Give me 3.5 days of away-from-it-all time in the Southwest.
June 27, 2011 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Help me plan a long-weekend getaway in the Southwest. I don't have enough time to make it a road trip, but would like to drive down some scenic roads. I don't want to camp in the wilderness, but would like see a national park. I don't want a full native-american experience, but would love to buy some native american jewelry. Some shopping/dining would be cool. I want to take more photographs than I'll ever have time to upload to flickr.

I am in NY. I can fly out on Friday afternoon, and fly back in on Tuesday afternoon, which gives me 3 days (Sat-Mon) and a 1/2 (Tue). I would like to go sometime over the next 6 weeks. I can rent a car once there.

I like: native american jewelry; rock formations/breathtaking scenery; national parks; strolls through charming towns; bed-and-breakfast or ranch-type lodging; photography, lots of it.

Not this time: spas; adventure (rafting, biking, climbing) (some hiking would be fine, especially in national parks); intense road tripping (I expect to and would like to drive some, especially if the roads are super scenic, but I don't want to spend most of the weekend on the road); native american cultural immersion (some jewelry, some art, a museum, would be enough).

I have read the posts on AskMeFi about Southwest travel, and several articles elsewhere, but mostly they focus on longer road trips. I know nothing about the Southwest, and I am more confused about where to go after reading all the suggestions. There's just too much to see and I am at a loss.

I *think* what I'm looking for is a town/city near a national park... right? But where? AZ, NM? Which park, which city? Is Santa Fe too big to give me an authentic taste of the Southwest? What else is there? Off-the-beaten-path would be just fine. So would the beaten path.
posted by Opal to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not an expert, but I've flown into ABQ, rented a car and driven to Santa Fe. Stayed on the outskirts of Taos. Driven out to Ghost Ranch. Stopped a lot to gape at rocks. Eaten a ton of red and green chile foods bought a spectacular silver bracelet at a powwow. Oh, go eat chocolate at Kakawa in Santa Fe. I'll be back with anything left unlinked by other folks.
posted by rtha at 11:06 AM on June 27, 2011

One of my favoritest places is Sedona, AZ. It's breathtakingly beautiful, especially if you're interested in rock formations. Usually, I go there for a quiet weekend involving light hiking.

If you wanted to go there, you would probably fly into Phoenix and then drive (it's about two hours). There are also shuttles that go between Phoenix and Sedona, if you'd prefer. If you drive, you will also pass right by Montezuma's Castle, which is really awesome.
posted by meese at 11:07 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh! Not too far from ABQ: Tent Rocks. Do a google image search. Mind: blown.
posted by rtha at 11:08 AM on June 27, 2011

Stay out of the big cities like Santa Fe and Phoenix if you want an authentic taste.

I would say fly in and out of Phoenix - and then here is the 3.5 day driving loop -
Hwy 17 North - to Hwy 40 East - into New Mexico, to Hwy 25 South - to Hwy 10 West back to Phoenix

That route passes lots of cool things, including Sedona, the Petrified Forest, White Sands, and so much more. It is a great loop. It is about 1,110 miles. 400 miles per day, which is like 6 hours driving a day.
posted by Flood at 11:14 AM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

You want to go to Moab, Utah. It's really close by both the Arches National Park and the Canyonlands National Park -- close enough that you could hit both of them in day trips -- and still have a day to just drive somewhere, and still be around gorgeousness.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:18 AM on June 27, 2011

I think Santa Fe would be a good base camp. Lots of points of interest. Day trip to Taos (nice town, tour the pueblo). Take an overnighter south to Carlsbad Caverns (underground rock formations like you cannot imagine), stopping in Roswell (aliens!) along the way.
posted by dzot at 11:46 AM on June 27, 2011

N'thing Santa Fe. One top tip is to drive up from Albuquerque via the Turquoise Trail, not the interstate. Goes through some charming little places (like Madrid) that are worth a stop. Santa Fe seems big and anonymous out in the new bits off Cerillos Road, but there's still loads of interesting stuff to stop and look at in the old part of the city, where the focus is on traditional styles of architecture (even if you only take it as a day trip). I personally like staying up near the opera house, in the Tesuque direction, or else out towards the ski area. Tent Rocks and Bandelier are neat places nearby to visit that are eas to get to, and punch above their weight in photo opportunities.
posted by Cuppatea at 11:57 AM on June 27, 2011

The Southwest is not dense in terms of population, so you will need to do some driving. If you go the SF route, there are world class museums, lovely scenery, and several national parks not too far away. You would probably nned to fly into Albuquerque, and rent a car. It's about an hour's drive. You could take the scenic drive into Santa Fe on the Turquoise Trail, and if you pop up to Taos, the high road is nice.

