What’s Old is New in New Mexico
My first time in New Mexico was more than 10 years ago on a Route 66 road trip with two girlfriends. After driving hundreds of miles through Midwestern landscapes, we emerged out of the Texas panhandle into a land of big, open blue sky and red-tinted mountainsides.
I distinctly remember how different it looked from anything I had seen up to that point. It was more sky than clouds and it made a profound impact on me. I now always notice when there is a similar sky and it often happens when I’m in the West.
After Flagstaff, we made our way through most of New Mexico over three and a half days. The days were filled with the blue skies I remembered, great adventures and delicious food and drinks.
Through Mountains and Deserts
We stayed in Santa Fe for two nights, which allowed us time to explore the city and the surrounding areas. Santa Fe sits at 7,000 feet elevation (who knew??) and is a city surrounded by mountains and outdoor adventure. A local favorite is the hike to Atalaya Mountain, which reaches close to the peak at 9,121 feet. The hike began at St. John’s College which was only an 8 minute drive from our hotel.
A heart-pumping 7 mile round trip hike, it wasn’t easy at that high of elevation, but so worth it at the top. I also needed to work off some of the food I knew we’d be eating later!
After the hike, we fortunately made our way to Ten Thousand Waves, a spa nestled in the mountains above Santa Fe. We walked in and booked an hour long private Japanese style hot bath for $30 each. A much needed respite for our bones that day and one of our biggest splurges on the trip so far.
Our greatest adventure in New Mexico was on our last day driving south to make our way to Texas. Our mission was a stop at White Sands National Monument before getting to Las Cruces and then on to the middle of nowhere Texas. At $3 a person to enter the park, this is the national park steal of the century.
The white sand is blinding, just like snow after a fresh storm and the sand dunes go on for miles. We hiked the 5-mile round trip trail to Alkali Flat Trail. The trail takes you up and down sand dunes as you follow posted markers throughout the hike. It was moderately challenging getting up the dunes, but ridiculous fun running down them with our feet sinking into the light sand. It was an ideal way to end our outdoor exploration in New Mexico.
New Mexico Brews
We of course found some time to sample local beers and even sparkling wine in New Mexico. Our favorite brewery was La Cumbre in Albuquerque, a hidden gem in an office park off Interstate 25. Albuquerque is also home to Gruet Winery which produces a wide range of sparkling wines from New Mexico. Their Brut Roses were our favorite and a couple found their way to our car. We were less impressed with Marble Brewing’s Tap Room in Santa Fe and High Desert Brewing in Las Cruces, but both were fun stops nonetheless.
A Mexican Foodie Paradise
I had heard lots of noise about the red and green chiles in New Mexico. I have a harder time with spicy food than Dave so had some trepidation when ordering, but found that I loved the spice! A few memorable meals were had at The Shed, La Boca and El Parasol in Santa Fe, along with Ranchway BBQ & Mexican in Las Cruces. Go for the Christmas chile sauce at The Shed (mix of red and green), happy hour small plates at La Boca and the BBQ brisket burrito at Ranchway.
New Mexico is really a beautiful state and I’m so happy I had a chance to revisit it on this trip. I’m sure I’ll be back again for the blue, blue sky and the spicy food.