Eight Days in Southern New Mexico

New Mexico was a special experience for us for several reasons, but namely because we were without our beloved Hi-Lo camper Louise as she was in the shop for repairs following a terrible tire blow out! We left her at an RV repair shop while we traveled to Pennsylvania to welcome our precious nephew Taylor into the world and then had to wait an additional two weeks for parts to come in (including a Thanksgiving holiday).

As a result, our visit around New Mexico wasn’t as logical as we would have planned it – kind of a figure eight of sorts. Therefore, in the development of this itinerary I take a few liberties with the order of how we actually proceeded so that it may prove a useful resource for others in the future. Enjoy!

On our first day, we set out to explore El Paso, starting with the Franklin Mountains State Park. We selected the Ron Coleman Trail for our first venture and were surprised by it’s incredible difficulty! It was a tough, but breathtaking climb to the top over rocky, cactusy terrain – sometimes having to use chains to pull ourselves up steep jagged cliffs! So of course, we completely recommend this trail!


For something a bit less strenuous, we opted to take in a couple of free museums in the downtown area: the El Paso Art Museum and the El Paso History Museum. The Art Museum just opened a new exhibit (literally 10 minutes before we got there!) but also included a wonderful array of southwestern and world art.


The History Museum was small, but offered good insight into the early days of El Paso.

On our second day, we continued explorations of the El Paso Franklin Mountains with a short hike on the Aztec Cave Trail


Next, we drove to the nearby (and free) Border Patrol Museum for an understanding of the history of our national border patrol. It was interesting to see how it has developed over the years…

We also wished to visit the neighboring Archaeology Museum, but it was closed for renovations. So instead, we walked along the nature trail with views of the Franklin Mountains in the distance.

We then drove out to Silver City for the night to explore the Gila National Forest the following day.

On our third day, we woke early to drive north from Silver City to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. The short 2 mile hike was lovely in the chilly morning air. The rangers there are very nice and informative!


After the tour, we drove down the road to start a hike on the Little Bear Canyon Trail. We had originally planned a loop including the Middle Fork Trail, but the rangers warned that with roughly 30 river crossings, it would be no fun. So we were happy to just do an out and back to see the canyon.

There are also options for Hot Springs in the area, but we had read about the possibility of getting meningitis from the water and decided against it! Instead, we headed back towards Las Cruces for the evening!

On our fourth day, we wanted to explore the Organ Mountains, but weren’t sure about the trail options. There are many beautiful but dangerous hikes there! We opted to go a middle route with just a little bit of danger :): the Baylor Peak Trail. It was a gorgeous hike that ended in a slight disaster when I slid down the steep rock face onto a Cholla Cactus! Ouch!


That evening we drove we drove to Truth or Consequences, briefly considering a stop at a Hot Springs, but the chilly air and meningitis memory kept us indoors for the evening!

On our fifth day, we had planned to kayak at Elephant Butte State Park., but after shaking hands with a cactus the day before, I was unable to paddle, so we just looked at the low but pretty lake. 

Next, we drove northeast to Capitan to visit Smokey Bear Historic Park, the burial place of the original Smokey the Bear. We learned all about forest fires and prevention, which seemed especially relevant as the fires raged in California.

After the sobering visit, we continued east on the Billy the Kid Scenic Byway to historic Lincoln, the site of his notorious prison escape! There is quite a bit to do in Lincoln, including the Lincoln County Courthouse, multiple historic buildings, an art gallery, a nature trail, and a brewery! We definitely recommend a visit!


That night we drove south to Ruidoso Downs for the evening.

On our sixth day, we hiked the nearby Mesa Grindstone Loop around the local Grindstone Lake. The chilly weather was perfect for a fairly easy hike. It was also nice to see so many families out for the Thanksgiving holiday!

After the hike, we drove to Alamogordo, where we visited the much advertised PistachioLand. It was quirky but cool. You can take a tour of the farm for $2, which includes a free cookie! They also have a bunch of FREE NUTS!


To round out our day, we opted for some space history at the New Mexico Museum of Space History. Alamogordo was the site of many missile tests prior to the first space launch, so it’s very historic place. The museum is complex and highly recommended! They also have an IMAX and a planetarium!


That night, we stayed in Alamogordo, one of the only towns in the area with lodging.

On our seventh day, we headed back west to visit the White Sands National Monument. The first thing we saw upon arrival were dozens of people sledding on the unreal white sand dunes. We wished we had a sled and even joked about getting our kayaks out on the dunes :).

There aren’t many trails here, but we opted for the longest and highest rated: the Alkali Flat Trail. We were alone in the desert and really enjoyed the stunning white dunes. We even saw a coyote!

On our eighth day, our pseudo itinerary starts to fall apart because we ended up all the over at Carlsbad Cavern National Park! In reality, we would have loved to have explored more of the southeast corner of the state, including Roswell and Area 51. However, at this point, we were in a hurry to pick up the camper, so made a very quick pop in at Carlsbad.

With limited time, we opted for the Slaughter Canyon Cave Tour. You have to reserve limited spaces for a ranger led tour to visit this cave. It was incredible! The features in the cave were just stunning! 

After our tour, we drove back to El Paso to pick up the camper and head into Texas! Stay tuned for the correlating Youtube video for our time in New Mexico!


  1. […] previously wrote about an El Paso itinerary here, so this adventure begins after […]

  2. […] be sure to check out our corresponding blog post Eight Days in Southern New Mexico for hyperlinks and itinerary […]

  3. Trisha and Gay Culbertson

    Love your stories and photos.

    1. Melissa

      Thanks so much! And super huge thanks for your generous hospitality while we were in Del Rio!

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