When I found out I was moving to west Texas a couple of years ago I immediately started looking for new places to see and was surprised that Carlsbad Caverns was only four hours away. Through my research, I discovered White Sands National Monument, which is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen. The more I researched places to see in New Mexico the more I found and I simply can’t see them all in one trip. I spent a long time planning this trip and decided to stick to the southern portion of the state. One day I’ll have to make back to see the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument and Bandelier National Monument on the northern side of the state.
We drove through West Texas to Carlsbad Caverns and explored the caves. We hiked down into the caverns, which is roughly the height of the Empire State Building, then we took an elevator back up. The further you go down the more amazing it gets. My pictures didn’t turn out well and definitely don’t do it justice. This was my son’s second favorite stop on our road trip.
We headed to Gila National Forest, it was a long drive with amazing scenery. Once you get to the National Forest you have a long drive into the mountains, then you continue on foot to the Gila National Forest Cliff Dwellings. The dwellings were built by the Mogollon people in the late 1200s. By 1300 they had moved on leaving a glimpse of what life was like for them. We then stayed the night in Silver City, NM in an Airbnb.
We drove from Silver City to Alto but stopped at the Lake Valley Historic Townsite in the middle of nowhere. It was once a booming silver mining town that you can now explore. The restored schoolhouse is also a museum and where we discovered a very knowledgable Bureau of Land Management caretaker. He was full of information and a joy to chat with. Along the way to Alto, we also came across Valley of Fires, where Little Black Peak erupted 5,000 years ago. We checked into our Airbnb cabin in Alto which is where we stayed for the rest of our trip. It was nice having a place with a kitchen and using it as a base for our sightseeing. It was a good distance to head out, but part of what makes New Mexico so beautiful is the amazing landscape. What made the cabin in the mountains even more amazing was that it snowed while we were there!
We had originally planned a down day, but the snow was forecasted for the next day so we decided to rearrange some plans. For the afternoon we headed to Three Rivers Petroglyph site and hiked the hill to see thousands of petroglyphs. After checking the visitor center you hike up a hill and discover all the petroglyphs along the path. Don’t forget to stop and turn around, otherwise, you’ll miss some.
It snowed all night long so we decided to stay in the cabin all day and played board games. Of course, we had to head out and have some fun in the snow.
We spent the day at White Sands National Monument sledding the dunes in the Chihuahuan desert. It’s made from gypsum which doesn’t get as hot from the sun like quartz-based sand. So we left our shoes in the car and walked barefoot while looking for dunes to sled down. You can rent sleds from the gift shop if there are any left, if not you can buy one for around $20. Don’t forget to buy wax for your sled! We noticed the paths that people take down the dunes are better for sledding, the sand gets a little compacted and lets you go a little faster. I also suggest bringing a small bag to carry water and snacks with you into the dunes. This was definitely my family’s favorite day. On the way back to the cabin we stopped at PistachioLand in Alamogordo, they offer farm tours.
We checked out of the cabin to head home. On the way, we headed to Roswell, New Mexico, and had the impossible burger at Chef Toddzilla Gourmet Burgers. It was absolutely amazing! Our last stop before heading home was the International UFO Museum and Research Center.
Now for the Food
For this trip, we stayed at a couple of different places for a night each, then in a cabin for four nights. To make breakfast a snap, I buy Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal cups when we stay somewhere without a kitchen. All you need is water and a microwave, then add a piece of fruit on the side. For longer stays with kitchens, I like to bring granola and buy milk when we get there. This time we decided to get fancy because we found a whole wheat pancake mix at the grocery store.
For lunch, I packed chickpea salad sandwiches ahead of time and stored them in the cooler for the first couple of days. We added cherry tomatoes and mandarin oranges to make it a meal. On our third day of driving, I opted to make peanut butter and banana sandwiches for lunch, because I thought my little chickpea would dig it. Once we were in the cabin we had leftovers from the dinner the night before, except for some lunches that we planned to eat out. There is a Carls Jr. near White Sands Monument and my hubby had been wanting to try the beyond burger. We also stopped at Chef Toddzilla in Roswell to try the impossible burger on the last day. It’s a gourmet burger joint with outside seating with amazing food. I ordered mine with green chilies, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and mustard. It was absolutely amazing! While we’re on road trips we definitely eat out more than we do at home, happycow.net is a great resource for vegan options.
For dinners in the cabin, we had tofu scramble with potatoes, onions, bell pepper, mushrooms, topped with avocado and tomato slices. Another night was a simple three-bean chili served on top of barley. We used Happycow.net to find restaurants in Ruidoso for dinner a couple of nights.
Chain Restaurants to Eat While on the Road
Denny’s- offers skillet dishes (order without egg, cheese, and sausage), and build your own burger with a veggie burger
McAlister’s Deli- offers potatoes, veggie chili, and the veggie sandwich without mayo or cheese
Subway- a veggie sub loaded up with veggies
Chipotle- Bowls, burritos, or tacos with Sofritas, beans, rice, veggies, salsa and guac
Mellow Mushroom- offers vegan pizza, tofu and tempeh hoagies
Quiznos- wheat veggie sub without cheese
Red Robin- offers a veggie patty and the Impossible Burger
Chili’s- order fajitas loaded with veggies and a side of tortillas, Mexican rice and black beans
We had an amazing time on our trip and this was one of my favorite family road trips so far!