Mountains, desert, rivers and dunes? Experience it all in just one New Mexico weekend.
If you think New Mexico is nothing but desert, think again. Here you find some of the country's most diverse landscapes—from the Rocky Mountains to volcanic craters and rolling dunes. Hike, stargaze, or explore Native American adobes to see why humans have been drawn here since prehistoric times.
A 20-minute drive from Santa Fe brings you to Santa Fe National Forest, a camper's paradise with 200,000 acres of canyon wilderness. Here, the alpine forests and fly fishing streams welcome hikers and anglers of all skill levels. Just remember to pack good hiking shoes for traversing the rocky terrain.
For an off-beat camping experience, head east to Pecos National Historical Park. With a history spanning 12,000 years, this park in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is your spot to explore missions and ancient pueblos. To take in one of New Mexico's hidden treasures, head off the beaten path to White Sands National Monument. Pack plenty of water to trek across dunes of gypsum crystals, and be sure to try sledding or sand boarding.
Want to spend a weekend on the water? The region may be dry, but it doesn't feel that way at Navajo Lake State Park, where you can boat and fish New Mexico's second biggest lake. If you find yourself near Albuquerque, head just outside the city to gaze at Native American rock drawings at Petroglyph National Monument.
Wherever your compass leads you, New Mexico is a haven for tent camping under the stars. Some parks offer only backcountry camping, but there are always RV parks nearby, complete with picnic tables and hook-ups. High summer temps and mild winters make the state a great year-round camping destination. However, September through October is your best window to beat the heat—and the crowds.
The weather can change in the blink of an eye, so be sure to bring rain gear and seasonal clothing. If you're thinking of roasting marshmallows, check with your chosen park first. During dry spells, fire bans are active in many areas.