Day Trips from Albuquerque Part I: Northern Lights

Day trips from Albuquerque are a perfect way to experience the best of both worlds in New Mexico. Staying in downtown Albuquerque offers a wide selection of dining, shopping and nightlife options by night, while providing a central location from which to explore the myriad activities the Land of Enchantment has to offer by day. This four-part series will provide ideas for every type of traveler wishing to discover the unending delights of this state.

Less than an hour’s drive northwest of Albuquerque is New Mexico’s state capital, Santa Fe.  But since it’s best explored on foot, consider leaving your car behind for the day and taking the New Mexico Rail Runner Express from downtown for a 90 minute ride through the Rio Grande Valley up to the nation’s oldest capital.

The Plaza is the best place to begin your exploration of this city rich in history. The Spanish settlers built their homes here in 1610,with the following centuries seeing riots, revolts, and respite by travelers from the Santa Fe Trail. A great city for history buffs, Santa Fe also boasts the nation’s oldest public building in continuous use, the oldest church, and the oldest house in the United States. But you don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy Santa Fe! In all directions from the Plaza, shoppers, art lovers, and food connoisseurs can find their fill of treasures by spending a day in the city of ‘Holy Faith.’

If you’re in the mood to combine human history with hiking, then a visit to Bandelier National Monument is the perfect place to go. Approximately 2 hours north of Albuquerque, this park’s human history dates back over 10,000 years, where you will find petroglyphs, ancient dwellings, and old masonry walls. With over 33,000 acres of preserved land, there is plenty of hiking, camping, boating, and picnicking opportunities, as well as interpretive programs and even Opera on the Rocks!

If geological history is your thing, or you’re simply looking for more breathtaking hiking trails, then head to Kasha-KatuweTent RocksNational Monument. A joint venture between the Cochiti Pueblo and the Bureau of Land Management, this area is dotted by tall spires of volcanic ash that were formed from eruptions that occurred6 -7 million years ago. And as with any outdoor adventure in New Mexico, don’t forget your sturdy shoes, sunscreen, and plenty of water.

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