New Mexico - 8 Days Trip Advice Please!

Jan 20th, 2011, 10:31 AM
  #1  
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New Mexico - 8 Days Trip Advice Please!

We are visiting NM for an eight-day trip in mid-May. It will be our first time in NM outside of those areas on the border with AZ so we are focusing this time on Sante Fe, Taos and the natural beauty around those areas.

As our itinerary stands, we land mid-day in Albuquerque and will head to Sante Fe straight away. We have four nights in Sante Fe, two in Taos and orginally planned to have our last two back in Albuquerque. After reading a bit on Fodors, I began aware of an opportunity to visit Mesa Verde, something that hadn't occured to me earlier.

My question is, can Mesa Verde be realistically visited on a quick two-day trip from Taos? It seems like such a wonderful place, I would love to see but wonder if we wouldn't be stretching ourselves too thin. Our flight out on a Sunday is a 7am, we would leave Taos on a Friday morning. Our last night would have to be spent in ABQ. Is one night in the Mesa Verde region, and one full day at the park, a crazy notion? Are the roads between MV and ABQ good enough for night driving?

I would be grateful for any suggestions/advice you may have to share! Thanks so much!
adventuredays is offline  
Jan 20th, 2011, 12:24 PM
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Looks like the toughest part is the unpaved road with lots of switchbacks to get out to US 160 west of Durango. I would not like driving that after sunset. Once you get to Durango, it is about 4.5 hours to Albuquerque over good US highways.
Another easier to get to, National Park in southern Colorado would be Great Sand Dunes NP.
My wife and I have stayed at the Route 66 Hostel and would stay there again when visiting ABQ.
tomfuller is offline  
Jan 20th, 2011, 01:23 PM
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I'm not sure what unpaved road tomfuller is talking about, but it's an easy drive from Mesa Verde to Albuquerque.

We spent most of a day at Mesa Verde, and that was enough for us. If you can get lodging in the park, this might be worth your while.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Jan 20th, 2011, 03:44 PM
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We've done the trip from MV to Santa Fe in about 5 hours I think so yes, you could do it in your time frame, and we used only paved roads.

About an hour from Santa Fe is Bandelier National Monument, it has ancient Native American dwellings carved into the mountainside, actually hardened volcanic ash. It is a fantastic place to visit.

Of course you could also visit Chaco Canyon, the fantastic ancient site in New Mexico, but that does have about 15 miles of gravel road to get to, but right off 550.

Pecos Ruin is also close to Santa Fe and is quite interesting, though smaller than the others.
emalloy is offline  
Jan 20th, 2011, 04:00 PM
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The Mapquest routing from MV to Durango includes a right on Road 35.5 for 4.5 miles and Road H.5 for 0.4 miles to US 160.
The 21 mile routing to US 160 looks like it has many hairpins. Total 55 miles to Durango is listed as 1 hour 26 minutes.
It would not surprise me if Mapquest is wrong.
tomfuller is offline  
Jan 20th, 2011, 04:10 PM
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Taos and Los Alamos with a trip to Bandalier NM and the high road to Santa Fe. Great Sand Dunes NM is spectacular. The mountains in the western part of the state not particularly interesting compared to more northern ones.
crisscross is offline  
Jan 20th, 2011, 04:31 PM
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Forget Mapquest, those directions are worthless.

To drive from Taos to Mesa Verde will run about 6 hours. You basically have to come back down to Bernalillo and then head west on 550. From Bernalillo to Mesa Verde is 4 hours[plus Taos to Bernalillo is 2 hours]. There is a back road route that you could take, but it will take just as long and could be pretty confusing.

I have homes in both areas so I drive these routes frequently.

Truthfully, if you leave to go to MV on Friday morning, it will take you the better part of the day to get there. You could probably make one tour in late afternoon. Then on Saturday, you could do another tour and since you want to spend your last night in ABQ [wise idea] you will have to leave mid-afternoon.

You could drive at night from MV to ABQ, the road is ok, but it is pretty sparse as far as towns along the way. Bloomfield, Aztec, then a long stretch with NOTHING until you reach Cuba. Then another 90 mile stretch with NOTHING to Bernalillo where you would pick up I25.

I would suggest taking a day off either Santa Fe or Taos to be able to get to MV. Is it worth it? You bet, it is an unbelievable experience, unlike anything else.

What kind of things to do you plan to do in SF and Taos? Taos can be done as a day trip from SF and for most folks that is really enough. Unless you are going to do hiking or something, a day in Taos is good insight into the town. Since you would be driving up and back from Santa Fe, you could get a very long, full day in and see basically the best of Taos.
DebitNM is offline  
Jan 21st, 2011, 08:07 AM
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Wow-you are all so wonderful. Thank you for the advice and suggestions. I hadn't considered Great Sand Dunes NP and will have to do a bit more research. This is why I love this board so much!