If you want to get some authentic Native American jewelry, the most fun place to get it is in front of the Governor's Palace in Santa Fe. You are assured of getting authentic jewelry, because only Native Americans can sell there. There is a lot of stuff sold now that is not authentic. Albuquerque has the same deal on their plaza.

On preview, Cupatea has covered some of what I was suggesting.
posted by annsunny at 12:01 PM on June 27, 2011

Bear in mind that there are a bunch of fires raging in the Southwest right now. All of the national forests, to include the aforementioned Tent Rocks and Bandelier National Monument, are going to be closed for the foreseeable future, until we get some rain. Up-to-the-minute NM fire info here. If you're really dead set on the desert southwest, you might want to put this trip off until September.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 12:01 PM on June 27, 2011

I suggest flying to Albquerque and driving up to Santa Fe as well. You can visit the Taos Pueblo for some immersion. Santa Fe has several very nice museums. Bandelier National Monument (as long as it's not still burning over the next 6 weeks) for hiking (and the drive up there has lots of scenic rock formations).

Beware that it's very smokey in the Santa Fe area right now with 2 large forest fires billowing smoke into the air and blocking any views and a lot of parks (as mentioned above) are closed.
posted by backwords at 12:04 PM on June 27, 2011

I would highly recommend Zion National Park in Utah. It is a beautiful place, lots of hiking (both easy and challenging) and I recall seeing all kinds of great Native American art in the many little shops throughout the area.
posted by Jaymzifer at 12:21 PM on June 27, 2011

"The Southwest" is a large area, but I'm going to go with Jaymzifer and suggest Zion. We lived in L.A. for many years and at least twice a year would drive from L.A. to Zion National Park. Now we live in Wisconsin and every other year or so, overcome by nostalgia, we fly to Vegas, rent a car and drive the 2 1/2 hours to Zion. You'll pass through the small city of St. George on the way (we rarely stop there), and right at the western gate to Zion, you'll pass through the friendly little town of Springdale. Plenty of places to stay (including the lodge in the Park itself). Good places to eat (including the lodge inside the Park). Plenty of trinket shopping. And Zion is one of the most beautiful places you will ever see, with incredible sights, hiking from very easy (the spectacular Narrows) to steep and difficult (the even more spectacular Angel's Landing or Observation Point), and all levels between. Shuttle buses inside the Canyon (cars not allowed in there unless you are staying at the Lodge) make the place seem uncrowded and yet very accessible. Scenery similar to Yosemite, but in vibrant colors. One of the real charms of Zion is that, despite the fact that it is basically in the desert, water abounds. It's a real personal favorite, and I've been to most of the National Parks and lived just outside of Yellowstone for several years. Lots of flights to Vegas and easy to get out of town. So, easy flight, 2+ hours to get to the Park, three splendid days, 2+ hours back to the airport. Whatever you decide -- have a great trip!
posted by rexknobus at 1:00 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

A couple of other people have spoken to this, but I have to reinforce it: the wildfires are going to be a major factor in where you are able to go and how much you will enjoy it. Anywhere in central to northern New Mexico is a bad idea, northern Arizona ditto.

You should check both Wildfire Today and InciWeb very carefully, especially paying attention to the smoke maps, before going anywhere near Arizona or New Mexico.

We have family on the East Mountain, which is just outside Albuquerque, on route 14 towards Santa Fe. They are reporting that the smoke is causing asthma flareups and, among other things, making it impossible to use swamp coolers. The smell of smoke is pervasive, and coupled with the heat and dryness, it's making for a very unpleasant environment.

If I were in your shoes, I would strongly, strongly consider putting this trip off until at least September, if not later. Conditions are extremely unstable.
posted by scrump at 1:21 PM on June 27, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, especially those who alerted me to the wildfires. I did not know about that, and I have postponed my visit. I'll be sure to check back here once I'm ready to go!
Thank you so much!
posted by Opal at 12:33 PM on July 27, 2011

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