Aztec Ruins National Monument

Aztec Ruins National Monument Aztec, NM

Aztec Ruins National Monument in Northwest New Mexico is an ancient Pueblo site that offers visitors a peek back into the 900 year history of the ancient Pueblo people. The site consists of a Pueblo Great House, a reconstructed Great Kiva, and over 400 rooms to explore. The Visitor Center is actually the home of archaeologist Earl Morris and contains ancient artifacts from the site, a film about the Aztec Ruins, and more. Walk the Aztec West Self-Guided Trail to explore the site and be sure to check the calendar for Ranger-led interpretive programs. A Junior Ranger program is also available for the kids.

The Old Spanish National Historic Trail can be accessed from Aztec Ruins National Monument.

Aztec Ruins National Monument Aztec, NM

Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument Frijoles Valley

Located in Los Alamos, New Mexico, Bandelier National Monument protects over 33,000 acres of land and ancient Pueblo history. Visitors can enjoy the short Main Loop Trail (1.2 miles), Falls Trail (3 miles), or several other trails that wind through the park. The Tsankawi section of the park offers visitors views of the Ancestral Pueblo village of Tsankawi along with petroglyphs, cavates, and other ancient structures. Climbing is required to visit this area of the park.

Bandelier National Monument also offers guided tours, backpacking, camping, and cross-country skiing in the winter. The park may close in winter due to inclement weather.

Read more about visiting Bandelier National Monument here.

Bandelier National Monument Cliff Dwellings

Capulin Volcano National Monument

Capulin Volcano National Monument is a dormant cinder cone that's part of the Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field. It rises over 1,000 ft. and offers panoramic views of four surrounding states and its neighboring dormant volcanoes. Visitors can take a drive to the top, hike on over 5 miles of trails around the park, explore the Visitor Center, or take a guided tour with a Park Ranger. Because of its remoteness, the park is exceptional for night sky viewing and in 2016 was named a Gold Tier Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association. Viewing events are held throughout the year.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Established in 1930, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is one of the most famous cave systems in the world. The Big Room is the largest single cave chamber by volume in North America, and with over 100 rooms, there's plenty to explore here. The Big Room Trail is 1.25 miles long and is an easy, self-guided trail through the caves. Many other parts of the caves are accessible via Ranger-led tours which you can book ahead of your visit.

Other activities at the park include hiking the surrounding surface trails like the Guadalupe Ridge Trail, along with other programs like the Bat Flight Program and the Night Sky Programs throughout the year. Carlsbad Caverns National Park is open all year except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.

Read more about visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park here.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park

From 850 to 1250 A.D, Chaco Canyon was home to a thriving civilization of ancient Puebloan people whose achievements in engineering, agriculture, and architecture can still be seen today. This UNESCO World Heritage Site protects and interprets more than 3,000 architectural structures in the park - many of which can be explored on your own. The Chaco “great houses” are some of the largest and best preserved prehistoric architectural structures in North America. Sixteen great houses are interpreted within the park and are open for viewing.

Guided tours are offered at many of the great houses and the park was also certified in 2013 as an International Dark Sky Park, making it excellent for stargazing. Nighttime viewing programs are also offered in the park. Chaco Culture National Historical Park was designated in 1907.

El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail

The El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail was known as the Spanish colonial "royal road" and served as a critical lifeline between Santa Fe, New Mexico and Mexico City, Mexico. The height of commerce along the trail occurred during the colonial 1600's but tapered off over time, especially when the railroads became popular. There are several sites along the trail where you can learn more and get a passport stamp. Click here for a complete list.

El Malpais National Monument

El Malpais National Monument protects an ancient volcanic landscape that includes lava tubes, caves, and unique habitats for plant and animal life. El Malpais is the Spanish word for Badlands, and is fitting for this barren, craggy landscape. Activities here include caving, hiking, backcountry camping, and scenic drives through the park. During the summer months, schedule a guided ranger tour to experience one of the park's bat outflight programs to see their bat population up close.

El Malpais was created in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and is jointly managed with El Morro National Monument.

El Morro National Monument

El Morro National Monument consists of an ancient Pueblo and oasis in desolate western New Mexico. The site served as a resting place for travelers over many centuries who literally left their mark on Inscription Rock, a large formation that contains inscriptions from Puebloans, Spaniards, and Americans. The loop trail to see Inscription Rock is only .5 miles and is paved.

Other activities at the park are hiking to the top of the bluff for views of the Zuni Mountains and the El Malpais lava fields. From here you can also visit Atsinna, the ancient Pueblo ruin that was excavated in 1950.

El Morro was designated a national monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and is co-managed along with El Malpais National Monument. It is also a site along New Mexico's Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway that includes other NPS sites -  Chaco Culture National Historic Park, El Morro National Monument, and Aztec Ruins National Monument. Read here for more information on the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway.

Fort Union National Monument

Fort Union was established after the U.S.-Mexican war when New Mexico became a territory of the United States. The initial Fort was established in 1851 near the junction of the Mountain and Cimarron Branches of the Santa Fe Trail. Today, Fort Union National Monument protects the second of three forts that were built at the site. Visitors can walk the 1.24-mile self-guided trail through the ruins of the Fort or take a guided Ranger tour. Other interpretative events are scheduled throughout the year at the Santa Fe Trail Interpretive Center located in downtown Las Vegas, NM, along with night sky viewing events at the Fort.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument protects the ancient dwellings of the Mogollon Culture that lived here in the 1200's. The site includes a small 3-room dwelling and a wall of pictographs. The site also has a Visitor Center with a small museum. Besides visiting the cliff dwellings, visitors can also enjoy camping, hiking, guided tours, fishing, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, and stargazing.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907 and encompasses 533 acres.

Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Manhattan Project National Historical Park consists of three sites - Los Alamos, NM, Hanford, WA, and Oak Ridge, TN - that interpret the history of America's nuclear age, the creation of the atomic bomb, and the ending of WWII. The Los Alamos site encompasses three areas, including the Gun Site Facilities associated with the design of the “Little Boy” bomb. The Oak Ridge site was the administrative and military headquarters for the Manhattan Project. A bus tour of the facility is included with admission to the American Museum of Science and Energy. The Hanford site was primarily used for the enrichment of plutonium, and visitors can tour the B-Reactor, which produced material for the plutonium bomb.

Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area

The Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area is a 10,000-acre swath of north-central New Mexico that includes Santa Fe and Taos. The mission of the NHA is to promote and sustain the cultural traditions, languages, and heritage of the area and to promote the cultural understanding and stories of the peoples that have lived in the area for centuries. The area contains eight Pueblos, along with hundreds of points of interest, recreational activities, and events.

Click here to read more about the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area.

Old Spanish National Historic Trail - AZ, CA, CO, NV, NM, UT

Old Spanish National Historic Trail Trailhead

Old Spanish National Historic Trail tells the story of the people and places along the trail between Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Los Angeles, California. The trail was used heavily during the early 1800's to move goods through the Southwest and made Santa Fe a center of commerce in the area. The trail was pipeline for both Mexican and American traders over a few decades until the United States finally took control of the Southwest and opened new trade routes and wagon trails which left the Old Spanish Trail obsolete by the 1850's.

The trail runs through six states - New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California - and there are several points for visitors to interact and learn more about its history. Here are some popular locations for Passport Stamps along the trail:

- Navajo National Monument - Shonto, AZ
- Pipe Spring National Monument - Fredonia, AZ
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area - Page, AZ (Also the location of Horshoe Bend)
- El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument - Los Angeles, CA
- Mojave National Preserve Headquarters - Barstow, CA
- Colorado National Monument - Fruita, CO
- Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve - Mosca, CO
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park - Montrose, CO
- Aztec Ruins National Monument - Aztec, NM
- Lake Mead National Recreation Area - Boulder City, NV
- Arches National Park - Moab, UT
- Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument - Kanab, UT

Pecos National Historical Park

Pecos National Historical Park protects areas of the Pecos River Valley and helps to interpret the cultural and historical significance of the area. Visitors who hike along the Ancestral Sites Trail can see the remains of the Pecos Pueblo, along with the 1717 Spanish mission church. The Civil War Battlefield Trail will take you to Glorieta Pass, where you can learn more about this Civil War Battle. Other activities include fly fishing on the Pecos River, Ranger programs, picnicking, and other events throughout the year.

Pecos National Historical Park began as a National Monument in 1935 and was expanded and renamed in 1990.

Petroglyph National Monument

Petroglyph National Monument

The stories of Spanish travelers and ancestral Puebloans can be found etched into volcanic rocks scattered throughout Petroglyph National Monument. The pictographs are held sacred by modern-day Native Americans and provide a direct link to their ancestral past. Ancient cinder cones can still be seen here silhouetted against the backdrop of the Sandia Mountains.

Several trails are available to hike in the park to see petroglyphs, although none begin at the Visitor Center. Once you have your map, drive to trailhead of your choice. Sunrise here is spectacular and the cooler temperatures make it a great time to visit and hike around the Park.

Petroglyph National Monument was authorized by Congress in 1990 and encompasses just over 7,200 acres.

Read more about visiting Petroglyph National Monument here.

Petroglyph National Monument New Mexico National Parks

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument protects three distinct Spanish Missions first constructed in the 1600's. Abó, Quarai, and Gran Quivira all contain intact ruins of Spanish Missions, and Gran Quivira is the largest site, protecting 611 acres. It was also the first National Monument of the three sites. In 1980, the Abó and Quarai Units were transferred to the National Park Service, and in 1988, the sites were combined and renamed to Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. Guided tours are available at the site, and astronomy events are also popular at this certified International Dark Sky Park.

Santa Fe National Historic Trail - CO, KS, MO, NM, OK

The Santa Fe National Historic Trail runs from Western Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and passes through the states of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico. Since 1821 the trail was a major thoroughfare for goods, but by 1880, the trail had become obsolete due to the Santa Fe Railroad line built between Kansas City and Santa Fe. With thirty sites along the trail to get a passport stamp, there are plenty of stops to learn the stories and history of this famous old-west 'highway'.

Valles Caldera National Preserve

The Valles Caldera is the result of an enormous volcanic eruption 1.25 million years ago that left a 13-mile wide circular depression in the Earth. Today, Valles Caldera is home to abundant wildlife, rivers and streams, and Native American history. Popular activities here include camping, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking, and hunting. Guided tours are available to help you customize your adventure, and Ranger-led tours are also available to help you explore the preserve. Redondo Peak is the highest point in the park at 11,253ft.

Valles Caldera National Preserve was created in 2000 by the signing of the The Valles Caldera Preservation Act of 2000 by President Bill Clinton.

White Sands National Park

White Sands National Park New Mexico

White Sands National Park is largest gypsum dunefield in the world. The white dunes were created when an ancient Ice Age lake dried up and the forces of nature broke down the gypsum and piled it into the dunes that are visible today. The fine gypsum and sand are perfect for cruising down on a saucer, but the park also offers some incredible scenery and hiking as well. Cycling, camping, and picnicking are also popular. Several park programs and Ranger-led activities happen throughout the year, including moonlight hikes and stargazing.

White Sands was originally designated and National Monument by President Herbert Hoover in 1933 and was recently re-designated as a National Park in 2019. It encompasses around 146,000 acres.

Read more about visiting White Sands National Park here.

White Sands National Park