My hestitation in going to MV on Friday is leaving ourselves rushing around without having the benefit of really experiencing what promises to be a fantastic NP. It sounds like it may be a six hour drive to MV NP. If we stay over, we can have all day Saturday to explore and head out to ABQ on Saturday night (with a full tank of gas or so it seems!

We plan to visit historical sites, parks for hiking (definately Bandelier National Monument. I'm having trouble finding Chaco Canyon on my map but everyone talks about it, can't be too tough to locate), rafting with Los Rios in Taos (just booked yesterday, sounds fun!) and other activities I'm sure I haven't even imagined yet. It seems the area around Sante Fe is chock-a-block with wonders. We want time to enjoy, explore and take it all in without rushing too much. Because of the rafting trip, we'll need more than a day in Taos.

Is Great Sand Dunes a visit from Taos?

Also, should we count on a proper day in ABQ?

Decisions, decisions. I wish we had more time!

Thank you again!
adventuredays is offline  
Jan 21st, 2011, 08:51 AM
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You will enjoy the rafting with Los Rios, that is who we use.

Chaco Canyon is on the way from Bernalillo to Durango/Mesa Verde. It is about midpoint, on SR 550.

It will take about 4 hours minimum to set the major sites there and also to allow for the drive in and out.

I will post some pictures of Chaco and Mesa Verde for you later tonight.

Most folks tend to just land in ABQ and head off and I personally think that is a shame; there are some really nice things to see and do here. You should at least drive from airport to Santa Fe via Turquoise Trail. Our Bio Parks are great too, and then there is the Tram to the top of the Sandias and lots of great hiking up there. And the Indian Cultural Center; Hispanic Cultural Center; Petroglyphs and more all in ABQ.

You need more time here!
DebitNM is offline  
Jan 21st, 2011, 10:02 AM
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I would love to see some photos. Thank you for offering to post some DebitNM!

I've finally located Chaco. I was looking in the wrong place. I think I need to spend some time in a bookstore this weekend! There is obviously much more to do in our eight days than time would allow!

Thank you for suggesting the ride to Sante Fe via the Turquoise Trail. Is it known by another name or number? And, we are very much interested in the tram to the top of Sandias. I've read about it and it sounds really nice. It all sounds fantastic. Boy, do I wish I could stay a month or longer!

I would love to know what everyone's favorite hike(s) are in and around Santa Fe and Taos? Any other really special places that we should keep in mind? I've made note of all of your suggestions, and added a few of my own like the area around Abiquiu. Isn't that Georgia O'Keefe country?

I am getting really excited, and the trip is still months away!

Thank you again!
adventuredays is offline  
Jan 21st, 2011, 10:38 AM
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My favorite hike in that area is in the part of Bandelier NM called something like Tsankawi. It is about 5 miles closer to SF than the main part of the park. There are a few pictures of it at www.flickr.com/emalloy2009/sets in the 2008 set. There are a few of MV in the 2010 set if you care to look.
emalloy is offline  
Jan 21st, 2011, 12:28 PM
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Hi Emalloy:

Not that I needed to be sold, but those photos taken at Bandelier are amazing! It's very different to how I thought it would look. For some reason, I was picturing colors like those in your Antelope Canyon shots. We visited that Canyon in 2007. I liked it so much I have a photo on my office wall. The colors were incredible.

That trail that Jim is on looks pretty narrow!

Thanks so much for sharing these wonderful photos!
adventuredays is offline  
Jan 21st, 2011, 01:05 PM
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The trail that Jim is on is at the Tsankawi section of Bandelier. It is mostly unexcavated and there are a couple of ladders that you have to climb up or down but it wasn't very scary. It is an interesting contrast to the ruins at Mesa Verde and Chaco.

I didn't think of it before, but if you go up or down 550, look for Aztec ruin a little north of Bloomfield. The kiva there has been reconstructed and is very interesting.
emalloy is offline  
Jan 24th, 2011, 06:49 AM
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I've made note of the Tsankawi trail. It's come up in a few places and sounds like fun, and something different. I wonder, is the contrast to Mesa Verde that you mentioned to do with something more than a color contrast? I assume from the name that Mesa Verde is quite green? How else is it different?

I am planning the 550 route, for Chaco and to access MV. I see the note for the Aztec Ruins on the map. Don't you love a good old fashion map? I can't get enough of them. GPS is a great invention but there is something so satifying about looking at a map. I'm dating myself!

