Essential RV New Mexico:
The Ultimate Guide to Exploring
the Land of Enchantment
by Melissa Larsen
Few destinations on earth offer such a treasure trove of beauty and adventure as New Mexico. From the pretty-in-pink mountains of Albuquerque to the eclectic art scene of Santa Fe, road-trippers have a front-row seat to all that the high desert of New Mexico has to offer. Read on to learn about the top spots to see and the best activities to do while making your way through the Land of Enchantment’s most adored locales.
Home of the world-famous Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which celebrates its 49th anniversary this fall and welcomes an average of 750,000 visitors each year, the vibrant city is not surprisingly the hot air ballooning capital of the world. The likes of Rainbow Ryders and World Balloon provide opportunities for visitors to go up, up and away during once-in-a-lifetime ballooning adventures.
Those who prefer to stay with their feet firmly planted on the ground can tee up at Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club, one of the few five-star-rated courses in America as awarded by readers of Golf Digest, or take in the unique high-desert layout of Twin Warriors Golf Club.
Albuquerque’s great outdoors continue to offer fun in the sun (there are about 310 sunny days per year) via hiking and biking for all levels of expertise—or lack thereof—on the Sandia Mountains. The spectacular sunsets even turn the mountains a shade of picture-perfect pink if you’re making the climb for the ‘gram.
A tried-and-true foodie destination, Albuquerque dishes up its defining ingredient—chile, in red or green—in spades. (Ask for “Christmas” if you’re wanting to sample both chilies.) Brimming with authenticity and flavor, top-notch restaurants in the area range from pizza joints to fine-dining steakhouses and everything in between. Stop by Frontier Restaurant, a New Mexican institution for nearly 50 years, for its beloved breakfast spreads (three words: Frontier sweet rolls). Green Jeans Farmery is a newer hangout constructed entirely of shipping containers as building blocks with a host of eateries, breweries, confectionaries, shops and more to peruse.
Park It: American RV Resort is a best-in-class RV park in Albuquerque with free continental breakfast, a heated pool and hot tub, Wi-Fi, a clubhouse, modern bathhouses, a dog park and more. Don’t be surprised if you spy roadrunners, hawks and other wildlife trotting nearby. The nightly rate for a premium site is $49.
Close to downtown Albuquerque and the balloon festival grounds, Balloon View Homes and RV Park offers a quiet escape. The park is complete with a swimming pool, an exercise room, laundry and restroom facilities and more. The nightly rate is $45.
Lovingly known as The City Different, Santa Fe is a celebrated destination of history, culture, eclectic arts and cuisine and much more that makes it a road trip must-stop. Santa Fe is the nation’s oldest city capital, and historic sites like Loretto Chapel, Pecos National Historical Park and Santa Fe Plaza, which has been the heart of the downtown area for 400 years, are treasured testaments to the city.
With more than 250 galleries and museums, the Santa Fe art scene is nothing short of inspiring. Painting, pottery, photography, sculpture and textiles are just a sampling of the art media found along Canyon Road, downtown and in the energetic Railyard District. Looking to hobnob with the artistic talents? Santa Fe’s Friday evening gallery openings take place year-round and are famous for connecting enthusiasts with their favorite artists. The Santa Fe Opera also happens to be one of the most renowned programs in the world. The beauty of its award-winning, open-air amphitheater—a structure that was built in the 1950’s—nearly rivals the opera’s moving performances.
Offering more than 70 rooms of interactive art, Meow Wolf's widely celebrated House of Eternal Return is a mind-bending must-try for visitors of all ages. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum pays homage to one of New Mexico’s most famous residents; the revered modern artist lived in the area for nearly 40 years, and the museum houses nearly 150 of O’Keeffe’s paintings, photographs, personal property and an archive of documents.
At 7,000 feet above sea level, Santa Fe has some of the purest air in the world. For a breath of that freshness, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains offers miles of trails and acres of untouched wilderness to wander about and ponder in. Take a load off in the shade of pinon, juniper and ponderosa trees or along a babbling mountain stream.
