New Mexico

10 Rad Weekend Road Trips from Albuquerque, New Mexico

by Kristen Arendt
Updated June 22, 2022

Bandelier National Monument. Photo: Shutterstock

Take any one of these weekend road trips from Albuquerque, and you’ll quickly see why New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment.

Albuquerque, the state’s largest city by population, is an excellent jumping-off point for any number of weekend trips — most within an easy hour or two-hour drive.

Whether you’re looking for outdoorsy adventures in the mountains or are seeking an artist’s escape with galleries and museums galore, these 10 weekend road trips from Albuquerque will take you to some of the best spots in the state.

Related Read: 7 Awesome Scenic Drives in New Mexico

1. Santa Fe

road trips from albuquerque - santa fe
Photo: Shutterstock

If you’re feeling in the mood to trade one cityscape for another, head to Santa Fe for a change of scenery. New Mexico’s capital city is actually quite a bit smaller by population than Albuquerque and definitely draws in the tourists, especially in the downtown plaza area where you can find a host of shops, galleries, and restaurants to easily fill the weekend. Take a walk around town to spot the historic architecture and learn about the town’s history.

And while the southwestern arts, history, dining, and culture are definitely the big draw and what Santa Fe is best known for, you can also get out in nature too. A scenic stroll along the Santa Fe River Trail will give you a breath of fresh air. Or take a winding drive up into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains east of downtown. The foothills of Sante Fe have many trail networks if getting out for a hike or bike ride is on your weekend wish list.

  • Distance: 64 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 1 hour

2. Acoma Pueblo

road trips from albuquerque - acoma pueblo
Photo: Sakeeb Sabakka

The Acoma Pueblo is widely regarded as the oldest continuously inhabited community in the U.S. And you’ll quickly be enchanted by the ancient earthen homes of Acoma, or Sky City, which are situated on top of a rocky mesa. Once walking among the village you will quickly see how the city got its name. In order to visit Sky City, you must register for a 1.5-hour guided tour with the Acoma Tribal Council. Be sure to review all the guidelines before visiting.

While at the pueblo, you can also visit the San Estévan del Rey Mission which dates back to 1640. Both the mission and the pueblo are registered national historic landmarks. And if you want to take an even deeper historical dive, be sure to visit the Sky City Cultural Center. The center is also home to the Haakú Museum which showcases the history, art, and way of life of the Acoma people.

  • Distance: 65 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Related Read: 10 Adventurous Glamping Destinations in New Mexico

3. Bandelier National Monument

road trips from albuquerque - bandelier
Photo: Shutterstock

A weekend trip to Bandelier National Monument will treat you to a rugged getaway in New Mexico’s canyon and mesa country. From historic ancestral Pueblo sites and scenic lowlands around the Rio Grande, you can pick a hike that fits your weekend mood. One popular destination is the Upper Falls on Frijoles Creek which are beautiful no matter the season. Note that if you want to visit Frijoles Canyon during peak summer hours, you will need to take the free shuttle.

The national monument also offers two developed campgrounds as well as backcountry camping options if you want to pitch your tent or pull up your RV and sleep out under the stars. And speaking of stars, the view of the Milky Way is quite spectacular. Bandelier National Monument is currently pursuing designation as an International Dark Sky Park. In the winter, bring your cross-country skis for a tour of an over-the-snow tour of the trails.

  • Distance: 103 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 1 hour, 45 minutes

4. Jemez Springs

road trips from albuquerque - jemez springs
Photo: Kit Leong

Sometimes you need a weekend away to relax and unwind. The nearby small town of Jemez Springs offers the kind of quaint, quiet setting — complete with natural hot springs — where you can leave the hustle of Albuquerque behind for a chill weekend. The area is abundant in natural hot springs, some of which are primitive and only accessible via hikes ranging from easy to challenging.

If you don’t feel like lacing up your hiking boots to treat yourself to a spa day, the town also offers commercial hot springs, spas, and bathhouses, including Jemez Hot Springs and the 100-year-old Jemez Springs Bath House where you can soak your stress away. The town also has shops, dining, arts, events, and lodging so you can easily extend your stay.

  • Distance: 60 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Related Read: 9 Best Hot Springs in New Mexico for Soaking Your Worries Away

5. Madrid

road trips from albuquerque - madrid
Photo: Joseph McCowie

The town of Madrid started life as a coal-mining town before declining into a ghost town. Luckily, the “ghost” town isn’t too spooky anymore as it has since been revived into a creative artist’s community. The cute downtown area now features over 20 shops and galleries as well as restaurants, a spa, and a museum.

