New Mexico Road Trips | Books to Help Us Get Back on the Road
Sparky's restaurant in Hatch, New Mexico

Ready to hit the road and start exploring New Mexico again? Me, too! But after a year of mostly staying home, we may need a little help finding inspiration for our road trip adventures. I’ve come across some handy books that will help you plan those excursions, whether you’re looking to find lovely campsites, delicious meals, or enchanting drives. In fact, with a little cross-referencing, you can use many of the books in this article to take a deep dive into the history, nature, culture, geology, and food of an area. I’ll focus on three newer books and then provide a list of others that are on my bookshelf but have been around longer than these new releases.

Camping in New Mexico Book: Best Tent Camping New Mexico

If you want to get out into nature this year, this book can help you plan your trips!

Best Tent Camping New Mexico 3rd Edition
Amaris Feland Ketcham
Menasha Ridge Press, 2021

The subtitle of this book is “Your car-camping guide to scenic beauty, the sounds of nature, and an escape from civilization.” Just what I need! Best Tent Camping New Mexico features 50 campgrounds across Southern New Mexico, from White Sands National Monument in Alamogordo to Pueblo Park Campground near Reserve, then north, with many camping spots clustered in the Santa Fe and Taos areas.

The guide starts with 10 pages of tips about camping and a list of campsites the author considers best for certain activities, such as bird watching, climbing, culture and history, soaking in hot springs, or for families with kids. (Preview: bird watchers might want to head to Percha Dam State Park in the south or Black Canyon Campground in the north, while climbers might want to try Blackjack Campground in the north or Aguirre Spring Recreation Area in the south.) For each of the 50 campgrounds, the book provides helpful information, including ratings on beauty, privacy, spaciousness, quiet, security, and cleanliness.

Then it dives into the details: what you can expect to see, any road issues, which campsites offer the best views or the most privacy, trails to hike, wildlife you might see, availability of water, showers, and type of toilets. Each listing features key details such as location, contact information, if reservations are needed, wheelchair access, amenities, parking, fees, quiet hours, if pets or fires are allowed, and more.

As tent campers about to become small-trailer campers, my husband and I were especially interested in finding campsites that can accommodate us. While this book focuses on tent camping, there is information helpful to trailer or RV campers, such as noting where there are dump stations, electricity, or RV-specific sites.

New Mexico Food Trails Book: New Mexico Food Trails

If you’re looking to eat well while you’re on the road, be sure to invest in this handy guidebook!

New Mexico Food Trails: A Road Tripper’s Guide to Hot Chile, Cold Brews, and Classic Dishes from the Land of Enchantment
Carolyn Graham
University of New Mexico Press, 2021

The first book got me ready to hit the road to find solace in nature, and this book has my taste buds ready for adventure! Travel and food writer Carolyn Graham’s book is subtitled “A road tripper’s guide to hot chile, cold brews, and classic dishes from the Land of Enchantment.” Sounds like a call to action to me!

New Mexico has trails for green chile cheeseburgers, margaritas, chocolate, beer, distilleries, and wine, and all are included in the book. In addition, the author guides us on our quest for delicious breakfast burritos, red and green chile, traditional treats like sopaipillas and biscochos, plus a list of diners and dives, foodie jaunts, and trails by region and town. Chapter 11 is 25 Dishes to Drive For. Southern New Mexico’s drive-worthy dishes include Si Señor’s sopaipillas, the Pecan Grill’s stuffed green chiles fried in pecan breading, the Adobe Deli’s onion soup, McGinn’s Pistachioland’s pistachio chocolate chip cookies, the sliced brisket at Mad Jack’s Mountaintop Barbecue in Cloudcroft, and Blake’s Lotaburgers’ Lota Burger with green chile and cheese.

Let’s dive into the chapter on green chile cheeseburgers as an example. After an introduction to the topic, the author lists her top green chile cheeseburger choices by area, including Farmington, Abiquiú, Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Los Alamos, Madrid, Albuquerque, San Antonio, Las Cruces, Hillsboro, Deming, Alamogordo, Cloudcroft, Ruidoso, and Roswell. Sparky’s in Hatch is highlighted as the author’s absolute favorite for green chile cheeseburgers, which is no surprise to fans of this popular diner.

Sparky’s also makes the list in the Tasty Treats chapter for their delicious shakes and lemonade. In addition, the chapter includes suggestions for places to visit in Roswell and Santa Fe and lots of cheeseburger-y photos to get your mouth watering. Each chapter highlights a different location with additional must-see venues.

Exploring the Land of Enchantment Book: Backroads & Byways of New Mexico

New Mexico author Sharon Niederman’s latest book inspires us to visit areas of New Mexico that perhaps we have overlooked.

Backroads & Byways of New Mexico: Drives, Day Trips & Weekend Excursions
Sharon Niederman
The Countryman Press, 2020

This book offers travel routes to help us explore our beautiful state by general geographical areas (northeast, southeast, central, southwest, and northwest) so we can pick an area of the state to explore and hit the road!

Author Sharon Niederman emphasizes that there is always plenty to see along the way no matter where you are. For example, I have not yet explored the far northeast corner of the state, where Sharon hails from. I was interested in her route that goes from Raton to Capulin Volcano National Monument, Clayton Lakes State Park and the Dinosaur Trackway, and Sugarite Canyon State Park, as well as skirting the Kiowa National Grasslands and other areas with significant rock formations — and much more!

I discovered that on this route there is an International Santa Fe Trail Balloon Rally in July, which is on the Raton MainStreet website for July 3 – 5 this year (you likely just missed it, but now you know for next year!). Sharon also suggests accommodations, attractions and recreation, dining and drinks, and events for each route.

This book includes tips to help travelers, guidelines for pueblo etiquette, and fun facts about the state. Sharon describes 15 routes that traverse much of the state, and I appreciate the history she includes in each chapter. In the route mentioned above, Sharon tells about the town of Folsom and the discovery of ancient projectile points used by early people, dubbed the Folsom points, by Buffalo Soldier George McJunkin after the disastrous 1908 flood during which switchboard operator Sarah Rooke stayed at her post to warn others to get to safety — and then tragically died in the flood.

More New Mexico Travel Resources

Once you’re planning your trip, you might discover you want to know more about your destinations, such as roadside curiosities you should be sure to see, where to explore Native American rock art along the way, the history of places you pass, or even the geological formations. Find these and more in the following resources, some fairly new and others that have been around for a while. Check COAS in Las Cruces for the new books as well as the chance to scoop up used copies of the older ones. This is certainly not a comprehensive list of books about our enchanting state, but a sampling of those on my bookshelf.

Eco-Travel New Mexico
Ashley M. Biggers
University of New Mexico Press, 2017

Explorer’s Guide to New Mexico
Sharon Neiderman
The Countryman Press, 2019

Guide to the Hiking Areas of New Mexico
Mike Hill
University of New Mexico Press, 1995

New Mexico Curiosities
Sam Lowe
Morris Book Publishing, 2009

New Mexico Journey Guide: A Driving & Hiking Guide to Ruins, Rock Art, Fossils & Formations
Jon Kramer and Julie Martinez
Adventure Publications, Inc., 2009

Old Trading Posts of the Four Corners
Richard C. Berkholz
Western Reflections Publishing Company, 2007

Roadside Geology of New Mexico
Halka Chronic
Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1987

Roadside History of New Mexico
Francis L. and Robert B. Fugate
Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1989

The Place Names of New Mexico
Robert Julyan
University of New Mexico Press, 1996

Written by Cheryl Fallstead

Originally publish in Neighbors magazine

This article was posted by Cheryl Fallstead

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