It’s called the “Land of Enchantment.” As far as mottos go, this one may be as apt as any. New Mexico, the 47th state in the Union that would, is, well — enchanting!
Even a word as vivid as “enchanting” doesn’t truly give New Mexico its due flattery. Its deeply rooted Native heritage, diverse topography, and outlaw spirit are just a few qualities that make it singular, even in the Southwest of the U.S., where idiosyncrasies run far and wide.
But that’s only half the story. Every state in the U.S. has an Indigenous history that stretches back millennia, and many boast mountains, valleys, deserts, rolling plains, rivers, and lakes that extend into the horizon. Add to that that Texas, Arizona, and Kansas might want a word or two about outlaws, and one might find themselves still searching for New Mexico’s “secret sauce.”
So, what makes up the undeniably unique essence of the old New Mexico Territory between the settled West and the clarion call of California in the early-19th Century?
The simple answer is: you have to see it to understand it.
Drive a hundred or so miles in any direction, and you find yourself in another world. There is a high desert west of Santa Fe, low, rolling hills and streams north of Taos, and majestic, skyscraping peaks of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range to the east.
There is truly no analog for New Mexico when it comes to the sheer bounty of differing worlds it holds within its boundaries.
It’s no wonder it is home to some of the greatest art and artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, including painter Georgia O’Keefe, authors D.H. Lawrence and Cormac McCarthy, and flamenco pioneer Maria Benitez.
New Mexico is a place unlike any other, and below are some can’t-miss spots when traveling to this one-of-kind state:
Santa Rosa Lake State Park: Driving west on Interstate 40, you can feel the air lighten a bit when leaving Texas and Oklahoma behind; free of humidity, the view ahead begins to widen. Welcome to New Mexico! One of the first sites along the way across the state is right here in this park. The reservoir is named after a hotspot for water lovers for hundreds of miles around. Popular activities include fishing, boating, swimming, kayaking, watersports, and hiking. This is the spot where residents look to beat the high desert heat!
Sugarite Canyon State Park: Virtually any type of outdoor activity one can imagine can be done at this site. Hiking, climbing, fishing, and boating are popular past times at Sugarite Canyon, sitting just south of its northern cousin Colorado. However, because of the remote nature of this park, the most cherished way to while away the nighttime hours might just be pitching a blanket and gazing up at the endless bowl of southwestern stars. It’s a truly magical place!
Cimarron Canyon State Park: Those looking for the magisterial beauty that makes New Mexico famous need to look no further than Cimarron Canyon. The sheer splendor of the surrounding area and the eponymous river that runs through it are enough for visitors to flock year-round, not to mention the stunning geology and some of the best fly fishing in the state. As a bonus, the park sits in the center of the Colin Neblett Wildlife Management Area, giving visitors an unparalleled opportunity for wildlife watching. This spot is a can’t-miss destination!