool, but once again New Mexico proved me wrong. Santa Fe is tiny by most standards (around 80,000 people, I think), and is far from feeling like a government seat.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Instead, Santa Fe is funky, colorful, and at least a few decades behind the rest of the country. In fact, the owner of the Western-themed Silver Saddle Motel (the great little local place where we stayed), said that Santa Fe embraced the hippie movement of the 1960s, and never really let it go. They are just now witnessing the phenomenon of plastic truck testicles.

But lagging a bit behind is by no means a bad thing. In fact, Santa Fe was great. I really regret not allowing more time here.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

As it was, we woke up on Day 6 and headed down to the Railyard district of the city, where there was a farmer's market going on.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe, New Mexico

After getting our fill of Santa Fe sights and sounds, we hopped on the highway and headed about half an hour north of the city to check out Pecos National Historical Park, which we had seen photos of in a Santa Fe tour book. This National Park is not only cheap ($3 will get you onto the trails), but also beautiful. Stopping was a no-brainer.

Pecos National Historical Park, New Mexico

Since we were on a tight time schedule, we spent about half an hour walking around the Pecos Pueblo ruins in the park, and also explored an old Spanish Mission. The red clay bricks contrasting sharply with the greens and blues of the surrounding hills and the dark clouds of an incoming storm was simply stunning.

Pecos National Historical Park, New Mexico
Pecos National Historical Park, New Mexico

Pecos National Historical Park, New Mexico

Then it was on through New Mexico, with our final destination being the Valley of the Gods in southern Utah. I expected this drive to be sort of dry and boring, but again New Mexico had surprises in store.

As we drove north, we were greeted by towering bluffs, tree-covered mountains, and a very colorful desert. I had no idea northern New Mexico was hiding all of this!

New Mexico

New Mexico

After a rather long drive, we finally crossed the border into Utah on a narrow two-lane road. I was excited because we FINALLY got to take a photo with a “Welcome to” state sign!

Utah

The sun was setting as we snaked our way into the Valley of the Gods, painting the sky brilliant hues of orange, gold and purple. I already feel a little flutter for Utah. I think this could very well turn into a love affair.

Utah

We arrived at dusk at the Valley of the Gods B&B, which is located down a dirt access road that's only navigable in dry weather — good thing there was no rain in the forecast! The B&B is totally off-grid, and is solar- and wind-powered. It also was gorgeous, and gave a remarkable view of the night sky — including the Milky Way!

Melissa and I climbed down into our “cave” (our bedroom was underground), and turned in early in preparation for Day 7.

Each day, I’ll be cutting together a quick video to show you what we’ve been up to. Here’s Day 6:

Tomorrow, we go up in a hot air balloon in Monument Valley!

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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15 Comments on “Road Trip Day 6 – New Mexico is Surprisingly Awesome

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  1. My mom and I stopped in Santa Fe for a night when we were driving out to Colorado–I was super impressed as well! Absolutely loved the city and such gorgeous surroundings!

      It’s in such a great location. Any city that is near mountains is one that I usually love! I’m really sad that we didn’t have more time to spend there. We could have easily spent a whole day just poking around Santa Fe!

    I visited New Mexico for the first time this summer too. We spent about 5 days driving around and NM totally surprised me – loved it! I wasn’t expecting the whole state to be so artsy, plus the people are great.

    I am going to counter the rest of your advice though, and say you have to visit Albuquerque if you get the chance. It’s an undercover awesome city. They have a large college there…which means lots of cheap food, quirky shops and great antique/vintage shopping. I actually like Albuquerque a lot more than Santa Fe (which was still a fantastic city!).

      Huh, everyone else (well, not EVERYONE, but many of the people I talked to) said Albuquerque was kind of like any other big city. But thanks for setting the records straight! 🙂

      Glad to hear you enjoyed your time in NM, too!

    I’ve never been to New Mexico before but it looks beautiful, and I have heard that Santa Fe is supposed to be a really nice little city. I always love when you get a good travel surprise. I drove to Las Vegas and didn’t expect much from Utah, but I ended up being really impressed with how beautiful it was.

      From what we saw of Santa Fe, I really liked it.

      And agreed on Utah — what we’ve seen of it so far is gorgeous!

    What incredible photography! The sky is so gorgeous…something you definitely don’t notice in smog filled Los Angeles. You’re inspiring me to do another USA road trip again. The last time it was from Tallahassee, FL to LA with a car packed to the brim with all of my stuff. I’d like to be able to take my time and soak everything in.

      Thanks, Sheryll! The skies out here really are something else, especially when they’re dotted with those fluffy clouds.

      I’ve always wanted to do a road trip, and I’m really glad we decided to kind of take our time with this one — no 12-hour days of driving, that’s for sure!

    Southern New Mexico is also fabulous. Something for the next road trip. 🙂

    The skies are awesome in these photos~!

    I haven’t spent time in New Mexico either but after seeing your beautiful pictures, I need to! I loved the contrast between the very blue sky, white clouds and red dirt. I have heard wonderful things about Santa Fe.

      The color contrasts out West are so intense! Lovely, though. And, as far as I can tell, the wonderful things you’ve heard about Santa Fe are probably true!

    Northern New Mexico is amazing! Bandelier National Monument and Chaco Culture National Historical Park are also must sees in the area. Southern Utah is so incredible as well, it is one of my top five places in the US.

      Southern Utah is indeed also amazing! One of my favorite areas on this trip so far.

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