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National Parks and Monuments In New Mexico

New Mexico has some of the nation’s great national parks and monuments – you can go deep underground or learn about this state’s incredible history. The state’s marquee park is Carlsbad Caverns. Here, miles of underground caverns lead past otherworldly sculptures and calcite features. There are more than 100 caverns here, and visitors can also set off on above-ground hikes through the protected landscape.

White Sands National Monument has to be seen to be believed – this yawning expanse of desert is covered with white sand dunes backdropped by soaring mountains. You can drive into the dunes or set off on hikes – and thanks to the sand’s gypsum crystal makeup, the sand is not hot to walk on even in the summer.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park protects extensive rock art ruins, as does Pecos National Monument and El Morro National Monument. Near Silver City, Gila Cliff Dwellings holds rock structures built into cliff sides – it’s a stunning sight. Along Albuquerque’s suburban fringe, Petroglyph National Monument is home to thousands of rock art carvings – you can find hawks and turtles as well as mystical figures. To the west, El Malpais National Monument is a remote expanse of pristine wildlife-filled country.

Aztec Ruins National Monument

Created in 1923, the Aztec Ruins National Monument is located in northwestern New Mexico in the city of Aztec. Set north of Bloomfield on 315 acres, the monument draws over 40,000 annual visitors. Both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, Aztec Ruins National Monument features a 400-room Pueblo Great House. Check out the 15-minue video Aztec Ruins: Footprints of the Past at the visitor center, trek the self-guided trail, or participate in the many interpretive programs.

El Malpais National Monument

See one of New Mexico's most iconic landmarks. The El Malpais National Monument is mostly comprised of barren badlands in the Zuni-Bandera volcanic field, the second largest in the Basin and Range Province. The monument is home to some of the oldest known Douglas Fir trees, inactive volcanoes and geothermal activity.

Enjoy views from the scenic overlooks and hiking along the trails. Be sure to hike to the La Ventana Natural Arch, one of the most accessible sandstone arches in New Mexico. Enjoy traveling along historic Route 66, near Albuquerque, to visit additional state monuments and attractions including the Petroglyph National Monument and the White Sands Missile Range. Take a break in the Albuquerque area before you make your way on to the next stage of the trek.

El Morro National Monument

An ancient rest stop, the El Morro National Monument is a 1,300-acre national park set in western New Mexico. Just west of Albuquerque, this national monument was established in 1906. The El Morro National Monument features the .5-mile Inscription Trail, the 2–mile loop Headland Trail, and the Atsinna trail. Check out the El Morro Visitor Center, where you can watch the 15-minute video and explore more than 700 years of history.

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument

Set on more than 1,000 acres, the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is located in northern New Mexico – just south of Albuquerque. Dating to 1629, the monument is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places as a U.S. Historic district. Operated by the National Park Service, the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument preserves the Quarai Ruins, Abó Ruin, and Gran Quivira Ruins. Visitors enjoy picnicking, bird watching, and nature viewing, plus the new Mountainair Visitor Center.