So, what's special about National Parks Week? For one, you can get into all 392 National Parks for FREE. (Can you tell I like that word?) So whether you want to drive up to Wyoming and saunter on in to Yellowstone, or if you only want to travel about 20 minutes to check out Pecos, it all costs the same (not counting gas, of course).
Below the jump, get more info about National Parks Week, an account of just how nerdy I am, a list of New Mexico's National Parks, and, if you're real lucky, some pictures from my adventures.
Last weekend, Yours Truly checked out the ruins at the Pecos National Historic Park (and the Glorieta Battlefield, which is part of the park) and hiked around Bandeleir National Monument in Los Alamos. This weekend I'll visit Petroglyph National Monument down in Albuquerque, and will perhaps even attempt Chaco Culture National Historic Park if I can get up early enough one morning. It's easy to take such insanely awesome locales for granted when you live about 45 minutes from them...But step outside yourself for a few moments and realize that you can stand inside the skeleton of a 400-year-old adobe mission church, or climb ladders into cave dwellings in a canyon that has been inhabited for 10,000 years. These are truly fantastic opportunities that are only minutes from our homes here in Santa Fe, and National Parks Week is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of them—for free!
So what can National Parks Week do for you? In addition to free admission to all parks, get a 15 percent discount on all merchandise at gift shops and visitors' centers. I've taken advantage of said discount by getting myself a National Parks Passport and starting a stamp collection of all the National Parks stamps. I have done this for two reasons: One, I am a total nerd; two, I am about to embark on a six-month tour of as many National Parks as I can possibly hit—so getting a start on it with a 15 percent discount isn't a bad kick-off.
So here are some New Mexico places you should go this week or weekend! These are listed in some semblance of an order, from closest to farthest, but it's by no means scientific.
+ Pecos National Historic Park, Pecos, NM
+ Bandeleir National Monument, Los Alamos, NM
+ Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque, NM
+ Chaco Culture National Historic Park, Bloomfield, NM
+ Fort Union National Monument, Watrous, NM
+ Capulin Volcano National Monument, Capulin, NM
+ Aztec Ruins National Monument, Aztec, NM
+ El Malpais National Monument, Grants, NM
+ El Morro National Monument, Ramah, NM
+ Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, Mountainair, NM
+ Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, Silver City, NM
+ White Sands National Monument, Alamogordo, NM
+ Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Carlsbad, NM
Have some extra time and gasoline to spare? Here are some spots in Colorado, Texas and Arizona that are calling your name.
+ Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
+ Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Chinle, AZ
+ Saguaro National Park, Tucson, AZ
+ Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
+ Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Salt Flat, TX
+ Alibates Flint Quarries, Fritch, TX
+ Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, Fritch, TX
+ Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Mosca, CO
+ Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
+ Hovenweep National Monument, Colorado and Utah
Strike a pose. With apologies to Madonna. (Click any image to enlarge.)
Ruins at Pecos National Historic Park
The ruins of a Spanish mission church at Pecos (circa 1625), with yours truly inside for scale. That thing's huge!
On the Glorieta Battlefield Trail—it was a little rainy, but totally worth it. (Note that my dog and I match in our stunning green slickers.)
Sunday, a sunnier day, found us at Bandeleir National Monument, climing into ancient cavates.
As nerdy as you may feel, I recommend getting the trail guides at any and every National Park. You can learn cool facts about the history of the park, and truly get the most out of your visit. Here I am, having a dramatic reading of #17 on the main loop trail at Bandeleir.
Remnants of cavates in the cliffs of Frijoles Canyon.