Southwest Road Trip
February 25, 2005 12:29 PM   Subscribe

Some friends and I are going on a week-long road trip in the beginning of March. We'll mainly be around the Arizona-New Mexico border. What are some cool things we can see and do?

Here are some places I've thought of:

Gila National Forest
Canyon de Chelly
Chaco National Historic Park
Very Large Radio Telescope Array

Any other suggestions? Ghost towns, abondoned mines, rock formations, etc? Any cool / weird towns we should stop at?
posted by driveler to Travel & Transportation (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Arches National Park is amazing, but it might be out of your way. I went there last year at the end of March and the weather was incredible and scenery even better. Have a great trip, it's beautiful country!
posted by dual_action at 12:37 PM on February 25, 2005

Canyon de Chelly is truly fantastic -- I'd definitely keep that one on the list. I’ve also heard nothing but good things about Monument Valley, but haven’t been there myself (yet).
posted by nixxon at 12:42 PM on February 25, 2005

Mesa Verde national park.
Hovenweep national monument.
Chaco Canyon.

You should definitely check out these and/or other historical sites from the area's indigenous predecessors. Very worth it.
posted by norm at 12:49 PM on February 25, 2005

The Shady Dell in Bisbee, Arizona looks neat to me.
posted by Otis at 12:58 PM on February 25, 2005

Will you be up near Four Corners or down south?
posted by ewagoner at 1:30 PM on February 25, 2005

The mountains of northern New Mexico have been getting a lot of snow this year (yay!), but I don't know how much the Gila1 has been getting. I mention it, though, because some of the backcountry roads may be closed and you should be careful if a storm comes through. I recall a couple of college-age women that were trapped in a car for several days after they went across that mountain range from Arizona to New Mexico on a small forest road that was closed behind them and no one knew they were there.

Chaco Canyon is kinda out-of-the-way, but well worth visiting. I'm a big fan of the VLA, but it's out-of-the-way, too. But it's fun seeing something you've seen often in movies. Sometimes you can see the control facility (all the science is done back at NRAO in Socorro), sometimes you can't.

1 We call it "the Gila" around here, partly because there's a huge National Wilderness Area in there. Actually, it was the first NWA.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:31 PM on February 25, 2005

There's a ghost town near the base of Cabezon mountain. I can't recall if it's open to public access, or not. The hot springs ZenMasterThis mentions is in the Jemez mountains and the road nearby, state highway 4, goes up the Jemez river canyon, up and up, and eventually you come to the Valle Grande, a valley that is, incredibly, a caldera (one of the largest in the world). That's one of my favorite drives. Crossing over the top of the mountain, you reach Los Alamos, where there is a visitor's museum. Then driving down from Los Alamos (on the old road, not the White Rock bypass) to Santa Fe is spectacular.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:42 PM on February 25, 2005

There's Bandera Volcano and the Ice Caves that formed in a 17-mile long lava tube. They're just inside New Mexico from the Arizona border.
posted by onhazier at 1:59 PM on February 25, 2005

I'm not sure how far south and how far into Arizona you'll be; but about 25 miles south of Tucson is the Titan Missile Museum, an ICBM launch site that's been decommissioned and turned into a museum. We went on a bit of a lark, but it turns out to be simultaneously interesting, chilling, and inspiring.

White Sands National Monument is also really worth seeing, especially at twilight.
posted by escabeche at 2:00 PM on February 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

If you are a little further South check out Silver City, New Mexico. From Silver City you can access the Gila Cliff dweelings which are spectacular and The Catwalk National Recreation Area

The Gila National Forest is also in the area.

And the ghost town of Alma, New Mexico is an interesting look into the towns at the turn of the 20th century.
posted by Benway at 2:02 PM on February 25, 2005

Kudos, the border area is a great "frontier" and very much underrated. If you can go west-northwest about 30 miles from Four Courners into Utah there is an awesome cliffside view here... it might be a little out of the way but it's one of the breathtaking places I've seen in that region.
posted by rolypolyman at 2:08 PM on February 25, 2005

Response by poster: Will you be up near Four Corners or down south?

