V.23 No.19 | May 8 - 14, 2014 

Summer Guide 2014

New Mexico Sites You Haven’t Been To Yet

By Ty Bannerman
CC BY Jared Tarbell

Yeah, yeah. You’ve lived in New Mexico long enough to have aready hit Bandelier, Taos, Chaco Canyon and all that other tourist crap. You need something a little different, a little farther off the beaten path, but still awesome in that ineffable Land of Enchantment way. We here at the Weekly Alibi know your pain and have compiled this guide to seven New Mexico attractions that even a lot of locals haven’t been to yet. So load up the kids, pull out your handy GPS and start a trek out to one of our state’s best kept secrets.

El Morro National Monument

If you’ve already been to El Malpais

CC BY Joseph Novak

Drive time from Albuquerque: 2 hours

Beyond the twisting lava flows of El Malpais, El Morro erupts from the ground like a chalky white obelisk. Its landmark status and the pool of freshwater at its base made it a way station for travelers throughout history, from the ancient Native Americans to the Conquistadores to homesteaders in the 1920s, and it seems like everyone left their mark. The first inscriptions are petroglyphs that are at least 1,000 years old. Don Juan de Oñate carved his name into the rock in 1605—that’s 15 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock—and numerous other names and dates fill the sheer face of the cliff, recording the centuries right up to the modern era.

More information: nps.gov/elmo


If you’ve already been to Bandelier

Drive time from Albuquerque: 2 hours

New Mexico is dotted with the ruins of ancestral Puebloan cities and towns, but most road trippers only check out a few of the more obvious and developed ones. Tsankawi is technically a part of Bandelier National Monument, but it’s removed from the main visitor center by a good 12 miles, and the experience of visiting it is completely different. The trail, while still fairly accessible to hikers of all ability levels, crosses over the top of a windswept mesa where an Anasazi pueblo once stood. Potsherds litter the ground—taking them is a federal crime, so keep your hands in your pockets—and grooved trails cut through the petrified ash of its surface, eventually leading to a colony of cliff dwellings and petroglyph-decorated rocks on the other side.

More information: nps.gov/band/planyourvisit/tsankawi.htm

Museum of International Folk Art

If you’ve already been to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

CC BY koi71

Drive time from Albuquerque: 1 hour

We all know that Santa Fe is the easiest day trip from Albuquerque, but it’s also easy to miss out on many of its lesser known, but still worthy, attractions. Take the Museum of International Folk Art, for example. With wings dedicated to toys, dolls and other folk art from all around the world, many of which are arranged in maddeningly overstuffed tableaus, this is a museum like no other.

More information: internationalfolkart.org

Carlsbad Caverns

If you’ve already been to Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns
CC BY Mathieu Lebreton
Carlsbad Caverns

Drive time from Albuquerque: 4 and a half hours

Yep, you read that right: “If you’ve already been to Carlsbad Caverns, go to Carlsbad Caverns” because there is so much more to this park than the main cavern tour. There are guided tours into the unpaved, unlit corners of the massive cave complex and a number of other caves you can explore there as well. True, some of them require hiking out a good distance into the baking desert and then using ropes and flashlights to descend into the depths, but how cool is that? And think how awesome you'll feel the next time somebody mentions Carlsbad and you can say, "Oh I've been there, but I prefer the less-touristy parts like Spider Cave." Who knew spelunking and hipsterism go so well together?

More information: nps.gov/cave

Gilman Tunnels

If you’ve already been to Hyde Park

CC BY John Fowler

Drive time from Albuquerque: 1 hour

Driving out from Santa Fe and up Hyde Park Road into the aspen trees is a memorably beautiful experience, especially in the summer when the white-barked poplars’ leaves are quaking in the wind. But just as impressive is taking road 485 through the Jemez mountains. It’s a winding, little traveled route that follows the course of the Guadalupe River though a spectacular box canyon. Even better, the road makes its way through a series of tunnels blasted out of the rock for a long-gone railroad. After you’ve hit State Road 126, it’s an easy drive back to Jemez Springs for lunch, or carry on the rest of the way through the mountains, past the Valles Caldera and all the way to Los Alamos.

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