Southern New Mexico Road Trip With Kids
Before our first visit to New Mexico, we thought the state’s nickname – The Land Of Enchantment – was simply a figure of speech. However, by the end of our very first day in the state, we were thoroughly convinced that the nickname was actually a gross understatement.
@forsomethingmore Replying to @punker76 I genuinely love southern NM. It is so beautiful and has so much to offer. It’s okay if you think it’s crap, we’ve loved every minute of our time there. Happy Holidays! #southernnm #newmexico #newmexicotrue #newmexicohype #southwest #southwestroadtrip #usa_tiktok #traveltiktok ♬ original sound – 💔
So, if you choose to embark on a Southern New Mexico road trip with kids, or even without, we’re confident you’ll experience countless unforgettable landscapes and unique geological sites, cultural riches, and culinary delights (from affordable and classic hole-in-the-wall eateries that have stood the test of time) in this highly underrated part of the American Southwest.
Below is our ultimate Southern New Mexico road trip with kids itinerary. Our proposed route is a counterclockwise loop that starts and ends in Las Cruces, so if you’re flying to New Mexico, you can book a round-trip flight into and out of the Las Cruces International Airport (LRU).
Who This Road Trip Itinerary Is For
We’ve created this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids itinerary with outdoorsy, active, and thrifty families in mind. So, many of the accommodations we mention are the super affordable New Mexico State Park campgrounds, RV parks, or free campsites in the beautiful outdoors!
Many of the things to do are ones that require you to move your body a bit. However, if you’re not as eager to commune with nature as we are, there too are countless hotels, motels, AirBnBs, etc. in all of the places we cover, so don’t fret if you’re not the camping or RVing type. And don’t worry, not everything we recommend will make you get your sweat on.
How Long Will The Itinerary Take?
If you want to experience all we’ve listed below, and do so without too much dawdling or relaxing, it’ll likely take you 3-4 weeks. However, below we don’t provide recommended times for any of the destinations, as we firmly believe that you ought to experience any or all of these things at a pace and to an extent that you find comfortable and satisfying.
When Is The Best Time To Do This Road Trip?
The answer to this question depends on what type of weather you prefer. We don’t care for scorching heat, so we completed this road trip in the cooler months (November and December). However, if you don’t like the cold, or rather we should say the mild cold of Southern New Mexico, it’ll be best for you to avoid the winter months.
Below are some annual weather data for Las Cruces, and if you head to timeanddate.com you can explore other locations on your own. To navigate to the type of chart you see below, after you’ve typed in the city of your choice, click on the Climate (Averages) tab.
Customize To Your Heart’s Content
If you’re not keen to follow our proposed route below, no sweat. More broadly, our itinerary is a menu of options for what Southern New Mexico has to offer. And, since we’ve long ago learned the Aristotelian-inspired adage of “the more we experience, the more we know we haven’t experienced,” if you’ve embarked on a Southern New Mexico road trip with kids (or without), and you think there are items we ought to add to our itinerary, please leave us a comment below, and thank you in advance for your suggestions!
Our Road Trip Map
If you’d like to see geographically all the experiences we’ve included in our Southern New Mexico road trip with kids, you can scroll down to the bottom of this post, and you’ll find everything neatly on a Google Map.
Please Remember Safety First
Most of the things to do in this itinerary in some way shape or form require you to move your body in the great outdoors of Southern New Mexico. If you’ve never been to a desert environment, the most simple way to put it is, the environment is just about as dangerous as it is beautiful.
The best way to stay safe along this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids is to do a bit of reading/learning before you head to each site to generally know what to look out for.
The following list is NOT exhaustive in terms of what you should consider in order to stay safe out in the desert, but it’s a pretty good start. Combine this list with your own research of each site’s unique safety considerations, and you and your family will be able to have a safe, fun, and memorable road trip.
It might seem like a no-brainer, but we highly suggest you check the local weather report before setting out for the various adventure we include in this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids. This is one of the easiest ways to make sure you’ll be prepared and thus have a safe and fun time!
This one is simple. Drink ample water, and maybe even bring a bit more than you think you need. We never regret carrying a bit more water than we need, and we ALWAYS regret bringing too little. Also, if you’re going to be RVing on this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids, consider buying a water filter, and that way you’ll be sure you’re drinking safe, clean, and tasty water the entire time.
The best way to prevent sunburn is to wear long clothing. If you’re not willing to cover up with clothes, at least apply suncream, and reapply it throughout the day. Remember to wear sunglasses too.
We constantly stay VERY close to our two sons when we’re in the desert so that if they trip or stumble we might have a chance to grab them before they fall onto a cactus or something else prickly. The last thing we want is for them to get stuck by any one of the countless cacti that are endemic to Southern New Mexico.
@forsomethingmore We love the desert! BUT, I would be lying if I said i’m completely comfortable in the desert with the kids. The more you do something though, the better it gets. One tip for hiking in the desert: Bring an Ace comb. It gets those chollos out very well! Also, always teach your kids what to be aware of in the desert. Shockingly, they have only gotten spines in them once. 🩹 What do you think about hiking in the desert with kids? #deserthiking #hikingwithtoddlers #arizonahiking #hikearizona #organpipecactus ♬ original sound – Britts Fits | Small Biz
TIP: A simple ACE Pocket Comb is one of the best tools for removing large prickers. For the small ones, we recommend a pair of precision tweezers. As far as it’s possible, don’t try to remove the prickers with your fingers, as they’ll likely come out of the first person and right into your fingers!
Snakes/Scorpions/Venomous Other Things
There is a lot that goes into snake safety, however, the general rules we follow are:
- Never approach a snake.
- Move slowly, and always look where you’re stepping.
- Don’t put any part of your body under/in a spot where you can’t see what’s there. For example, don’t put your foot under a bush (snakes like to hang out in bushes), don’t walk through tall grass, and don’t stick your fingers in any holes, etc. as snakes often live in those holes.
- Step on rocks/logs, NOT over them. Often snakes like to hike under these items, so stepping over them is riskier.
- If you leave your shoes out at night, carefully shake them out in the morning.
- Don’t touch snakes AT ALL. Even once they’re dead, they can still inject venom.
- If you hear a rattler/snake, stay still. Once you know where it is, SLOWLY back away.
And, in the unfortunate event that you do get bit by a snake or other venomous critter:
- Stay Calm.
- Try not to move.
- Call 911.
- Wash the bite with soap/water.
- Take off jewelry, etc. that might restrict swelling.
- Immobilize the affected area.
- If possible, keep the bite below the heart.
- Transport the victim to the nearest medical facility ASAP.
- If you can safely ID the snake/critter, do so.
The basic idea behind mountain lion safety is:
- Never adventure alone. If you’re hiking with kids, keep them close to you, and better yet, put one adult at the front of the hiking group, put the kids in the middle, and put another adult at the back.
If you do encounter a mountain lion, the basic idea is:
- DO NOT APPROACH a mountain lion
- Convince it that you are NOT prey and that you might be dangerous
- Do all you can do to appear large, i.e. raise your arms, hiking poles, branches, etc. over your head, fan out your jacket, etc.
- DO NOT RUN, as this may stimulate their chasing instinct.
If you are attacked by a mountain lion:
- Fight back with whatever you have.
- Protect your neck, as this is what they usually attack.
- Try to remain standing, as this will keep your neck farthest from the animal.
Last but certainly not least, many of the things to do on this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids itinerary will take you off-grid and far beyond reliable phone service.
We recommend you always have a good reliable map with you, and that it be usable even when you have no phone service. We almost exclusively use GuruMaps for offline navigation for this purpose, and we HIGHLY recommend you do too.
We know that this section on safety isn’t the most pleasant, but we feel it’s better to go over it here so that you’ll be best equipped to have a safe Southern New Mexico road trip experience.
