Gallup is filled with timeless landscapes, vibrant cultures, historic buildings and locations and one-of-a-kind eateries—as well as an Old West railroad stop feel that persists to this day.
Gallup was founded on the backbone of the transcontinental railroad. Rich coal veins in the mountains surrounding the area provided fuel for the iron horses and helped build a town populated by miners and serviced by all means of camp followers. A nearby US Army installation, Fort Wingate, provided security for much of the area and is still a site for ballistics research.
As time passed, immigrant families from Asia, Latin America, Utah and Eastern Europe settled in Gallup, although Native Americans still make almost half of the city's population. And the railroad still forms the center of this far Western outpost; the agriculture and animal husbandry taking place on the nearby Navajo nation contribute to Gallup's economy too.
More than 80 years ago, Gallup was a favorite location for a nascent film industry spreading east from California. In the '40s and '50s, the burg and its spectacular surrounding environs became a favorite location for genre films featuring Hollywood heavyweights like William Holden, Errol Flynn, Lee Remick and Suzzane Pleshette—all of them stayed at the small city's favorite hotel and motel. The joint's rustic ambiance, including a player piano, authentic Navajo rugs, and a stone fireplace in the lobby make for a uniquely interesting headquarters while traveling through or staying a few days to see all that Gallup has to offer. Some of the rooms and suites are named after the bright likes of Ronald Reagan, Kirk Douglas and Katherine Hepburn. A Western saloon-themed lounge—The 49er—movie star memorabilia and exhibitions of paintings by notable Southwestern artists add to the experience. Oh, and they have a sweet swimming pool; imagine Spencer Tracy and Jane Wyman floating around that pristine piscina! Room prices at El Rancho start at about $80 per night through Expedia and Travelocity.
For local eating, it's a toss up: Genaro’s Cafe, the home of some of the meatiest, mightiest country fried steak and home fries this side of Denver, a place where they’re also always busy plating up the best in Nuevo Mexicano vittles—has a reputation for fresh ingredients, damn hot green chile and a variety that's a hit with visitors from all over the globe.
One of the best things about Gallup—despite the widely held, but mythical belief that the city on the edge of Dinétah is faraway and isolated—is how easy it is to access by a variety of physical linkages. Gallup is on I-40, on what was once called Route 66. Historic Route 66—and to a lesser extent, Coal Avenue are the main drags in Gallup and this is also where you'll find authentic representatives of the local cuisine and hangouts. Dinétah, the Navajo Nation, is all around Gallup. The surrounding environment is considered holy to its inhabitants and should be approached with a dignified sort of curiosity and wonder. Traveling north 20 minutes from Gallup leads to the heart of Dinétah and its capital, Window Rock, Ariz.
The natural-landmark named city is an entrance to fascinating and beautiful country and the road west from the capital city to the Grand Canyon is peerless, as it winds through Canyon De Chelly, the Hopi mesas and Tuba City, a Diné desert outpost where heavy metal is king. And Amtrak's storied Southwest Chief still passes through Gallup twice per day, giving visitors from both east and west entrance to a small city that travel writers of yore called “The Indian Capital of the World.” ()