The wildly rugged Guadalupe and Sacramento mountain ranges cut through the south-central portion of the state, dividing the Pecos River valley to the east from the Mesilla River valley to the west. The major highway south through southeastern New Mexico is U.S. 285, accessible from Interstate 40 at the Clines Corner exit, 59 mi east of Albuquerque. If you're destined for Roswell or Carlsbad from southwestern New Mexico, the best route is U.S. 70 east from Las Cruces or U.S. 62/180 east from El Paso, Texas. To get to Roswell and other points in southeastern New Mexico, drive east from Albuquerque on Interstate 40 for about 60 mi, exit on U.S. 285 heading south, and continue 140 mi to Roswell. From Roswell take U.S. 285 to Carlsbad, about 75 mi away (320 mi from Albuquerque). From El Paso, Texas, take U.S. 62/180 east and north 154 mi to Carlsbad Caverns (187 mi to Carlsbad).
The Southeast Corner. It's a lot more like Texas than other areas of New Mexico, and you'll notice a strong Texas drawl coming from the locals. Stark expanses of land are broken by the dramatic Guadalupe Mountains, and once you've visited Carlsbad Caverns you'll realize why so many passed by them without knowing what amazing things lay below.
East-Central Outposts. Cattle are the name of the game in the grassy plains of this region. You'll see huge open areas in between the small towns and amazing wildflowers if you're lucky enough to drive through after good rains. Tucumcari and Santa Rosa offer amazing displays of vintage neon along the famed Route 66.
Heading to High Country. After visiting the visually stunning and smoldering heat of White Sands, you'll be delightfully surprised by how fast the scenery and the temperature change once you head into the mountains toward Cloudcroft or Ruidoso. The Wild West outpost of Lincoln is but one of the many fun historic towns to visit in the area.