Last but not least, aside from our day hiking gear when we’re in bear country and even moose and mountain lion country, we carry bear spray. There is a bit of debate on the efficacy of bear spray, so we suggest you do your own research and decide if carrying a can or two is right for you.
Here’s Our Itinerary
And now, without further ado…Here’s our Southern New Mexico road trip with kids itinerary!
With a population of just over 100,000 spread over about 77 square miles, Las Cruces certainly isn’t too densely populated or bustling (just for reference sake Manhatten, NY has 1.6 million people cramped into just about 23 square miles), but it is indeed the second largest city in New Mexico.
Starting your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids in Las Cruces means that right at your fingertips you’ll have access to both the great outdoors as well as the perks that come with being in a sprawling yet relaxed city.
Things To Do In Las Cruces
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument
The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument includes the Organ Mountains, the Desert Peaks, the Potrillo Mountains, and the Doña Ana Mountains. We only checked out the Organ Mountains, so suffice it to say, we’re eager to come back to this spectacular spot.
Dripping Springs Natural Area
The Dripping Springs Natural Area is a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) parcel on the western side of the majestic Organ Mountains and is a mere 10 miles east of Las Cruces. It’s ripe for some easy and family-friendly hiking, wildlife viewing, and more broadly a quick and spectacular escape into nature just minutes away from downtown Las Cruces. We definitely think Dripping Springs deserves a spot on this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids itinerary.
Also, there are a number of free campsites along one of the roads that lead to the Dripping Springs Natural Area, so if you’re keen on some camping, you’ll be in luck!
Pine Tree Loop Trail
The 4.1 mi (6.6 km) Pine Tree loop trail is an intermediate/advanced route, but it’s one of our favorite hikes in our entire Southern New Mexico road trip with kids itinerary.
Tucked just about as close up to the Organ Mountains as you can get (without having to do any rock climbing), this trail takes you up close and personal with the Needles, the most iconic peaks in the Organ Mountains.
If you and your family are new to hiking, maybe skip this one, but if you’re semi-experienced and/or are up for a bit of a challenge, hike on. We also suggest you look at our day hike packing guide to see the gear we bring to ensure we have fun, safe, and memorable family hikes!
The Pine Tree Loop trailhead is located within the Aguirre Springs Campground, a scenic and affordable place to stay on the very far outskirts of Las Cruces.
Kilbourne Hole Volcanic Crater National Natural Landmark
The Kilbourne Hole Volcanic Crater is estimated to be between 24,000 and 100,000 years old and is a rockhound’s paradise!
The distinctive minerals in this area are the result of the volcanic explosion that formed the crater, and while many of the minerals in and around the crater are merely dull brown or black on the outside, inside they are commonly comprised of shimmering green/olive and yellow glass-like granules.
Prehistoric Trackways National Monument
If you’re looking for an easy and family-friendly hike that also is rich in natural history, you’ll definitely want to check out Prehistoric Trackways National Monument.
Located in the Robledo Mountains, the monument is chock full of fossilized footprints from many creatures that were alive before the dinosaurs. That means the tracks you’ll get to check out are approximately 280 million years old! Who wouldn’t want to check this out on this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids?
We hiked the Ridgeline Trail to the Discovery Trail, and it was a very family-friendly route the entire way.
Slot Canyon Hike
This slot canyon hike is an off-the-beaten-path gem of Las Cruces. What we found unique about this slot canyon, as compared to others we’ve hiked throughout the southwest, is that you’ll be able to hike up and out of the slot and onto the plateau behind it. On most others we’ve hiked, the slot eventually narrows to the point that it’s impassable.
The trailhead is more or less unmarked. Look for the gate and the part where you can duck around it. Then, you’ll essentially follow the trail south and then southwest. The trail isn’t marked, although there are some cairns, so if you’re not comfortable finding the trail on your own, maybe save this one until your orienteering skills are a bit more up to snuff.
Last but not least, we suggest you do NOT attempt to hike this slot canyon if there has been recent rain or if any is forecasted. While it didn’t flood while we were there, it’s almost undoubtedly prone to flash floods during rain events.
Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park
Believe it or not, in the dry desert environment of southern New Mexico, in the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, you can actually hike through some wetlands! The water here also makes the park a fantastic spot for birding.
The gentle nature trails here and the extremely kid-friendly visitor center (there were many things the kids were able to touch and do) made Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park a perfect morning adventure for all of us.
Las Cruces Farmers And Crafts Market
Over the course of our travels, we’ve been to a number of farmers and crafts markets, and usually, they’re nice, but nothing to write home about.
The Las Cruces Farmers And Crafts Market IS one that we think is worth writing home about. Put more simply, we’re certain it’s one of the best, if not the best, we’ve ever been to. If you’re into this type of thing, you won’t want to miss this market on your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids.
The market spans 7 city blocks and has vendors selling a wide variety of foods, produce, and crafts most of which are right from the local community. It usually happens on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8 AM until noon in Downtown Las Cruces on Main St., starting from Bowman Ave all the way up to the Main St. Roundabout, but check the website for the most up-to-date details.
Where To Stay In Las Cruces
Again, as the second largest city in New Mexico, there are plenty of places to stay in Las Cruces. The following two are the ones we recommend.
Hacienda RV Resort
If you’re RVing on this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids, the Hacienda RV Resort is a clean, well-maintained, and centrally located RV park in the area. They have a hot tub too that was piping hot, but they strictly enforce their policy that you must be 21+ to go in it.
Baylor Canyon Road – Free Camping/Boondocking
Another option for staying in the Las Cruces area, with or without an RV, is camping over on the eastern side of Baylor Canyon Road.
Generally speaking, it’s free to camp on public lands (BLM land and National Forests mostly) for 14 days, sometimes more, and that goes for both tent camping or even parking your RV. As an aside, the term “boondocking” means parking your RV somewhere off-grid.
What’s most appealing about this spot, aside from its price (again, it’s free!) is that it’s set right at the foot of the Organ Mountains, so the aesthetic of this area can’t be beaten! Also, it’s right next to the Dripping Springs Natural Area, so if you do camp here, you could easily be the first one into that area on any given day!
Aguirre Springs Campground
If being right at the foot of the Organ Mountains isn’t immersive enough for you, at the Aguirre Springs Campground, you can camp in the Organ Mountains themselves.
Usually, you’d have to hike to the type of spot the campground is set in, but in this case, you can drive right up, and the views from this campsite are SPECTACULAR let alone those you get from the Pine Tree Loop Trail which leaves right from the campground.
NOTE: If you are RVing here, and if your trailer is longer than 23 feet, the BLM does NOT recommend you attempt to tow up here. Their reason is two-fold. First, the road getting up there has narrow and sharp curves, and even more so, the campsites up there (except for two) are VERY small.
As a matter of fact, we were able to tow our 28-foot travel trailer up there, and we were lucky enough to get a spot big enough for our rig.
If you’re coming here at peak season and/or you have a trailer that is pushing the recommended size limits, we HIGHLY recommend you unhitch your rig at the bottom of the road, drive up, see if there are spaces available that will work for you (all are first come first served), and then make a decision from there.
An Old Classic Las Cruces Eatery
Day’s Hamburgers has been serving Las Cruces since 1932, so when we found this hole-in-the-wall eatery, we knew it must be good.
Upon the first bite of our burgers, our suspicions were confirmed. Be warned, however, the prices here are VERY affordable, and the burgers are massive, so if you’re prone to overeating, take a deep breath before you order.
For our family of four, with enough food to make our bellies ache a little bit, the total bill was about US$25. Not bad if you ask us. And, since it’s located right near the Farmers Market, if you didn’t find anything to feast on there, you almost certainly will here. On your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids, make sure to stop here!
