There are 15 New Mexico National Parks including National Monuments, Carlsbad Cavern National Park, National Historic Parks and more. The National Parks in New Mexico are some of the coolest to explore with great Pueblo historic sites.
New Mexico, Land of Enchantment, has a lot to offer in the way of National Parks and monuments. Like many of the western states, there are large tracts of land that are dedicated to preserving and celebrating the history and legacy of this country.
Beautiful rocks, mysterious civilizations, and bats escaping out of the most beautiful cave in our country are a few things that come to mind when I think of New Mexico.
Soft warm colors fill the lands of the American Southwest. People of this land have long made their mark, and New Mexico houses a few marvelous examples.
National Parks in New Mexico
Aztec Ruins National Monument
Aztec Ruins NM is located just a few miles from Aztec in the northwestern corner of New Mexico. The park is approximately 200 miles northwest of Sante Fe.
The park is open year-round and offers the opportunity to tour a 900-year old ancestral Puebloans ruins.
It marks the structures and artifacts of the Ancestral Pueblo people. These ruins represent a time period from the 1100s to the 1200s. This monument was established in 1923 and was designated a World Heritage Site in 1987.
Bandelier National Monument
Bandelier NM is located in north-central New Mexico approximately 50 miles northwest of Sante Fe. The park is open year-round though snow can close the park in the winter.
The park offers the opportunity to tour ancestral Puebloan sites, hiking and backpacking.
This was designated a National Monument in February 1916. It was named after Adolph Bandelier, an anthropologist. It is most famous for its ancestral pueblo homes, rock paintings, kivas, and petroglyphs.
Cave dwellings were popular locations throughout the southwest. Bandelier National Monument is striking because the cave is made from porous volcanic materials. The dwellings blends in this landscape with its holes of entry and windows making it a unique site.
Capulin Volcano National Monument
This monument is located in the far northeastern corner of New Mexico approximately 130 miles northeast of Sante Fe. The park is open year-round though winter storms can close the park.
In 1916 this was declared a National Monument to celebrate Capulin Volcano that rises 1000 feet and is one of the best-preserved volcano sites. It is located in an out of the way area and gives one the chance to walk a volcano.
Linking peoples to the land was a discovery made in a remote National Monument, Capulin Volcano.
Evidence found there proves that people lived here in 10,000 BC. If you are looking for a place to "get away", this could be a good option since most people don't even know about it.
El Malpais is another volcanic site which links to land containing lave tubes. It is amazing to enter one of these caves and imagine how much-molten earth passed through right where you are standing to create the landscape we see on the surface.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad Caverns NP is located in southeastern New Mexico approximately 125 miles northeast of El Paso.
These caverns are simply amazing. The “Big Room” is the size of eight football fields. There are formations throughout the caverns and expert spelunkers will enjoy this experience. There are bats that are plentiful and active in the evenings.
Check out all of our posts on Carlsbad Caverns National Park! Carlsbad Caverns, which was the setting to the movie "Journey to the Center of the Earth" no doubt because it feels other-worldly.
All of the intricate formations were formed by the same process created by combining surface water and limestone. They continue to grow today, one drip at a time.
There is more to it than that, but it is something you may have to see to believe yourself. Be sure to bring a jacket when you visit, because no matter what the temperature is on the outside, the cave is always a constant "chilly". if you are visiting at sunset, witnessing the bat flight is quite impressive.
Chaco Culture National Historic Park
Chaco Culture NHP is located in northwestern New Mexico approximately 100 miles northwest of Albuquerque. The park is open year-round though winter can bring snow and cold temperatures.
The park offers the opportunity to tour ancestral Puebloan ruins, hiking, and camping.
This area has been described as “one of the most significant historical sites in America”. This was a major urban area for the Chacoan people. It is one of the best-preserved areas of the infrastructure of an ancient culture.
The Chaco Culture National Historic Park was the center of the community for the Anasazi. The Aztec Ruins are an outlying "village" of sorts from the Chaco location offering a small labyrinth if dwellings that spark curiosity.
The doors are small and low make us wonder about what the people looked like while the geometry used in the layouts allows us to marvel at what they may have been thinking.
El Malpais National Monument
El Malpais NM is located in Northwestern New Mexico approximately 85 miles west of Albuquerque. The park is open year-round offering the opportunity to enjoy hiking and exploring lava caves.
This is a celebration of volcanology. The lava was formed from 115,000 to 2,000 years old. Malpais means “the badland” and the area has a variety of wildlife to view.
El Morro National Monument
El Morro NM is located in Northwestern New Mexico approximately 100 miles west of Albuquerque. The park is open year-round but winter storms can close the Headland trail.
The park offers the opportunity to view prehistoric petroglyphs and historic inscriptions.
The most famous feature of this area is Inscription Rock. It was first tagged by the Ancestral Puebloans and the tradition continues, like others who found the hidden waterhole at the base of the cliff left their markings as well. It looks like signing in a book at the oldest hotel in the west.
Fort Union National Monument
Fort Union NM is located in northeastern New Mexico approximately 95 miles northeast of Sante Fe. The park is open year-round and offers the opportunity to tour a 19th century US Army Fort.
This monument was declared in 1956. This was a key stopover location for those traveling the Santa Fe Trail. There were three forts located in the area.
Fort Union is a fort that was built more like a frontier village. There were no stockades of any kind. There are many stories that were repeated by those finding rest here along the Sante Fe Trail.
Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument
Gila Cliff Dwelling NM is located in southwestern New Mexico approximately 43 miles north of Silver City. The park is open year-round though winter weather can impact accessibility.
The park offers the opportunity to tour historic Native American structures and hiking.
This monument is well protected by wilderness and the Gila National Forest. This is a tiny treasure of 553 acres. It has interlinked ruins of five cliff dwellings.
These were built by people of the Mogollon culture. Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument created by people living there between the 12-1300s there's also a visitor center here to bring you back in time.
Manhattan Project National Historical Park
The Manhattan Project NHP is located in Los Alamos, New Mexico. The park includes a small visitor center and a walking tour of the town.
The park currently includes three areas at Los Alamos (locations shown in the map):
- Gun Site Facilities: three bunkered buildings (TA-8-1, TA-8-2, and TA-8-3), and a portable guard shack (TA-8-172). These buildings were associated with the design of the “Little Boy” bomb.
- V-Site Facilities: TA-16-516 and TA-16-517 V-Site Assembly Building - used by laboratory personnel to assemble components of the Trinity device in July 1945
- Pajarito Site: TA-18-1 Slotin Building, TA-8-2 Battleship Control Building, and the TA-18-29 Pond Cabin. Pajarito Site was used during the war for plutonium chemistry research and later became the main site for critical assembly work at Los Alamos after the war.
Currently, there is no access to the facilities listed above as they are within the secured Department of Energy (DOE) facility,
Pecos National Historical Park
Pecos NHP is located in northeastern New Mexico approximately 25 miles east of Sante Fe. The park is open year-round and offers the opportunity to tour pueblo and mission ruins along with a civil war battleground.
This is one of the few places “out west” where one can visit a battlefield from the civil war. The park features two Spanish Colonial Missions, the Civil War Battle of Glorieta Pass, the ancient pueblo of Pecos and the Forked Lightning Ranch.
Petroglyph National Monument
Petroglyph NM is located in north-central New Mexico just west of Albuquerque. The park is open year-round and offers the opportunity to view ancient carvings.
What stands out most about this monument truly is the extremely large number of petroglyphs that can be viewed. There are over 24,000 petroglyphs dating back from the Ancestral Pueblo period of 13000 to 16000 AD.
The petroglyphs detail everything from hunting, animals, people, masks, and designs and these provide many insights as to what was most important to the people of that time in this region.
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
Salinas Pueblo Missions NM is located in central New Mexico approximately 50 miles southeast of Albuquerque. The park is open year-round and offers the opportunity to visit Spanish Mission churches and pueblo ruins.
This was the home of the Tompiro and Tiwa Native Americans. This is also the site where Spanish missionaries came to introduce Christianity to these people.
There are ruins of the villages of the Tiwa and Tompiro people and also the ruins of four mission churches. It is located in central New Mexico.
Valles Caldera National Preserve
Valles Caldera is located in Northern New Mexico approximately 50 miles northwest of Sante Fe. The park is open year-round though winter can bring extreme weather.
The park offers the opportunity to enjoy hiking, cross-country skiing, mountain biking, hunting and fishing.
White Sands National Park
White Sands NP is located in southern New Mexico approximately 85 miles north of El Paso, Texas. The park is open year-round and offers the opportunity to enjoy scenic driving, hiking, and sand sledding.
As of December 20, 2019, White Sands National Monument became White Sands National Park.
This is a desert area covered with 275 square miles of pristine white gypsum sand. The reflection of the sun is overwhelming. For those who are familiar with snow-packed rolling hills, the appearance is similar. It is truly unique.
White Sands does not earn its reputation from being a dry flat beach in the desert. It's really bright white gypsum dunes where you will wish you had cramped a sled in the car, and people often do.
When you're there also be on the lookout for one of a kind inhabitants that are also white, so it will pay here to check out the visitor center to see what creatures you will find here.
El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail (NM, TX)
Old Spanish National Historic Trail ( AZ, CA, CO, NV, NM, UT)
Sante Fe National Historic Trail (CO, KS, MO, NM, OK)
List of National Parks in New Mexico
- Aztec Ruins National Monument
- Bandelier National Monument
- Capulin Volcano National Monument
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park
- Chaco Culture National Historical Park
- El Malpais National Monument
- El Morro National Monument
- Fort Union National Monument
- Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
- Manhattan Project National Historical Park (also Tennessee, Washington)
- Pecos National Historical Park
- Petroglyph National Monument
- Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
- Valles Caldera National Preserve
- White Sands National Park
- El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail (NM, TX)
- Old Spanish National Historic Trail ( AZ, CA, CO, NV, NM, UT)
- Sante Fe National Historic Trail (CO, KS, MO, NM, OK)
There are 15 National Parks in New Mexico with over 1.7 million visitors a year. These visitors produce over $108 million in economic benefits through tourism.
New Mexico National Parks include 1 National Heritage Area, 3 National Trails managed by the National Park Service, 1,149 National Register of Historic Place Listings and 46 National Historic Landmarks.
National Parks in New Mexico also includes 12 National Natural Landmarks, 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Check out this list of all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States), and 327 places recorded by the Heritage Documentation Program.
There are over 7 million objects in the New Mexico National Park museum collections. Along with 8,960 Archeological Sites within the National Parks in New Mexico.
National Parks in the Neighboring States
Check out this printable checklist of National Park sites in the United States to count just how many you have been to.