All the best,
adventuredays is offline  
Jan 24th, 2011, 07:47 AM
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The ruins at MV are mostly the tan/sandstone colored rock that is cut and then by the end of settlement housing was built in natural ledges with overhangs that mostly faced so they would capture the sun in the winter on the sides of the mesa. Early housing was pit houses on the top of the mesa. Both kinds are there. The views from MV have many places that look green and there are some green trees there, but the dwelling areas are mostly not green.

At Bandelier the rock that the housing was carved in to is soft and grey. They did still use rock to add to and build homes but the way they used the mountains seemed different.

Yes, maps are great. If you have AAA they have a map called the Indian Country Map that is very good for travel in this area.
emalloy is offline  
Jan 24th, 2011, 07:51 AM
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Though it was many years ago, I loved my visit to the NM/CO southwest, including rafting the Taos "box", probably the best of my admittedly limited rafting experiences.

As others have described, Tsankawi is less excavated than other sites. The narrow paths have been worn out of the limestone cliffs from people's feet over hundreds of years - IMO you really get a sense of history walking on them! By contrast in MV, many of the ruins were reconstructed, so you get a strong sense of history in a very different way.

We only had one day at MV, which was enough to get a good taste of what was there. Ideally, it would have been great to have two days, but we got to see plenty in the one day we had. You could look for lodging in nearby Cortez.

At the last minute, we decided to detour on our way to Taos to go see the Great Sand Dunes. The drive over the mountains and across the valley - not to mention the dunes themselves - were spectacular. It's a bit of a drive to get out there, but unless you want to go boating in the adjacent state park, you probably wouldn't need more than an hour or two at the dunes themselves.

I too love a "good old fashioned map". But for trip planning, being able to plug locations into Google Maps, get driving directions, see instantly what's nearby - can't beat that!!
ggreen is offline  
Jan 24th, 2011, 08:44 AM
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Emalloy, I just went to the AAA website but didn't see anything called the Indian Country map. I did order maps of the region in general. They'll be helpful, and will satisfy my need to use a proper map along with our GPS on our travels.

I am now thinking that we should spend our second to last night (a Friday) in Mesa Verde NP, to be able to see as much as possible in the one day we have there. We now plan to visit Chaco en route to MV. I realize that this will be a big day of driving, and will leave us short on time at Chaco, but it seems that is really the only way to see what promises to be an amazing place. We were meant to be in Taos Thursday evening but now I am thinking we should try to get further along on our route for Friday's visit to Chaco. Would my fellow Fodorites suggest an overnight in Sante Fe or further south, perhaps in Bernalillo or ABQ for that Thursday instead?

It seems routes west from Taos to Chaco do not come highly recommended by posters.

Thanks for your suggestions!
adventuredays is offline  
Jan 24th, 2011, 10:02 AM
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adventuredays, if I understand your latest itinerary, you're saying you would now go to Chaco on Friday, MV on Saturday, then drive to ABQ for Saturday night's stay before your flight out on Sunday.

IMO, I'd flip your Friday and Saturday: drive from Taos to MV on Thursday (Google Maps puts the drive at about 5 hours between the two); overnight both Thursday and Friday at MV or Cortez; on Saturday morning, drive from MV/Cortez to Chaco, about 2 1/2 hours. Then from Chaco to ABQ is the same, about 2 1/2 hours. Time permitting, with this plan you could even detour to the Great Sand Dunes near Alamosa, CO on your way to MV - it would only add about an hour driving time...
ggreen is offline  
Jan 24th, 2011, 10:28 AM
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The AAA Indian Country Map is part of their Explore! Series. The number under the bar code is 9781564137661 and it says Published by the Automobile Club of Southern California on the back but has the AAA logo on the front. It just covers the 4 corners area on one sheet and has all the points of interest and lots of little roads to get to them.

ggreen's suggestion to go from Taos to MV makes lots of sense.
emalloy is offline  
Jan 24th, 2011, 10:31 AM
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Hmmm, thank you for your suggestion ggreen. So many people discuss routes from ABQ or SF, I hadn't considered an alternative route that would give us a chance to see Great Sand Dunes AND Mesa Verde. It may be a possibility but we won't be leaving the Taos area until after our rafting trip on Thursday. We booked the morning journey and should be free to travel by 1:30 or so. Depending upon hours of daylight at this time, the route you suggested may be a nice alternative, but may not permit time (or much time) at Great Sand Dunes.

Has anyone else done this trip? Can someone speak to the conditions on the roads between Taos and MV via the Colorado route? Are they fast moving highways or more secondary routes?

Again-thank you!
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