Trip to the Southwest

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sethingham

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My wife and I are planning a trip to the southwestern US in the spring. We're from Indiana so we'll be probably be going through Arkansas and Texas to get to New Mexico, Arizona, California and even up to Utah and Colorado. What are your don't miss camp spots, drives, hikes, things to do, etc around those areas? We aren't big into technical trails but we have a built up 4Runner so we can do easy to moderate.

Thanks for any tips!
 

Texassailor

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While in Texas, take a detour off of I10 at Fort Stockton, head south through Marathon to Big Bend National Park. Do some back country camping, visit the Chisos Mountains basin and Santa Elena Canyon on the Rio Grande. When finished at the park, head west through Study Butte and then north through Alpine and Fort Davis and back to I10.

Your choice of back county camping (aka "Primitive Roadside Camping") will depend upon your rig. Many of the primitive roads are 2WD-friendly (when dry). Some are high clearance 4WD-recommended.

EDIT: Just saw mention of your rig . . . you should be good to go on any road in the park.
 
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NMTaco

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Depending on how long you plan on staying in New Mexico there are a lot of great forest trails with free remote camping. An awesome trail is through the Jemez mountains and starts at Fenton Lake SR126 to forest road 117 and over the mountain to state road 96 to The Village of Coyote. It’s close to Abiquiú lake where there is some great fishing. Another great trail is From Red River NM to Goose Lake, limited remote camping and the road can be challenging depending on the season and the weather.

As it get closer to your trip let me know and I can get details .

Robert
 
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FireMedicPQ1

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Agreed with NMTaco's assessment of some great NM places. I might add checking out the Gilman Tunnels (famous in numerous movie scenes) up in the Jemez Mountains, while planning your cruise through the red rocks and mountains near Jemez Springs. Not to mention the hot springs and Jemez Falls. Also the Valle Grande National Monument is spectacular (also seen in recent TV shows - namely Longmire's cabin from the Netflix series). Anywhere up near Angel Fire/Eagle Nest/Taos area (Enchanted Circle) worth a visit. If you're near Santa Fe, be sure to drive the loop from Cedar Crest to Madrid (pronounced MAD-
DRid) for the old mining town on your list (you can get a preview from the movie Wild Hogs). NM has some amazing fly fishing spots, specifically the quality waters of the San Juan in the Four Corners area. Welcome to our state and enjoy your visit. Hate to say this - but lock your rig if in ABQ (one of the highest auto theft rates in the nation (as in Breaking Bad). Sorry for all the TV and movie references. They do film here a lot...
 

sethingham

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Indianapolis, IN, USA
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6443

Thanks for the tips! I'd looked into Big Bend but hadn't seen the primitive roadside camping...that sounds perfect for us!

While in Texas, take a detour off of I10 at Fort Stockton, head south through Marathon to Big Bend National Park. Do some back country camping, visit the Chisos Mountains basin and Santa Elena Canyon on the Rio Grande. When finished at the park, head west through Study Butte and then north through Alpine and Fort Davis and back to I10.

Your choice of back county camping (aka "Primitive Roadside Camping") will depend upon your rig. Many of the primitive roads are 2WD-friendly (when dry). Some are high clearance 4WD-recommended.

EDIT: Just saw mention of your rig . . . you should be good to go on any road in the park.
 

sethingham

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Indianapolis, IN, USA
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Depending on how long you plan on staying in New Mexico there are a lot of great forest trails with free remote camping. An awesome trail is through the Jemez mountains and starts at Fenton Lake SR126 to forest road 117 and over the mountain to state road 96 to The Village of Coyote. It’s close to Abiquiú lake where there is some great fishing. Another great trail is From Red River NM to Goose Lake, limited remote camping and the road can be challenging depending on the season and the weather.
As it get closer to your trip let me know and I can get details .