Alamogordo is a great jumping-off place for many spectacular sites in Southern New Mexico. From the blindingly white gypsum dunes at White Sand Dunes National Monument to the much lesser know Dog Canyon Trail in the Oliver Lee Memorial State park, and even to the highly engaging and family-friendly Space History Museum, Alamogordo definitely deserves a spot on this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids itinerary.
Things To Do In Alamogordo
White Sands National Park
Although not designated as a national park until 2019, the spectacular and undulating gypsum dunes have certainly been recognized as spectacular for a long time. In fact, in 1933 President Herbert Hoover designated the white sand dunes as a national monument, so suffice it to say, these dunes are an old classic and with good reason.
Whether you decide to hike through the dunes, take a scenic drive through the park, or even just bring a sled (yes, we mean a snow sled) and enjoy making laps up and down a single dune, you’ll definitely want to check out this spectacular and unique part of Southern New Mexico.
NOTE: If you are able to avoid a high-wind day when you visit White Sand Dunes National Park, you’ll likely have the best experience. However, if you’re not able to avoid a windy day, we recommend you bring some ski goggles, and maybe even a lightweight balaclava, and then get out there and have a blast!
Also, from time to time the park is closed because the nearby missile range is actively running missile tests. So, check the White Sand Dunes National Park website for the most current closure information.
Heart Of The Desert Pistachios And Wines
If you like pistachios, you’ll want to check out Heart of the Desert Pistachios And Wines. Set on over 300 acres, this farm is the largest and oldest pistachio farm in New Mexico.
Formerly known as “Eagle Ranch,” until Budweiser sued them for copyright infringement, this family-owned operation offers free tours daily (check their website for the most up-to-date tour info).
If you do decide to take the tour, you’ll be able to get up close and personal with the entire pistachio farming process from how they grow on the trees all the way to how they make their delicious pistachio ice cream and the myriad other pistachio treats in their gift shop.
Oliver Lee Memorial State Park
We can’t highly enough recommend Oliver Lee Memorial State Park as both a place to camp (see below), and also a place to hike during your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids experience. While there are only two established trails in Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, there is also ample space to bushwhack and take in the beauty of the Chihuahuan Desert.
Dog Canyon Trail
The most rugged of the two trails is the Dog Canyon Trail. By all measures, this is a challenging trail, even in the cooler months. It’s 10 miles (16 km) round trip, so pace yourself.
The steep ascent right from the trailhead will almost immediately afford you spectacular views, so even if you just want to hike a bit of it, we highly recommend you do so.
Once the trail mellows out a bit in the middle section, the views are still stunning.
If you have the skill and the right day hiking gear, you’ll be able to make it all the way to the top of Dog Canyon.
Riparian Nature Trail
If you’re not keen on such an intense route, the riparian nature trail is too well worth checking out. Be careful here, however, as there is a good bit of poison ivy that grows along the small river that often flows through Dog Canyon year-round.
New Mexico Museum Of Space History
If your kids are as fascinated by outer space as ours are, you’ll definitely want to add the New Mexico Museum Of Space History to your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids itinerary.
Briefly, at the museum kids get to dress in kid-sized space suits, man the controls of a few simulators, look at and even climb on some old spacecraft, and play on a fun spaceship-themed playground.
Toy Train Depot
If your kids like trains, you’ll want to set aside some time to experience the Toy Train Depot. They’ll not only get to learn about how the railroads that now run through Alamogordo were integral to the city’s development, but they’ll also get to take a ride on a nearly mile-long mini-train that circles around the park.
Check Out Cloudcroft
New Mexico is a place of stark contrasts, and you’ll be able to experience one quite easily if you take a drive up to Cloudcroft. Starting down in Alamogordo, you’ll be surrounded by the beauty of the Southern New Mexico desert.
But…In a mere 25 miles (40 km), and about 4,500 ft (1,400 m) of elevation gain, you’ll be smack dab in the middle of a quaint mountain village and the Lincoln National Forest. Up in Cloudcroft, you’ll be surrounded by various conifers including Engelmann Spruce, Ponderosa Pine, Pinyon Pines, and Junipers.
The drive itself is worth it during your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids, and once you’re up in Cloudcroft there are plenty of shops, restaurants, and of course outdoor adventures that you can enjoy.
Where To Stay In Alamogordo
You’ll have an abundance of places to stay in Alamogordo, New Mexico. So to help you cut through the chatter, the following two are ones we recommend.
Camping in Oliver Lee Memorial State Park
Camping/RVing at Oliver Lee is a no-brainer if you’re eager to be near all that Alamagordo has to offer, you’re a thrifty traveler, and you’re okay with having the breathtakingly-beautiful Dog Canyon right in your backyard.
At the time of writing, an electric site is $14/night and a non-electric site is $10/night, the typical standard for New Mexico state park campgrounds. There is potable water available as well as bathrooms and hot showers. What more could you want?
Dog Canyon Dispersed Campground (Right Outside Oliver Lee)
If you’re really looking for affordable accommodation on your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids (or even without them), you can camp/boondock for free right outside Oliver Lee Memorial State Park at the Dog Canyon Dispersed Campground.
NOTE: The rangers at Oliver Lee are quite vigilant regarding folks stealing water from the spigot at the park’s entrance, so if you do choose to camp in Dog Canyon, make sure to bring all the water you’ll need.
An Old Classic Alamogordo Eatery
First opened in 1952, the Hi-D-Ho Drive-In has become a mainstay of the Alamogordo food scene. If you’re SUPER hungry, try their Tiger Burger, and make sure to add green chili. Or, if you’re not hungry enough to eat a cow, you could easily split the Tiger between two people. Don’t overlook their chili cheese fries, and whatever you order, make sure to try their refreshing limeade!
While Carlsbad, New Mexico in and of itself isn’t a”must-see place,” it’s again a fantastic jumping-off point for many spots we’d consider bucket list travel items.
From the Living Desert Nature Park to the countless sites you’ll see in the depths of Carlsbad Caverns National Park (as well as the lesser-know and equally as fantastic hiking above the caverns), as well as the majestic and towering peaks of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, in these spots alone, you could spend a lifetime.
However, still within reach of Carlsbad is the Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Areas, as well as a gorgeous and off-the-beaten-path canyon rim road located within the Lincoln National Forest. Truthfully, you could easily post up in Carlsbad and not get bored for a long long time on your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids.
Things To Do In Carlsbad
Living Desert Zoo And Gardens State Park
Of all the experiences on this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids itinerary that has a fee associated with it, the Living Desert Zoo And Gardens State Park, which is essentially a zoo and native New Mexico plant garden, might be the best value experience of them all. It’s also SUPER kid friendly, highly educational, and very engaging. If you leave this experience without having learned a TON about New Mexico’s native flora and fauna, we’ll eat our hiking shoes.
At the time of writing, admission costs those who are 13+ $5, those who are 7-12 $3, and kiddos 6 a whopping $0.
We easily spent half a day here, and that was with two toddlers. If you have kids who are old enough to read the myriad informational signs on their own (or who have the patience to listen to you read them), you could easily spend an entire day here.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad Caverns was designated as a national monument in 1923 and then as a national park in 1930, so these fascinating and approximately 265 million-year-old caverns have been only folks’ radar for quite a while, and with good reason.
With over 145 miles (233 km) of passages and the current deepest know point at just about 1,600 feet down (489 m), descending into this one-of-a-kind cave is unlike any other caving experience we’ve ever had.
We walked down the extremely steep and dimly lit 1.25 mi (2 km) paved trail into the caverns, but if you’d prefer to skip that bit, there is an elevator that you can ride down.
If you come here on your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids in the fall, you’ll be able to view the multi-million bat exodus from the cave that happens at dusk almost every evening.
