New Mexico's National Parks -
White Sands

New Mexico is a land of wide open spaces and we’re lucky many of them have been preserved in national parks, national monuments and national preserves. Below is a list of the federally preserved lands in New Mexico (not including BLM lands) and what you can expect to find at all of them.

New Mexico National Monuments:

Aztec Ruins National Monument

Aztec, NM

Pueblo people describe this site as part of their ancestral migrations. Today you can follow their age-old passageways to a distant time. Explore a 900-year-old Pueblo Great House of over 400 masonry rooms. Look up and see original timbers holding up the roof. Search for the fingerprints of ancient masons in the mortar. Listen for an echo of ritual drums in the reconstructed Great Kiva. Directions to Aztec Ruins National Monument

Bandelier National Monument

Los Alamos, NM

Bandelier National Monument protects over 33,000 acres of rugged but beautiful canyon and mesa country as well as evidence of humans going back over 11,000 years. Petroglyphs, symbols carved into the cliffs and masonry walls pay tribute to the early days of a culture that still survives in the surrounding communities. Directions to Bandelier National Monument

Capulin Volcano National Monument

Capulin, NM

Come view a dramatic landscape—a unique place of mountains, plains, and sky. Born of fire and forces continually reshaping the earth’s surface, Capulin Volcano provides access to nature’s most awe-inspiring work. Directions to Capulin Volcano National Monument

El Malpais National Monument

Grants, NM

The richly diverse volcanic landscape of El Malpais offers solitude, recreation, and discovery. Explore cinder cones, lava tube caves, and sandstone bluffs. Where wildlife abounds in the park’s open grasslands and fertile forests. Travel the same trail that pueblo peoples walked on their way to Bandera Volcano and witness the famed Ice Cave, which early American explores called the “Desert Ice Box.” This truly is the land of fire and ice! Directions to El Malpais National Monument

El Morro National Monument

Ramah, NM

Imagine the comfort and refreshment of finding a spring, after days crossing a waterless desert. A reliable waterhole hidden at the base of a bluff made El Morro (the headland) a popular campsite for centuries. Here, ancestral Puebloans, Spanish, and American travelers carved over 2,000 signatures, dates, messages, and petroglyphs in the sandstone. Don’t miss El Morro! Directions to El Morro National Monument

Fort Union National Monument

Watrous, NM

As the largest 19th-century military fort in the region, Fort Union functioned as an agent of political and cultural change for forty years (1851-1891). It offered military protection for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. Visit and witness its territorial-style adobe remnants as well as its rich history of the ages. Directions to Fort Union National Monument

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Silver City, NM

For thousands of years, nomadic people used the caves of the Gila River. In the late 1200s, people of the Mogollon Culture called it home. They built rooms, crafted pottery and raised children in the cliff dwellings for about 20 years. Then the Mogollon moved on—leaving us a glimpse into their lives. Directions to Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Petroglyph National Monument

Albuquerque, NM

Petroglyph National Monument protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America, featuring designs and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago. These images are a valuable record of cultural expression and hold profound spiritual significance for contemporary Native Americans, as well as for the descendants of the early Spanish settlers. Directions to Petroglyph National Monument

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Historical Monument

Mountainair, NM

Tucked away in the middle of New Mexico you’ll find Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. The three sites offer a glimpse into a unique time in history. The now-abandoned sites stand as reminders of the Spanish and Pueblo Peoples early encounters. Directions to Salinas Pueblo Missions National Historical Monument


New Mexico National Historical Parks

Chaco Culture National Historical Park

Nageezi, NM

Today the massive buildings of the ancestral Pueblo peoples testify to organizational and engineering abilities seen nowhere else in the Southwest. Come and explore the canyon that was central to thousands of people between 850 and 1250 A.D. , through guided tours, hiking, biking, campfire stories, and stargazing events. Directions to Chaco Culture National Historical Park


Dive into the biographies, events, science, and engineering that led to the creation of the first atomic bomb. How did over 6,000 scientists and support personnel secretly play a critical role in ending World War II? The Manhattan Project National Park will help you answer this alluring question. Directions to Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Pecos National Historical Park

Pecos, NM

In the midst of piñon, juniper, and ponderosa pine woodlands in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the remains of Indian pueblos stand as meaningful reminders of people who once thrived here. Now a national historical park—not far from Santa Fe—demonstrates the cultural exchange and geographic features central to the rich history of the Pecos Valley. Directions to Pecos National Historical Park


New Mexico National Parks

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad, NM

High ancient sea ledges, deep rocky canyons, flowering cactus and desert wildlife – treasures above the ground in the Chihuahuan Desert. Hidden beneath the surface are more than 119 known caves – all formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone leaving behind caverns of all sizes. Be amazed by over 400,000 bats that leave the cave each night in a whirlwind of wings. Directions to Carlsbad Caverns National Park

White Sands National Park

Alamogordo, NM

Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world’s great natural wonders – the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest field of gypsum dunes. White Sands National Park preserves a major portion of this unique landform, along with the plants and animals that live here. Directions to White Sands National Park

National Historical Trails:

El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historical Trail


Take El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail and savor 300 years of heritage and culture. This Spanish colonial “royal road” in New Mexico and Texas originally went all the way to Mexico City. The trail features the Jornada del Muerto (Day of Death), a scorching 90-mile stretch travelers had to leave the cool comfort of the Rio Grande and face an unforgiving desert. Directions to El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historical Trail

Old Spanish Trail National Historical Trail


Follow the routes of mule pack trains across the Southwest on the Old Spanish National Historic Trail between Santa Fe, and Los Angeles. New Mexican traders moved locally produced merchandise across treacherous terrain to exchange for mules and horses. Directions to Old Spanish Trail National Historical Trail

Santa Fe Trail National Historical Trail


You can almost hear the whoops and cries of “All’s set!” as trail hands hitched their oxen to freight wagons carrying cargo between western Missouri and Santa Fe. Follow the Santa Fe National Historic Trail through five states and you’ll find adventure and evidence of past travelers who made this remarkable trip before you! Directions to Santa Fe Trail National Historical Trail


New Mexico National Preserves

Valles Caldera National Preserve

Jemez Springs, NM

About 1.25 million years ago, a spectacular volcanic eruption created the 13-mile wide circular depression now known as the Valles Caldera. The preserve is known for its huge mountain meadows, abundant wildlife, and meandering streams. The area also preserves the homeland of ancestral native peoples and embraces a rich ranching history. Directions to Valles Caldera National Preserve

This article was posted by Cheryl Fallstead

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