We'll be south of the Four Corners area.
posted by driveler at 2:09 PM on February 25, 2005

i would second white sands, it's really pretty. painted desert in the petrified forest is great, so is valley of fires if you like lava. you can see some of my photos here to decide if you like it or not. have fun! i love car trips.
posted by karen at 2:10 PM on February 25, 2005

Response by poster: rolypolyman, we won't be around there, but I've actually been to the spot you mentioned. The road up the side of the cliff is awesome.
posted by driveler at 2:15 PM on February 25, 2005

driveler - western New Mexico is pretty amazing all around. The Very Large Array (VLA), the Bosque Del Apache, the El Malpais lava fields, Bandalier State Park, Chaco Canyon and about a million other things are within reach from what it sounds like.

There are lots of abandoned ghost towns in mid-south western parts of the state. I've got a map and a couple of guidebooks at home that I can check names for.

If you want more information or to check interest on any of these things drop me a line at the email address in my profile. I'm in Albuquerque, but I've been making a concerted effort to get out into the state recently. I'll share what I know.
posted by FlamingBore at 2:26 PM on February 25, 2005

the rez* is a wonderful place to see.

* a somewhat border-disputed, not-so-touristy, but vast and majestic landscape in extreme northeastern arizona, northwestern new mexico, and southeastern utah occupied by the navajo and hopi (and zuni and ute) people.

also: lake powell, glen canyon dam, and the world's biggest bathtub ring (it's currently at 34% capacity) are worth a visit, if you're into things like that.

also: luna, new mexico, and alpine, arizona, and dolores, colorado, (all within a couple hours drive of the az-nm border region) are worth your time if you're into remote, smallish, mountainy towns. if you get to alpine, it's worth the drive up to see hannigan meadow, though the road can get rather iffy this time of the year if weather moves in. if you get to dolores, it's worth the drive up to see stoner, just to say you've been to a town named stoner. if you get to luna... well, you're on your own.
posted by RockyChrysler at 2:44 PM on February 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

Northwest of Lake Powell, you can check out Zion National Park in southern Utah. It is probably one of the most under-appreciated National Parks in the country.
posted by birdherder at 3:49 PM on February 25, 2005

I was looking for the name of some Ghost Town I stumbled on when I did the x-country thing years ago, and found this site instead.
posted by sarahmelah at 4:19 PM on February 25, 2005

Ok, I found what I was looking for, but I'm not sure if it's out of your way. The town I was thinking of was Tortilla Flat, (an old stage coach stop) but the whole Apache Junction area is very cool. There's Superstition Mountain, the Lost Dutchman Mine, good stuff - if you're looking for the ghost town / mine thing.
posted by sarahmelah at 4:47 PM on February 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

If you're going the right way, you can visit the the thing.
posted by ph00dz at 6:19 PM on February 25, 2005

White Sands is neat, but it's pretty far from the AZ border. The Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest are good.

Over by Tucson is Saguaro Nat'l Forest, and Colossal Cave is in that area, too.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:37 PM on February 25, 2005

OK... if you're up closer to the four corners area, talk of White Sands, Tucson, most of the Gila, and Silver City are probably out.

On the New Mexico side, EB has some great spots. See the Anasazi sites, the ice caves in the Malpais (near Grants). Take US 666 (recently renumbered, I think) from Gallup south -- that's beautiful country. You'll hit US 60 a bit west of Quemado, NM (IIRC)-- turn east on 60 and go to Pie Town, sitting right on the continental divide. Have some pie. Continue east to DAtil, and have the best ranch steak of your life (I suggest the Steak Sandwich) -- be sure to spot the box of "Spotted Owl Helper" sitting over the cash register. The also have a small motel, so it's a good base of operations for a couple day-trips. If you rockclimb, there's some world-class sites in the immediate area. Continue east on US 60 just a few miles to the VLA. Back at Datil, turn south and drive south to The Catwalk -- a lovely little hike through a canyon that includes, yes, a lovely catwalk. That's all part of my old stomping grounds, from my days at New Mexico Tech (in Socorro, east of the VLA on Hwy 60).

I'm not that familiar with the Arizona side, but I know Meteor Crator is within your reach.

If you've not been through the area before (heck, even if you have), you've picked the *perfect* spot for a week-long road trip.
posted by ewagoner at 9:02 AM on February 26, 2005 [1 favorite]

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