And, no matter the time of year you visit on your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids, don’t forget to do some hiking in the often-forgotten, but still spectacular, above-ground portion of the park. We hiked the Rattlesnake Canyon Trail, but there are many others to choose from.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Technically, Guadalupe Mountains National Park shouldn’t be on this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids itinerary since it’s just over the border into Texas.
Since it’s just about 50 miles south of Carlsbad, and a mere 30 miles south of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, we’d feel remiss in not mentioning it when (a) you’ll be so close and (b) when it’s a jaw-droppingly-spectacular and undeniably bucket list-worthy place!
If you approach from Carlsbad, NM, you’ll easily notice these 260 million-year-old fossilized reef mountains that sharply rise an impressive 3000 feet (1000 meters) above the Chihuahuan Desert and certainly Guadalupe Peak – the highest point in Texas – that comes in at an impressive 8,751 ft (2,667 m) above sea level.
Given the over 80 miles of trails that weave throughout the park, we could have spent a lifetime exploring this area, so plan accordingly. Many of the trails in Guadalupe are intermediate/advanced, but one we found family-friendly was the Smith Spring Trail.
NOTE: Unlike many other national parks, Guadalupe does not have any scenic drives, and the only road going into the park is a jeep trail. There are a few parts of the park that are wheelchair accessible, but by far, Guadalupe is accessible only via hiking/walking/horseback.
Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area
If you happen to embark on this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids in the summertime, Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area is a place you simply shouldn’t miss.
Given that it’s a desert oasis, if indeed it is warm while you’re here, you’ll be able to take a dip in the waterfall’s pools, enjoy a picnic in one of the many shaded picnic areas, and of course, hike some of the trails in the area too.
This place is popular, so try your best to arrive early. And, even if you’re not here in swimming-friendly weather, the falls are still worth seeing and the hiking around the area is great too!
Lincoln National Forest
There are 134 national forests in the United States. And while Lincoln National Forest is number 70 in terms of size, it’s still a whopping 1.1 million acres! (As an aside, the largest is Tongas National Forest in Alaska coming in at 16 million acres, and the smallest is the Tuskeegee National Forest in Alabama at 11,000 acres.)
In any case, there are TONS of things to do in Lincoln National Forest, so we’ll just cover one of our favorite spots – 5 Points Vista on Guadalupe Ridge Road.
Guadalupe Ridge Road – 5 Points Vista
The drive to Five Points Vista will take you through some beautiful pine forests, and then right along the rim of Dog Canyon on Guadalupe Ridge Road. The road is approximately 1500 feet (460 meters) above the canyon floor and is right on the canyon’s edge. Drive carefully here folks!
If you do nothing other than drive out here and take in the expansive view of the canyon and beyond, you’ll certainly have a memorable experience on your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids. It’s certainly not as grand as the Grand Canyon, but it’s still breathtaking.
If you decide to do some bushwhacking in this area, as we did, we’re certain it’ll add yet another layer to this lovely experience.
Where To Stay In Carlsbad
Of the many places to stay in Carlsbad, New Mexico, below are a few we recommend.
Bud’s Place is a no-frills RV park in Carlsbad, New Mexico. It’s affordable, clean, well maintained, and centrally located for experiencing all Carlsbad has to offer. We enjoyed our stay here, and we’d recommend it to folks who like having a full hookup for their RV during their Southern New Mexico road trip with kids.
Boondocking/Camping South Of Carlsbad
If you’re open to camping, there are MANY free campsites along Route 62, heading south out of Carlsbad just south of the turn-off for Carlsbad Caverns National Park. All of this is BLM land, and again, you’re allowed to camp there for 14 days at a time.
One of our favorite RVing and camping apps is FreeRoam (iOS, Android), and it’ll certainly help you find a free or affordable spot to camp!
An Old Classic Carlsbad Eatery
La Patrona serves classic Mexican food at affordable prices, and you’ll pass right by it on your way to/from Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
The place was packed when we came here at lunchtime, and we quickly found out why. Their burritos were excellent, and their tacos were too, so it’s no wonder they’ve been selling their delicious food since 2013!
While many might claim that Roswell wouldn’t be very well known had the Roswell Indecent of 1947 not occurred, we beg to differ.
At a glance, Roswell, New Mexico, albeit somewhat of a remote place, is an unusual destination that is certainly worthy of a visit.
In addition to the many alien-themed attractions and museums, there is a robust artist community here as well as one-of-a-kind geologic sites that are protected within both a wildlife refuge and a state park.
Things To Do In Roswell
Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Way back in 1935 this place was known as the “Carlsbad Bird Refuge.” However, given how unique and valuable this area is, a short two years later in 1937 it gained National Wildlife Refuge status.
At the refuge, New Mexico’s Southern Plains meet the Chihuahuan Desert, and it’s this intersection that makes it a biologically diverse and important wetland in the larger Pecos River watershed.
Although right off the bat it may look like a boring uninteresting landscape, if you take some time to have a closer look, you’ll quickly realize that the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge is a veritable oasis in the otherwise parched New Mexico landscape. On your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids, you’ll definitely want to make a stop here.
Bottomless Lakes State Park
Again, if you’ve chosen to experience this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids during the summertime, you’ll want to make a stop at Bottomless Lakes State Park.
The system of 9 lakes here, which get successively deeper, is the perfect place to cool off on a hot summer’s day! You can swim in Lea Lake, so pack accordingly.
And believe it or not, in addition to the hiking, mountain biking, and boating here, folks actually SCUBA dive into these lakes to view the endangered Pecos pupfish, turtles, and even schools of Mexican tetra.
Roswell Museum And Art Center
The mission of the museum is that “The Roswell Museum inspires discovery and creativity along with a cultural understanding of the American Southwest and the greater community.”
In other words, if you’d like to see some brilliant southwest art, as well as historical southwest artifacts spanning the 16th to the 20th century, you’ll want to save some time for this.
International UFO Museum
Do UFOs really exist? One of the best ways to begin answering that question is by taking a trip to the International UFO Museum & Research Center at Roswell, New Mexico. It was created to share information with the world about the 1947 Roswell Incident. However, now the entire place not only covers the Roswell Incident but is oriented around gathering, preserving, and sharing everything and anything related to UFOs and related phenomena.
Spring River Park And Zoo
If you indeed embark on this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids, visiting a zoo is a no-brainer. When you explore the Spring River Zoo, located within the Spring River Park, you’ll enjoy a lovely park equipped with playground equipment and a lovely zoo. Pack a picnic lunch, and you’ll not have to worry about heading home early.
Where To Stay In Roswell
There are lots of places to stay in Roswell, New Mexico. The following two are the ones we recommend, but there are certainly a number of great options.
Trailer Village RV Park
If you’re experiencing this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids in an RV, and you’re eager to be on-grid for a bit, the Trailer Village RV Park seldom leaves anyone disappointed. Family-owned and operated, a stay here will not only support the local economy, but it’ll also give you front-row access to all that Roswell has to offer.
Alamo Road BLM Land
If you’d prefer the price of free for your Rowell accommodation, the good ol’ BLM comes to the rescue yet again! Head east out of Roswell to Alamo Road (located just east of Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge), and you’ll have plenty of free dispersed campsites to choose from!
Old Classic Roswell Eateries
For homestyle cooking and homemade pies at a true hole-in-the-wall eatery, head over to the Cowboy Cafe. Their delicious creations, their generous portions, and their fair prices make this a great stop if you’re hungry on your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids. Don’t forget to save some room for their award-winning pies and desserts!
Martin’s Capitol Cafe
For yet another hole-in-the-wall dining experience where you’ll be able to sample New Mexico classics at an affordable price, head over to Martin’s Capitol Cafe.
