Ultimate New Mexico Campervan Roadtrip - Native Campervans
Ultimate New Mexico Campervan Roadtrip
New Mexico, a land of desert, green chile, sand dunes, hot springs, and caves don’t get nearly the credit it deserves. The ‘Land of Enchantment’—as it’s aptly known—is a bona fide mecca for exploration, discovery, scenic (and dull) stretches of highway, UFOs, and endless adventure. We know just the way to spend a week in New Mexico while staying in a campervan…
This itinerary from Denver with Native Campervans covers only a small portion of what the state has to offer, but it offers just enough of a taste that you’ll want to return time and again in the future. Here’s your guide to spending seven days of vanlife in the Southwest’s most enchanting state.
DAY 01: Denver to the Great Sand Dunes National Park
238 miles | 4 hours
Before you start your trek to New Mexico, pick up your campervan in Denver, then drive a few hundred arduous miles. Instead of the straight shot to NM, what better way to pass the miles than to see one of Colorado’s most treasured national parks? The Great Sand Dunes, North America’s tallest sand dunes, are true wonders to behold. Rising north of 750 feet, with the Sangre de Cristo Range as the backdrop, these dunes are simply phenomenal, especially at dusk. Spend the night at Zapara Falls, just 11 miles south of the park, but bring an extra blanket because the elevation climbs to 9,000 feet and gets chilly.
DAY 02: Great Sand Dunes National Park to Taos
109 miles | 2 hours
If you haven’t gotten your fix of the dunes the day before, head on back to the park for a sunrise hike. From there, travel south on CO 159 and make your way past San Luis (which holds the title of being Colorado’s oldest town) as you make your way to Taos. With some of the best skiing and mountain biking in New Mexico, Taos is a veritable outdoor adventure mecca. It’s also got quite a bit of fascinating culture with plenty of picturesque adobe structures typical of New Mexico. Regardless of the season, hike Wheeler Peak just off Taos Ski Valley to test your endurance and be privy to some incredible views. Las Petacas Campground just outside of TSV is a great place to crash and get in some fishing if you’re feeling up to it.
DAY 03: Taos to Jemez Springs
102 miles | 2 hours
After leaving the mountain range, get ready to experience one of New Mexico’s most hidden gems: Jemez Springs. Only 2 hours outside of Taos, Jemez Valley is thought to have been inhabited for the last 4,500 years. Amid the spiritual surroundings, you will uncover some of the most beautiful natural hot springs in the state, notably McCauley Warm Springs. After a 3-mile trek from the trailhead at Battleship Rock, you’ll encounter pristine ‘warm springs’ (80+ degrees)– just don’t mind the little nibbling fish! The Jemez Falls Campground provides the ideal place to spend the evening after a fun, relaxing day.
DAY 04: Jemez Springs to White Sands National Monument
282 miles | 4 ½ hours
The campervan New Mexico journey continues! Before heading off to White Sands National Monument, take a morning soak in the Spence Hot Springs. These 95-degree pools will relax you for the 4 ½ hour drive ahead. Along the way, grab a bite at The Grill in Albuquerque—the Green Chile Cheeseburger is ridiculously delicious. After miles and miles, you will finally reach White Sands National Monument. Like no place on earth, these wave-like dunes of gleaming white sands extend for 275 square miles in all directions, creating the world’s largest gypsum dune field. We highly, highly recommend spending a night on the dunes themselves and trekking the 2 miles to your campsite.
DAY 05: White Sands National Monument to Carlsbad Caverns National Park
182 miles | 3 ½ hours
Wake up to the beauty of the White Sands and treat yourself to a sunrise hike on the dunes before the park opens to regular visitors. Just keep the trail markers in sight, otherwise, you could get lost in a sea of white sand. After you head back to your car and attempt to rid yourself of sand, it’s off to Carlsbad Caverns. Carlsbad is one of the world’s oldest cave systems. Tour this natural wonder, especially the ‘Big Cave’, ‘King’s Palace’ and the ‘Big Room’. Be sure to check out the Bat Flight program in the evening to witness hundreds of thousands of bats exit the caves in search of food. And there’s a decent campsite near the caves to rest your head after an eventful day.
DAY 06: Carlsbad Caverns National Park to Santa Fe
292 miles | 4 ½ hours
Get an early start and head up north on US-285 to Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico. Along the way, you will pass through the town of Roswell. No trip to NM would be sufficient without a stop at the most famous UFO crash site in our country. If you want to really geek out, the UFO Museum is worth checking out. After a long drive into Santa Fe, head to The Shed for a delicious meal and an even better margarita. This beautiful town, with pueblo-style architecture and delicious green chile, is the state’s hotbed for creative art. Be sure to visit the museum named after Santa Fe’s most famous resident and ‘Mother of American modernism,’ the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. The Black Canyon Campground is an ideal place to pitch a tent for the evening.
Day 7: Santa Fe to Denver
392 miles | 6 hours
Ski Santa Fe is only 7 miles from the campground and has some great hiking/snowshoeing trails in the vicinity, particularly the Windsor Trail, a 10-mile point-to-point trail through aspen-filled forests. Post-hike, stop by Santa Fe Baking Co for a breakfast burrito smothered in ‘Christmas Chile’ before venturing back on the road. Roughly 6 hours later, you are back in beautiful Denver, CO with a plethora of pictures, memories, and sand. Sand everywhere.
We hope you have a stellar time in New Mexico with your campervan. If you have any questions before, during, or after your trip, check out our FAQ page. Don’t forget to share your adventure and tag us @nativecampervans