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It's best to start from the gateway of El Paso, Texas, and make Carlsbad Caverns National Park your first stop. Take the Big Room Tour in the late morning or early afternoon, and in warmer months, be sure to catch the spectacular evening bat exodus out of the cave's mouth. Afterward you can overnight in Carlsbad. On the morning of Day 2, stop by Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park before heading north to Roswell to learn about alleged alien visitors at the International UFO Museum and Research Center and view the impressive collections of the Roswell Museum and Art Center, including the Goddard rocketry display and paintings by Southwestern artists. Push on to overnight in Lincoln. You awaken in a town of 70, where the ghosts of past gunslingers loom large. Make time for some outdoor activities in the mountains surrounding Ruidoso. A ski resort is open in winter and horse racing takes place at Ruidoso Downs in summer. Arrange your schedule so you have at least an hour for White Sands National Monument, which is open in summer until 9.
If You Have 5 Days
Spend most of your first day at Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas. At McKittrick Canyon are three trails of varying lengths. On your first evening, view the bat flight at Carlsbad Caverns National Park and spend the night there.
On the morning of Day 2, return to Carlsbad Caverns to take the Natural Entrance Route into the depths of the cavern, after which you can loop through the interior, and then take the Big Room Route. That afternoon visit Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park in Carlsbad. In the evening consider strolling some of the scenic walkways along the Pecos River at the Lake Carlsbad Recreation Area.
On Day 3 drive north on U.S. 285 to Roswell, where you can stop at the Roswell Museum and Art Center and International UFO Museum and Research Center. Continue to Lincoln on U.S. 70/380 west and take in a bit of the Wild West before settling down for the night at one of the bed-and-breakfasts there. Spend Day 4 perusing the museums and galleries of Ruidoso and Ruidoso Downs. Spend the night at Inn of the Mountain Gods or at one of the many nice inns in Ruidoso. On Day 5, swing through Cloudcroft before examining the space ware at the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo. Close your day and finish up the last roll of film at White Sands National Monument.
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