Of their many recommended dishes, their chili Rellenos and sopapillas are must try. And of course, since you’re in New Mexico, you’ll want to taste the most classic dish in the state, a big blow of piping hot Green Chili.
(If you fall in love with Green Chili as much as we have, you’ll want to make some time to eat your way through the Green Chili capital of the world, conveniently located in the great state of New Mexico!)
If you’re keen to see some snow in the wintertime or escape the heat of the New Mexico summer on your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids, head up into the mountains, and check out Ruidoso.
At 6,900 feet (2,100 meters) above sea level, and a year-round average high temperature of 65 F (18 C) you’ll be in a noticeably different, and considerably more temperate environment than you’ll experience in the desert of Roswell.
Things To Do In Ruidoso
Grindstone Lake Recreation Area
The International Mountain Biking Association designed this beautiful spot, so it’s ripe for some great riding. But don’t worry if you don’t bike.
Within the recreation area, you can also hike and even horseback ride on the 18+ miles of trails. In addition, there is a fantastic frisbee golf course and even watercraft rentals.
Care for some fishing? Bring your rod and reel to try to land some of the stocked rainbow trout, catfish, and even smallmouth bass. But don’t forget, if you’re over 12 years old, you’ll need to purchase a New Mexico fishing license.
Ruidoso Winter Park
In spite of the name, there is plenty to do at the Ruidoso Winter Park year-round. In the winter months, you can enjoy snow tubing to your heart’s content. In the summer months, you’ll still be able to tube down the grassy hills (there is a special slick plastic surface they lay down) as well as a zip-line and even fly down the mountain on their mountain coaster, so consider checking this out during your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids.
For skiing in the winter and mountain biking in the summer, Ski Apache is the go-to spot in Southern New Mexico. With rentals available too, you can travel light and still enjoy some time on the slopes. Make sure to check the trail conditions before heading here, as you’ll want to get the most bang for your buck.
Where To Stay In Ruidoso
There are many places to stay in Ruidoso. From cozy mountain cabins to more traditional hotels, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. The following two are what we recommend, but again, there are a number of great choices to fit your own particular preferences.
Little Creek RV Park
Located about 10 minutes outside Ruidoso, the large, pull-through, full hook-up RV sites and the forested Sacramento Mountains that surround the park make this a great option for both short-term and even long-term stays. If you do want to stay for more than a few days, ask about weekly or even monthly pricing, as you’ll score increasingly better deals.
Free Camping/Boondocking In The Lincoln National Forest
Ruidoso is more or less surrounded by the Lincoln National Forest, so that means, there are plenty of free camping/boondocking spots. Again, if you check out FreeRoam (iOS, Android), you’ll be off to the races in finding a free spot to camp.
Cedar Creek Campground
If you prefer a few facilities, consider the Cedar Creek Campground. While they only offer group sites, at the time of writing, the non-electric group site here is US$25/night, and even an electric site starts at US$60/night. So, if you’re caravaning on this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids, you’ll easily be able to get the cost down on this already affordable option.
An Old Classic Ruidoso Eatery
For a delicious but no-frills taco experience, check out Ole Taco. At this small, family-owned, and very affordable restaurant, in addition to their tacos, their enchiladas, chimichangas as well as rice and beans are items you ought to try!
Hall Of Flame Burgers
Sometimes we get a hankering for a burger. If that happens to you while you’re in Ruidoso, head on over to Hall Of Flame Burgers. And of course, since you’re in New Mexico, and you’d be missing out if you don’t eat Green Chili at every moment possible (just joking) make sure to try their Hatch Burger!
While Carrizozo isn’t a bustling metropolis, and in fact is actually quite a tiny town, it still deserves mention on this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids itinerary as it’s home to Valley Of Fires Recreation Area and is quite nearby to the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site, both places that each deserve a day, or maybe two, of exploring.
Things To Do In Carrizozo
Valley of Fires Recreation Area
Not to be confused with Valley Of Fire State Park in Nevada, Valley Of Fires Recreation Area in New Mexico is regarded among many experts as one of the youngest lava flows in the continental Unites States. The Malpais Lava Flow is literally right next to the Valley Of Fires Recreation Area (you can walk from the recreation area to the lava flow in about 30 seconds) and is definitely worth checking out. You can also camp here, as you’ll see below.
This approximately 5,000-year-old lava flow, which of course has now hardened into what looks like basaltic-fudge-ripples, is a place where you can get up close and personal with this geologic event. We definitely think Valley of Fires is worth some time on your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids.
More specifically, the BLM has built an approximately 1 mi (1.6 km) paved boardwalk – The Malpais Nature Trail – that will allow you to circumnavigate the lava field itself. The numbered stations along the route will help you gain an in-depth understanding of this unique and scenic spot.
Three Rivers Petroglyph Site
The Three Rivers Petroglyph Site is one of the only places in the American Southwest that has exclusively been protected due to the presence and concentration of petroglyphs. With glyphs that are dated from 400 to 1450 AD, you’ll be able to see first-hand some of the symbology of the Jornada Mogollon people that carved these long ago.
It’s also one of the few places in the American Southwest where you can literally walk amongst the approximately 21,000 glyphs that blanket this approximately 50 acres of New Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert. During your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids, we suggest you set aside at least a half-day to check out this stunning site.
Petroglyphs vs. Hieroglyphs
As an aside, don’t confuse petroglyphs with hieroglyphs. To oversimplify, petroglyphs are images carved into rocks that represent the advanced religions, cultures, and societies that surrounded this area. Hieroglyphs on the other hand are most commonly associated with Egyptian culture and are a collection of pictures that often represent words and form the basis of a complex writing system. Distilled, petroglyphs are stand-alone symbols, and hieroglyphs are pictures that represent words and are used as the basis of a writing system.
Where To Stay In Carrizozo
There are not too many places to stay in Carrizozo if you’re looking for a hotel, so we recommend you camp while you’re in this area.
Valley of Fires Recreation Area
We stayed at Valley Of Fires for a handful of nights, and we were very pleased with our stay. As a BLM recreation area, the price was right (as it typically is in BLM, Forest Service, and National Recreation Areas), the facilities were well maintained, and the location was perfect for exploring both the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site and of course the Valley Of Fires.
Unfortunately, there aren’t too many free camping/boondocking spots in/around Carrizozo.
An Old Classic Carrizozo Eatery
Four Winds Restaurant
Serving authentic Mexican food as well as some classic American diner food since the 1940s, the Four Winds Restaurant has certainly proven it serves tasty foods worth trying. Hopefully, while you’re dining on one of their many delicious dishes (such as the Chiles Relleno Plate) the restaurant won’t be destroyed by an airplane crash as was the case in the 1950s when the entire place had to be rebuilt.
Truth Or Consequences
If you’re wondering about the name, so were we. However, we soon discovered that back in the 1940s, TV producer Ralph Edwards emceed a game show called Truth or Consequences, and he set out to find a town that would change its name to match his show. While only a few municipalities actually applied, tiny Hot Springs, New Mexico was chosen, and the name has forever since been changed.
In brief, Truth Or Consequences is most well known for its hot springs and the nearby Elephant Butte Lake State Park, but it’s also home to a quirky retro movie theatre as well as the New Mexico Old Time Fiddlers Playhouse.
NOTE: Most of the hot springs only allow children 12 years and older, so if you’re doing this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids who are under that age, they’ll unfortunately not be able to take a dip.
Things To Do In Truth Or Consequences
Various Hot Spring Pools
There are many hot springs to enjoy in Truth Or Consequences. Each bath house has its own style and vibe, so consider a hot spring hop to get a feel for a few! The Riverbend Hot Springs explicitly allows for kids 12+, so it’ll be a good choice if you’re traveling with older kids. It’s also a treat of a place to stay, and we’ll go into that below.