In addition to the art galleries and quaint downtown, the town has lots of fun nods to its mining and ghost town history — like the Ghost Town Trading Post and Mine Shaft Tavern. As a bonus, you can take the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway for a scenic drive to reach the village which is tucked in a narrow canyon in the Ortiz Mountains. Plus, with it being less than an hour’s drive from Albuquerque, you can easily pop over for an easy-going afternoon whenever you need a break from the big city.

  • Distance: 47 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 55 minutes

6. White Sands National Park

road trips from albuquerque - white sands
Photo: Raychel Sanner

If you’re game for a longer road trip, a drive to White Sands National Park will make for a memorable weekend. The park, which is home to 275 miles of glistening white gypsum sand dunes and five established trails, is a unique landscape with an interesting history.

The dunes are surrounded by stunning mountain views which you can take in from one of the park’s trails. Be sure to pack plenty of water and avoid peak summer heat — this is the desert, after all. Visitors interested in learning more about the Tularosa Basin’s military history can also visit the White Sands Missile Range Museum and Trinity Site, where the first atomic bomb was tested in 1945.

  • Distance: 225 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Related Read: Traveler’s Guide to the Best Colorado National Parks

7. Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Refuge

road trips from albuquerque - bosque del apache
Photo: Jeff Smith

If you’re a serious twitcher or an amateur bird-watcher (or you generally just like being out in nature), the Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Refuge is a great spot to spend the weekend doing some wildlife watching. Tucked between the Chupadera Mountains to the west and the San Pascual Mountains to the east, the 57,331-acre refuge is a bird lovers’ paradise.

Perhaps best known as being an autumn stopover for the annual migration of the always entertaining Sandhill Cranes, the refuge also sees many cranes, geese, ducks, and other migrating waterfowl throughout the year. It is also a year-round or seasonal home for four threatened or endangered species. Don’t forget your camera and binoculars!

  • Distance: 95 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 1 hour, 30 minutes

8. Taos

road trips from albuquerque - taos
Photo: Nick Fox

When you’re hankering for some mountain scenery (and perhaps some skiing in the winter), head to Taos for a weekend away. This small, artsy town has a cute downtown plaza with art galleries, fun shops, and fine dining and is also conveniently close to Taos Ski Valley, should a trip to the slopes for a powder day be on your agenda.

In the summer, the mountains around Taos are equally great for hiking, backpacking, fishing, and mountain biking. Pick your favorite summer activity to fill the day. Then head into town in the evening for a bite to eat and some window shopping after a day of playing in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The town also hosts a wide variety of annual festivals — so keep your eye on the calendar for a chance for bonus music, food, parades, and markets.

  • Distance: 133 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Related Read: 10 Relaxing Cabin Rentals Near Taos, New Mexico

9. Valles Caldera National Preserve

road trips from albuquerque - valles caldera
Photo: Zhen Li

You might not think that the remnants of a volcanic explosion could produce a lush landscape of meadows and streams, but the 13-mile wide circular depression known as the Valles Caldera is a unique ecosystem with an interesting geological past — and present. Though the original volcanic eruption took place about 1.25 million years ago, the caldera is dormant, but not extinct. You can still find signs of volcanic life with hot springs and boiling sulphuric acid fumaroles.

Plus, the preserve offers opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, and wildlife viewing. In the winter, pack your cross-country skis or snowshoes to make some tracks after fresh snowfall. With terrain that varies from open meadows with sweeping views to dense forests with meandering creeks, you’ll find that the caldera offers some spectacular scenery no matter how you choose to traverse it.

  • Distance: 82 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 1 hour, 40 minutes

10. Chama

road trips from albuquerque - chama
Photo: Dennis Donohue

The big draw in a road trip to Chama is to take a ride on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. This 64-mile route boasts of being the longest, highest, and most authentic steam railroad in North America. It undoubtedly travels through some spectacular Rocky Mountain scenery. As the train zig-zags back and forth across the New Mexico and Colorado border, you’ll see scenery ranging from aspen and evergreen forests to wildflower-filled meadows and impressive rocky gorges.

With the chance to spot wildlife and take lots of pictures, this is one weekend getaway from Albuquerque that makes for a once-in-a-lifetime outing. You can opt for a half-day outing or ride the full length on the train and take a bus back to Chama. Or for the real railfans, book an overnight stay in Antonito, Colorado and catch the train back to Chama the following day for a back-to-back railway adventure.

  • Distance: 82 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 1 hour, 40 minutes

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