After working up an appetite, The Shed is a bright, busy spot—and longtime Santa Fe favorite—where diners can get finger-licking-good New Mexican and American eats in a casual setting. For a real treat, Kakawa Chocolate House is more than just a tasty spot to grab picturesque truffles, agave caramels and homemade ice cream to take back to the RV; Kakawa’s passion is authentic and historic drinking chocolates elixirs that date back centuries.
Park It: Family built, owned and operated, Santa Fe Skies RV Park is nestled on 17 acres just off of the scenic Turquoise Trail. The park is a short drive from many of Santa Fe’s prized restaurants, shops and more, with a mountain backdrop, to boot. Nightly rates range from $56 to $58.
Each pad at Pendaries RV Resort is surrounded by towering Ponderosa pines, giving campers much-needed shade during Santa Fe’s sunny days. There are plenty of activities to keep you busy after a day of adventuring in Santa Fe, like shuffleboard, horseshoes, volleyball and basketball courts and a variety of paths and garden.
Many consider a trip to Taos in northern New Mexico to be a spiritual experience in surroundings of raw, natural beauty and a magical aura. Landmark sites sprinkle the area, including Taos Pueblo, the only living Native American community designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark. San Francisco de Asis Church inspired works by both O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams and is considered to be one of the most photographed churches. Locals and visitors alike gather for concerts, shopping, dining and to check out a variety of awe-inspiring art in Taos Plaza, where many of the structures date back to the 1930’s. The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is another larger-than-life favorite of visitors, touted as the fifth highest bridge in the United States and a notable backdrop in several popular films.
Long considered an art colony for some of the nation’s most creative minds, Taos has a wealth of galleries, studios and shops that celebrate such talents. Taos Gallery Association provides a printable walking map that outlines dozens of must-see sites in the area’s historic neighborhoods, plus a dedicated page to purchasing Taos-made art on its Web site.
Taos’ creativity extends into its culinary landscape as well with greats like Lambert’s of Taos. For 35 years, the restaurant has set the standard of fine dining in the area, decked in white tablecloths and boasting a stellar wine list. A standout in New Mexico’s ever-growing craft beer scene, Taos Mesa Brewing is known for its specialty brews and elevated pub cuisine. Reservations are highly recommended at The Love Apple, where the organic goods of local growers and artisan producers are cooked up in what was once an 1800’s-era Catholic church.
For a blood-pumping alfresco escape, Taos is home to the best rafting, kayaking and paddle boarding in the state. New Wave Rafting Co. offers family-friendly trips along the Rio Grande and Rio Chama while Los Rios River Runners has rock-and-raft and pedal-and-paddle packages for adventure-seeking souls. If you prefer a slightly more relaxed aquatic escapade, Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs is one of the oldest natural health resorts in the nation, as well as the only hot springs in the world with four unique sulfur-free mineral waters. Bonus: RV camp sites are available at Ojo for $40 per day.
Thanks to its high-desert setting, northern New Mexico is home to a multitude of ski resorts that welcome cold-weather visitors for the plushest of powder. Taos Ski Valley is in the center of the Enchanted Circle and greets 300-plus inches of snow each year for skiers of all levels to enjoy. Families flock to Angel Fire ski resort for tubing, sledding, sleigh rides, snowshoeing and more.
Park It: Bursting with charm and mere minutes from Taos Ski Valley, Taos Valley RV Park and Campground offers spacious lots and competitive rates. The spot is private, quiet and scenic with a variety of modern amenities. Nightly rates range from $39.31 to $52.79.
Located on five spacious acres, Monte Bello RV Park is nestled on the high-desert mesa at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Amenities include a convenience store, grills, a laundromat, a dog-walking path, ADA-accessible bathrooms and more.
Outdoorsy types who love a good adrenaline rush. Foodies with a taste for authentic eats. History or arts buffs who are always on the path of learning. Whatever style of traveler you are, hitting the road through New Mexico provides limitless opportunities to take in the splendor of the Southwest.