Elephant Butte Lake State Park
If you’re looking for a beach experience in the middle of otherwise hot and dry New Mexico, you’ll want to check out Elephant Butte Lake State Park – New Mexico’s largest state park and largest reservoir.
With just about 36,000 acres of the reservoir to explore, if you like boating, fishing, camping, relaxing on a sandy beach, hiking or simply connecting with nature, you’ll definitely want to spend some time at Elephant Butte.
Random fact: North Dakota’s Lake Sakakawea – another one of our favorite spots – is 300,000 acres! So if large freshwater bodies and all they offer for recreation is your thing, you should definitely consider a trip to North Dakota!
El Cortez Movie Theater
While an old-fashioned movie night likely isn’t going to be an appealing experience for folks with little kids, if you’re doing this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids who can sit through an entire movie, you’ll want to consider catching a movie at the 1930s style El Cortez Movie Theatre.
New Mexico Old Time Fiddlers Playhouse
If you like to move and groove, and if you happen to be in Truth Or Consequences on a Saturday night between 7 and 9 PM, you should definitely check out the dance that the New Mexico Old Time Fiddlers Playhouse hosts.
Where To Stay In Truth Or Consequences
There are a number of places to stay in Truth Or Consequences. From high-end accommodations to more affordable options and even some super affordable New Mexico state park camping, you’ll have many choices of where to stay.
Elephant Butte State Park
At the time of writing, across the state of New Mexico, a tent site costs US$8/night, a site with water and electricity costs US$14/night, and a site with water, electricity and sewer costs US$18/night. Pretty sweet deal, huh? And, if you purchase a New Mexico State Park annual pass, those prices drop a bit.
Riverbend Hot Springs
While the Riverbend Hot Springs is quite a bit more expensive than the other accommodations we’ve included in this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids itinerary, it’s appealing for a few reasons. First, it allows kids 12+ to enjoy the on-site hot springs, and second, the price of your room/RV site includes access to their hot spring pools. Nevertheless, if you are traveling on the cheap, this will be a bit of a splurge.
An Old Classic Truth Or Consequences Eatery
Johnny B’s Restaurant
Although Jonny B’s Restaurant is a bit younger than A&B (it opened in 2015), it’s quickly become a local favorite. Any of their breakfast selections are rave-worthy, but they also make a mean chicken fried steak and even a Philly Cheesesteak that’s worth mentioning. And again, with prices that won’t hurt your wallet too much, you’ll be able to afford to eat here again and again.
Serving the fine folks of Truth Or Consequences since 1994, if you’re in the market for a burger or Mexican food, and you’re also looking for amazing value, you’ll definitely want to grab a bite at A&B Drive-In. Renowned for its green chili cheeseburger, and also well-known for its chimichangas and fried mushrooms, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.
While we normally go to a place because it has a balance between outdoorsy and active things to do as well as a cultural value and of course culinary spots too, for us, and for many others, Hatch, New Mexico is mostly about the food scene.
More pointedly, Hatch, New Mexico is the Mecca of Green Chili, and nearly the entire town revolves around both this dish and cultivating Sandilla Chilis, which they traditionally use in the dish. Make sure to save some time to check out Hatch on your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids.
In a sentence, Green Chili is a soup made from a base of Sandilla Chilis (commonly known as “Hatch Green Chilis”) and pork shoulder. It’s cooked low and slow, so by the time you take your first bite, the shoulder will be buttery soft, the chili base will only be mildly spicy, and the slight hint of cumin and garlic will underscore all the other flavors in your mouth.
It’s common to put some shredded cheddar cheese, raw diced white onion, and minced cilantro on top of Green Chili. It’s typical to eat this dish by using a small piece of a fresh and warm flour tortilla as a little spoon and then doing your best to not drip on your shirt. It’s our bet that by the time you get to the bottom of your bowl, you’ll be feverishly craving your next one – or at the least, that’s been our experience.
Things To Do In Hatch
Hatch Chili Festival
The Hatch Chili Festival happens every year in the fall right around the beginning of September. If you’re a Green Chili fanatic like we are, you might consider planning to do this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids in consideration of being able to attend this festival. Check the website for the most up-to-date information on the festival schedule.
West Hall Street – Buy Some Chilis
All around Hatch there are shops that sell dried and sometimes fresh fire-roasted chilis. In any case, walking along West Hall Street (the main street that cuts through Hatch’s “downtown”) you’ll see plenty of shops to choose from.
Village Market And Other Unique Grocery Stores
The grocery stores in Hatch sell lots of local chilis and chili products. You can stock up here if you’re not planning to return for a while. Or, if you come to love the Green Chili in Hatch so much that you plan to move to the area, you obviously won’t need to stock up. In particular, we like to browse through the Village Market. Therein you’ll also find great deals on high-quality cuts of meat.
Do A Self-Guided Green Chili Tour
Every person or restaurant that makes Green Chili has their own version of the recipe. Some are thicker than others. Some are spicier than others. Some include kidney beans. Others wouldn’t dare adulterate the delicate flavor of the Sandilla Chili with a bean, and the variations go on and on.
We suggest you head to a handful of different restaurants in town during your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids, nearly all of which serve Green Chili, and try a few to figure out which recipe you like best. And, if you hit on something you think is really great, leave us a comment below, as we’re always keen to try new places!
Caballo Lake State Park
If after you’ve stuffed yourself on Green Chili you need to walk it all off a bit, consider checking out Caballo Lake State Park. Just about 30 miles north of Hatch, and set against the stunning Caballo Mountains, you can enjoy a full range of watersports, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, birding, biking, and of course, even some picnicking on take-out Green Chili from Hatch.
Where To Stay In Hatch
There are not too many places to stay in Hatch itself, but Caballo Lake State Park is nearby.
Caballo Lake State Park
If you’ve made it this far in this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids itinerary, you know we LOVE the New Mexico State Park system. The parks themselves are always interesting and unique places to visit, and the campsites are always clean, well-maintained, and GREAT value. Caballo Lake State Park is no exception. So, if you need multiple days to fully sample the Green Chili in Hatch, we recommend you stay here.
Old Classic Hatch Eateries
B & E Burritos
One of the places we keep coming back to in Hatch is B&E burritos. Owners Willie and Esther have been serving their no-frills yet delicious Green-Chili-based fare since 1978. That’s a whole lot of Green Chili! At any restaurant in Hatch, we recommend you order an unadulterated bowl of Green Chili in order to truly taste the restaurant’s unique recipe. The same goes here for B&E. What you’ll find at B&E is that their Green Chili is quite thick, almost like a stew. And if you still have room after your purist bowl, we recommend you try their Green Chili burrito, as well as their fantastic rice and refried beans.
Opened in 2006, Valley Cafe also serves a bunch of delicious Green Chili based dishes. We recommend you go here because (a) their Green Chilis is fantastic, but also because (b) their recipe is quite different than B&E’s and serves as a tasty point of comparison. The Green Chili here is a bit thinner than B&E’s – almost like a soup – but is delicious in its own right. And again, if you have room after your bowl, consider trying their Green Chili Cheese Enchiladas.
Deming holds a special place in our hearts. It’s the place we began to hit our stride when we first transitioned into our full-time RVing lifestyle, and it’s also home to our favorite RV park in the country, or at least our favorite so far. And in addition to the sentimental value that Deming has to us, Deming is ideally located to access three bucket-list worthy state parks, a fascinating local history museum as well as a number of excellent sites for desert-rockhounding. Definitely make sure to stop in Deming for a while on your own Southern New Mexico road trip with kids.
Things To Do In Deming
Rockhound State Park
Set in the jagged and craggy Little Florida Mountains, Rockhound State Park is ripe for hiking, wildflower identification, rockhounding (of course), and even some serene camping.
