In case you are new around here, I love using the state slogans or some sort of geological feature in the titles on these travel posts. In this instance, the state slogan of New Mexico, is “it grows as it goes.” At first, this made zero sense to me. But, then my mind twisted the phrase a bit and came up with, “it grows on you as you go.”
This altered slogan is absolutely true of our time in New Mexico.
But, before I can launch into our official New Mexico travel adventures, I first must finish up our travels in Texas. Texas is just so damn large, it took forever for us to finally make our way out.
South Llano River
After leaving San Antonio, we stopped for one night at a wonderful state park. I would absolutely visit this place again and highly recommend it. Upon arriving, we found a resident armadillo searching for food right next to our site. He was timid, but not at all worried about us gawking at his adorablness.
We also hiked two separate trails while we here. We had a really good time.
The only downside to this place, is that if you are late for noon checkout (like we were), they will knock on your door at 12:05 to let you know you are late and that you need to leave immediately. Luckily, we didn’t unhook the truck, so leaving was super easy.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
So technically, we were parked in New Mexico while visiting this lovely Texas National Park, so we did make it out of Texas.
So this National Park was pretty stunning. There were some really neat trails, BUT this is not a park for little hikers. There were a couple of trails (see below), but the vast majority of hikes were up into the actual mountains and were not short enough for the 6-year-old and 3-year-old’s little legs. We did find a couple good options and I would still absolutely visit the park if you are in the area.
The Pinery – Hike 1
This trailhead is right near the visitor center, so it was an easy choice to begin our adventures on. It is paved, which made my adventurous 6-year-old a bit frustrated. But after just under half a mile you reach the end and get to explore some Pony Express building ruins. That was really neat. Plus the trail acts as a nature trail, with labeled plants. This is one of the ways we learn how to identify many plants in the areas we visit, so we like these types of trails.
Mckittrick Canyon Nature Loop – Hike 2
This was by far my favorite trail. It is one mile and takes you up onto a small hill, so there are some really lovely views. The 6-year-old was a little afraid of the narrow trail and cactus-filled drop off, but otherwise this trail is perfect for little hikers. The 3-year-old handled it like a champ. We stopped at the top for a snack before heading back down.
I would absolutely recommend turning left at the beginning of the trail, this way you are headed up along the more narrow part of the trail and will avoid the inevitable downhill tumble. Or is that just my 3-year-old?
Manzanita Spring Trail – Hike 3
This was the shortest hike and probably the one with the biggest let down for us. When we hear the word spring, we assume that we will be able to explore the water. In this case, the water is pretty hidden and surrounded by tall grass. We try to adhere to Leave No Trace practices, so leaving the trail to romp through the tall, possibly snake dwelling, grass was not on our agenda.
We did however, find a neat, semi-shaded spot to have a snack and read a book. So that was a plus for sure.
Like I mentioned earlier, our home was actually parked at a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) free campground called Chosa. This was essentially a large gravel parking lot that is frequented by RVers and car campers alike. It is in close proximity to both Guadalupe Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns, as well as Carlsbad, so it was perfect for us.
We watched the sun set over the Guadalupe Mountains, played in the dust, explored the surrounded desert landscape, had the 6-year-old construct a fire pit, and burned cow patties. Yup, you read that right. The surrounding desert is an open range, so it is filled with cow patties. Doug was over the moon to see if they really burned. Fun fact, they do. So the kids and Doug spent a lot of time collecting and burning cow poop.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
About 40 minutes from the Guadalupe Visitor Center is Carlsbad Caverns National Park. This place was absolutely stunning. I highly recommend hiking in through the natural cave entrance (as we did). This is the best way to explore and learn about the entire cave, but it does make the hike about 2.5-3.5 miles, depending on which route you take at the end. I did not know the cavern hike was that long, I misread the trail information, so it came as quite a surprise to me and my little hikers. BUT, the majority of the trail is hiking down a fairly steep grade cement path, so at least we were going downhill.
Once you get to the Big Room at the end, which is under the visitor center, there are elevators that bring you back up the 752 feet you descended on the hike. The trail meandering through the Big Room is about a mile long, but you have the option to take a couple shorter trails. As you enter the Big Room you can head right on over to the elevators. In hind sight, I should have done this. But I didn’t. I pushed my tired and slightly hangry little people to explore the Big Room. Luckily for me, there is a second option to end your Big Room tour early and head toward the elevators. This time, I cut our hike short and boy or boy was I happy I did. After being mostly quiet (cavern rules) and walking so far, my children were done.
All in all, it was a good experience and despite the struggles, I would totally do it again.
Sitting Bull Falls
After visiting both national parks, we still had a day with nothing planned. So I expanded my trail search radius and discovered this gem. It was an hour drive one way, but totally worth it! A waterfall in the desert is just something not to be missed. Plus we had the place almost entirely to ourselves and got to take in some really beautiful views on the drive as well.
Carlsbad and White City
We also ventured into these two towns as well. White City had a post office, which is where we mailed our valentines from, and they also had an RV park with a small playground. Doug filled our propane tanks here and took the kids to play on the playground. They had a blast.
In Carlsbad, we really just went to check out the town. We grabbed dinner and then headed to a nearby park to eat it. We backed right on up to a small pond and busted out our dinner. Immediately, the geese flocked on over and waited patiently for us to share. We didn’t, so eventually they decided to see if the people across the pond would feed them.
And this was our first week in New Mexico. It really does start to grow on you.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where our next two adventure filled weeks will be shared for your reading enjoyment!
CURRENT ADVENTURE STATS:
On the road: 18 months
Miles towing our home: 16,391
Campgrounds visited: 92
Breweries visited: 39
National Parks visited: 20/62
National Monuments/Seashores/Historic Sites/etc.: 8
State Parks visited: 28