It’s a pretty small state park, but its beauty is abundant in just about every nook and cranny of the park. On the Thunderegg Trail it’s possible to find thundereggs, and on the Jasper Trail, surprise surprise, you’ll be likely to find a whole load of Jasper.
In addition to how geologically fascinating this area is, scenically it’s just stunning. The hiking terrain here isn’t super challenging, so we recommend you go here to luxuriate in the breathtaking beauty of this special area, and maybe even pack a picnic lunch too!
Spring Canyon Recreation Area
Also part of Rockhound State Park is the Spring Canyon Recreation Area. Here you’ll find a number of scenic picnic areas all of which have grills, so you could come here merely for a memorable cookout.
However, if you’re like us, when you see rugged mountains like the Little Florida’s, all you can think about is hiking.
There are two trails to choose from.
Spring Canyon Trail
One option is the rugged and steep Spring Canyon Trail. Not surprisingly, this approximately 1 mi (1.6 km) trail heads nearly straight uphill to the spring, so if you’re a beginner hiker, this trail is going to be a real challenge.
In any case, the trail weaves up the Spring Canyon the whole time, so don’t forget to turn around to see the spectacular views behind you.
Unfortunately, the spring itself isn’t much to look at, but if you have a trail filter, you’ll be able to safely drink some of this fresh mountain water.
Lover’s Leap Trail
The second option is the approximately 2.5 mi (4 km) round trip Lover’s Leap Trail. If you’re an intermediate/advanced hiker, and you only have time to hike one of the two trails in the Spring Canyon Recreation Area, we recommend you hike this one during your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids.
In essence, you’ll be snaking your way up Lover’s Leap Canyon, but instead of terminating at the relatively non-scenic Spring Canyon spring, this trail ends with expansive panoramic views of the entire Mimbres Valley.
City Of Rocks State Park
If you’re journeying on this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids, and especially if your kids are 3+, you should make sure to save some time for City Of Rocks State Park.
Located about halfway between Silver City and Deming, you could do this en route to Silver City. In short, City Of Rocks is a 35 million-year-old volcanic rock column jungle gym, and it’ll keep your kiddos engaged for hours since the gentle bouldering options here are seemingly endless.
In addition to all the family-friendly bouldering, you’ll be able to do here, you can also camp here (see below), bike, hike, view wildlife, and at night do some fantastic stargazing! A no-brainer place to experience on your own Southern New Mexico road trip with kids.
Make sure to check out the visitors center too, as there’s a good bit of hands-on stuff for kids, and also a number of free publications that provide interesting information about the area.
Deming Luna Mimbres Museum
One of the best ways to learn about Deming’s local history is to visit the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum. Dedicated to sharing the day-to-day lives of the people of Deming as well as those living in the larger Mimbres Valley, this non-profit museum is certainly worth a visit. In addition, admission is on a donation-only basis and supports the continuance of this valuable public resource.
If you’ve never heard the term “rockhounding,” don’t worry, neither had we before we visited New Mexico. All it means is rock collecting. In any case, you can basically pick any random patch of desert in the Deming area (just make sure you’re not on private property), and in a matter of moments, we’ll almost guarantee you’ll find rocks that you’ll consider to be keepers. We think you’ll really love doing this on your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids.
Some of our favorite rockhounding spots are spot 1, spot 2, and spot 3. In those spots keep an eye out for ruby red jasper, translucent orange carnelian, and even some translucent green or purple fluorite!
NOTE: It’s quite likely you’ll need a 4-wheel drive vehicle to access these spots. If there’s been any recent rain, the roads leading to these spots might be rutted out to the point where only a Jeep/high-clearance vehicle can safely pass.
Use your best judgment in accessing these spots, and if they seem too intense for your vehicle, TURN BACK. It won’t be fun to get your vehicle stuck in the middle of the desert, and it could be quite dangerous too.
If you didn’t already read our section on how to stay safe on this Southern New Mexico road trip, we suggest you take a moment to do so now.
Also, the phone service in the three spots we mentioned above is questionable at best, so if you haven’t already done so, we recommend you download the GuruMaps for offline navigation app.
Where To Stay In Deming
While there are a number of places to stay in Deming, if you’ve made it this far in our Southern New Mexico road trip with kids itinerary, you’ll well know we LOVE our free boondocking/camping sites as well as the New Mexico State Parks. Below are a few of our favorite places to stay in/around Deming.
Hidden Valley Ranch RV Resort
Technically only a 55+ RV Park, we hesitate a bit to include this on our Southern New Mexico road trip with kids itinerary, as we were lucky to be allowed to stay here. But…to make a long story short, the first time we stayed here, not realizing the 55+ detail, we booked over the phone, told them there would be 4-people in our party, and only once we had arrived at the office to check in did they realize (a) we are not over 55 and (b) that two of the people in our party were our kids! Taking a bit of pity on us, they allowed us to say, and ever since, we’ve been welcomed back.
If you’re over 55, we HIGHLY recommend you stay here. This remote desert RV park is scenic, affordable, and feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere, yet, you’ll have all the comforts of a full-hookup RV park.
If you’re under 55 we suggest you give them a call and see if they might allow you to do a short-term stay on a bit of a trial basis, and the same goes if you have very young kids.
The owners, Shannon and Jolene, told us their main concern is that the long-term residents have in the past been disturbed by kids running all over the park on their own. So, if your kids are too young to be left unattended, you’ll likely have a better chance of being allowed to stay here. If you have tweens/teens, it’s likely they won’t grant you an exception.
City Of Rocks State Park
Again, as a New Mexico State Park, the price here to camp is certainly affordable, and the bathrooms as well as hot showers certainly add to the value of this experience. In addition, the campsites at City Of Rocks State Park are literally nestled in between the massive volcanic rock columns that are the main feature of this park, so camping here is quite a unique experience whether you’re on an extended Southern New Mexico road trip with kids or even just out for a weekend.
NOTE: If you’re bringing your RV here, make sure to check the length of the site you’re reserving. Some are quite small, and the largest is around 40 feet in length.
Rockhound State Park
Another great place to stay in the Deming area is Rockhound State Park. By camping here, you’ll be able to watch sunsets and sunrises while being fully immersed in the Little Florida Mountains, and if you do choose to camp here, you’ll be able to be the first one on the hiking trails both here and at the nearby Spring Canyon Recreation Area.
Old Classic Deming Eateries
It’s no surprise that you’ll be able to tuck into some delicious tacos at Tacos Mirasol in Deming, and you’ll be able to do so at a very affordable price. We suggest you try the carne asada tacos, any of their burritos, and their carne asada tortas too!
3 Questions Coffee Shop And Living Harvest Bakery
We’ve put the Three Questions Cafe And Living Harvest Bakery in the Deming section, but it’s actually a place you’ll most conveniently be able to enjoy if you take a bit of a roundabout route to Silver City, as it’s located in San Lorenzo, NM. In any case, it’s well worth a visit on your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids.
The quaint family-owned and operated bakery has been in operation since 1996, and the cafe has been open since 2012.
Even though it’s a bit of a detour if you’re starting in Deming and heading to Silver City, we think it’s worth mentioning because the food and baked goods here are EXCELLENT (we highly recommend the cinnamon rolls), and because every Tuesday through Saturday from 7 AM-Noon the owner Amy puts out a large breakfast buffet, and the price is whatever you are able to donate. So, you can have a tasty meal, support a local business and then make your way to Silver City!
We thought we’d make the last stop on this Southern New Mexico road trip with kids an action-packed one, as Silver City, New Mexico, gateway to the Gila (pronounced HEE-luh) Wilderness is chock full of memorable and engaging experiences.
From casually strolling through the historic downtown to appreciate this mining town’s earlier days (it’s still home to the largest pit mines in the world) to enjoying a number of family-friendly hikes that are just minutes from town, you’ll have plenty to experience.
Further, there are other hikes and historic sites (Billy The Kid spent much of his childhood in Silver City) that are a bit more far-flung, and of course, there are a number of local and affordable eateries you’ll not want to miss.
In sum, you’ll have no trouble filling your days here, and in fact, you may have to save some of these experiences for the next time you visit Silver City.
Things To Do In Silver City
Boston Hill Open Space
Taking a hike or mountain bike ride in the family-friendly Boston Hill Open Space, which used to be an old mine, is a great way to kick off your time in Silver City.
The hill is right in the backyard of the downtown, so you’ll get a great view of the city and beyond. There are a number of ways to access the hill, so choose the one you find most convenient. We started from the Cooper Street Trailhead, but there is also the Cheyenne Street Trailhead, and the Spring Street Trailhead to name a few.
If you can get up here for sunset, it’s certainly an experience you’ll always remember from your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids.
Dragonfly Loop Trail
Another family-friendly and scenic hike is the 3.3 mi (5.3 km) Dragonfly Loop trail that begins right off Elias Road. Keep an eye out for the petroglyphs about 2 miles from the trailhead, and if you’re here in the spring/early summer, keep an eye out for the many dragonflies that are endemic to this area. As an aside, you can also bike and ride horses on this trail.
If you’re keen to get your sweat on a bit and also experience some breathtaking and expansive views, consider hiking to the top of Gomez Peak. Starting from the Gomez Peak Day Use Area you’ll take the Pinion-Loop Trail to the Angel-Loop Trail to the Gomez Peak Trail.
Continental Divide Trail
In the course of your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids you’ll certainly not have time to hike the entire 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail, but since it goes right through Silver City, why not do a small section hike? It’s scenic, easy terrain, and could inspire you and your family to try a thru-hike someday!
Historic Downtown And Riverwalk
The entire historic downtown of Silver City is well worth a good stroll. The eclectic collection of shops ranges from outdoor gear shops to thrift stores, to the interestingly stocked Silver City Food Co-op (which carries our favorite granola bars – Taos Bakes), and many more.
The two main streets we suggest you wander down are North Bullard Street and North Texas Street. And once you’ve had enough of those, we recommend you stroll along the river walk that parallels both of those on the east. And make sure to read the mural along the riverwalk, as it’ll teach you a good bit about the city’s history.
If after all this walking and window shopping you’ve worked up an appetite, there are a number of great spots to eat right in the historic downtown, as well as others that are a bit off the main drag.
Stroll Around Western New Mexico University Campus
Another good place for a stroll is in and around the Western New Mexico University Campus, and in particular their small but beautiful gardens. And who knows, maybe you’ll like this quaint public university so much that you’ll consider applying to one of its many programs!
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
While the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is a 90-minute drive from Silver City, if you have even the slightest interest in archelogy and first-hand experiences of ancient cultures, we HIGHLY recommend you set aside some time to check out this spectacular site during your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids. (As an aside, if you find the drive a bit too much for a day trip from Silver City, consider staying at the Gila Hot Spring Ranch, a fantastic accommodation located about 10 minutes from the national monument.)
In short, a very long time ago groups of nomads took shelter in the many caves located high above the Gila River. And, while most of these folks were simply passing through, and thus were in the area on a temporary basis, in the late 1200s the Mogollon people (Southern Ancestral Pueblo), who had agricultural tendencies, posted up here for nearly 100 years.
During that time they constructed rooms up on the cliffs, made pottery, and raised nearly two generations of children. Then, in about 1300 they moved on due to a suspected drought. What they left behind, is what you’ll be able to experience today.
Gila Hot Springs
If you choose to venture to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, you’ll be right near some excellent hot springs. If you’re not planning to spend the night in the area, the Gila Hot Springs Campground offers day passes to its hot springs. Who wouldn’t like a nice hot spring soak during their Southern New Mexico road trip with kids?
Gila Catwalk Recreation Area
If you have decided to head all the way up to the Cliff Dwellings, you won’t want to miss the Gila Catwalk Recreation Area. This 0.5 mi (0.8 km) bridge has been built right into the wall of the Whitewater Canyon, so it’ll allow you to get up close and personal with this beautiful natural feature. As an aside, it’s handicapped-accessible, so it’s certainly something everyone can enjoy.
Where To Stay In Silver City
There are a plethora of places to stay in Silver City, so you’ll have many options to choose from.
Rose Valley RV Ranch
The Rose Valley RV Ranch offers both RV spots as well as casitas (little cabins), so even if you’re not doing this Southern New Mexico road trip in an RV, you could certainly enjoy a stay here.
The park is just about a 6-minute drive from the historic downtown, so you’ll have easy access to that area at a fraction of the price of staying right downtown.
The entire park is tastefully full of trees and shrubs, so each site has quite a bit of privacy. The facilities are clean and well-maintained and even include a 0.5 mi (0.8 km) nature trail.
Gila Hot Springs Ranch
The Gila Hot Springs Ranch is not located in Silver City, but we wanted to include it because it’s near the Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument, and if you do choose to stay in that area, we thought this would help.
This small family-owned and operated ranch has an on-site hot spring jacuzzi, RV sites, tent sites, and even a few self-catered apartments.
NOTE: If you do decide to stay here, make sure you stock up on all your groceries/supplies in Silver City, as there aren’t many options up in this area.
Old Classic Silver City Eateries
Adobe Springs Cafe
If you chat with the locals in Silver City, they’ll likely tell you to try the tasty creations at the Adobe Springs Cafe. Given that it’s been serving the Silver City community for just about 25 years, we were eager to try what the locals have been loving for all that time. Of the many items to try, including their huevos rancheros and fried zucchini, if you have a titanic appetite, we recommend the El Fuego burger.
Diane’s Bakery And Deli
If you’re looking for something you can eat while you walk around the historic downtown, consider grabbing a sandwich and maybe even a cookie or two from Diane’s Bakery And Deli during your Southern New Mexico road trip with kids.
Fidencio’s Mexican Food
Located about 5-minutes away from the historic downtown area, Fidencio’s Mexican Food has been serving the folks of Silver City for over 30 years, so you can rest assured what they have to offer is delicious.
This no-frills burrito shack certainly did not disappoint us in both taste and value. We recommend the California burrito, but we’ve also heard that the carne asada burrito (if they haven’t sold out by the time you get there) is also a must-eat item! As an aside, the only seating here is outdoors and under a small carport-type thing, so if it’s chilly or wet, plan accordingly.
Care for some no-nonsense Mexican food, check out the Grinder Mill. Located right near the university, you could stroll around campus, and then eat here. Best known for its Menudo, chili, and tamales, this hole-in-the-wall eatery has been serving the university students and staff for ages, so you know it’ll be good!
Our Itinerary Route Map
As we mentioned way above, our suggested Southern New Mexico road trip with kids route is a loop that starts and ends in Las Cruces, however, you can use this map as you’d like. Don’t forget to click the menu button to see all the labels for the pins on the map.
Also, all the items in the map menu appear in the same order and with the same names as we’ve used above, so again, don’t forget to click the menu button .
Conclusion – Southern New Mexico Road Trip With Kids
If you’ve made it this far in our Southern New Mexico road trip with kids itinerary, we say, “Congratulations!” We realize that there is a TON of information in this itinerary, but again, we’re always aware that the more we experience, the more we know we haven’t experienced.
As we continue to explore Southern New Mexico, we’ll update this accordingly. And more importantly, if you have suggestions for what we might add to this guide (or maybe even subtract), leave us a comment below, and in the meantime, happy road-tripping!
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