Robert
I added both of those trails to our list of possibilities. :) Are there some camping spots on the trail from Fenton Lake to Coyote?
 

sethingham

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Indianapolis, IN, USA
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Agreed with NMTaco's assessment of some great NM places. I might add checking out the Gilman Tunnels (famous in numerous movie scenes) up in the Jemez Mountains, while planning your cruise through the red rocks and mountains near Jemez Springs. Not to mention the hot springs and Jemez Falls. Also the Valle Grande National Monument is spectacular (also seen in recent TV shows - namely Longmire's cabin from the Netflix series). Anywhere up near Angel Fire/Eagle Nest/Taos area (Enchanted Circle) worth a visit. If you're near Santa Fe, be sure to drive the loop from Cedar Crest to Madrid (pronounced MAD-
DRid) for the old mining town on your list (you can get a preview from the movie Wild Hogs). NM has some amazing fly fishing spots, specifically the quality waters of the San Juan in the Four Corners area. Welcome to our state and enjoy your visit. Hate to say this - but lock your rig if in ABQ (one of the highest auto theft rates in the nation (as in Breaking Bad). Sorry for all the TV and movie references. They do film here a lot...
Thanks for the welcome and all the tips! The hot springs would be a nice stop after living out of our truck for awhile. Would you recommend a back country vehicle permit for the Valle Grande National Monument?
 

FireMedicPQ1

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Thanks for the welcome and all the tips! The hot springs would be a nice stop after living out of our truck for awhile. Would you recommend a back country vehicle permit for the Valle Grande National Monument?
The backcountry permit is well worth the effort. There is not a lot of open roads and you can get to the end in a bit less than 2 hours. They limit the number of permits issued each day, so it is not crowded. Mostly maintained dirt roads (nothing technical for sure - can do with stock rig, easy). That being said, there are some really cool cabins in the backcountry from the original cattle ranch. Also, if you fish, the headwaters of the Jemez river is up there and some amazing fly fishing. You may see elk, and other wildlife on the drive as well.
 

NMTaco

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I added both of those trails to our list of possibilities. :) Are there some camping spots on the trail from Fenton Lake to Coyote?
There are plenty of free remote camp spots along these forest roads, the roads are moderate to easy and the route is very scenic. I can get you a forest road map of the area if you would like and I believe it will include the Valle grande that Paul Bearce recommended. Just let me know if I can help.

Robert
 
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biglad

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I'm in Phoenix, one of the places we enjoy is definitely Flagstaff. It's a couple hours from the Grand Canyon (if you're through AZ, please hit the GC), and has a bunch of great small districts to visit and walk around. Another great city is Jerome, super small and artsy. Those would be my top three in AZ, but unfortunately I can't give recommendation on sites as I'm new to overlanding. Flag and the GC are also northern AZ which would likely work with your route if you are touring the SW, Jerome is a bit more south.
 
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sethingham

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Indianapolis, IN, USA
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I'm in Phoenix, one of the places we enjoy is definitely Flagstaff. It's a couple hours from the Grand Canyon (if you're through AZ, please hit the GC), and has a bunch of great small districts to visit and walk around. Another great city is Jerome, super small and artsy. Those would be my top three in AZ, but unfortunately I can't give recommendation on sites as I'm new to overlanding. Flag and the GC are also northern AZ which would likely work with your route if you are touring the SW, Jerome is a bit more south.
We definitely want recommendations like this too...thank you! We're planning to see the Grand Canyon. I even found this that looks like fun...

https://www.drivingline.com/articles/the-best-way-to-the-bottom-grand-canyon-4x4-trail-review/
 

Lost in Texas

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Some of our favorite places are short side trails that are just off the main road when we are en-route somewhere else.

In NM we love:

Sitting Bull Falls waterfall as well as the trails around Queen NM that are in the Guadalupe National Forest. ( HERE )
-It is a great place for dispersed camping or there are great hotels in Artesia ( we stay at the Heritage Inn HERE )
-Also Carlsbad Caverns as mentioned above, but I haven't found anywhere outstanding to stay in Carlsbad.

Bottomless Lakes State park ( HERE )
-I literally grew up a mile from here and have camped here hundreds of times. The trails are limited but there is a lot to explore.
- Unless something has changed very recently it is not a good place to camp (lots of drive through partying)
- I like to stay here to camp. Lake Van near Dexter ( LAKE VAN )
- Of course Roswell has all the alien stuff if you're into that but they have an outstanding rocket museum too ( Goddard Rocket museum )

White Sands National Monument ( HERE )
- Be prepared for lots of bugs in the summer and plan accordingly.
- We stay in this vintage Motel when we are in Alamogordo ( White Sands Motel )
- Space Hall of Fame ( HERE ) and giant pistachio farm (HERE )

In Northern NM we love Capulin National Volcano. A fun off shoot and hike. (HERE)
-We stay here in Capulin it is super clean for tent camping or trailer ( HERE )

Lots of beautiful stuff in Northern NM around Taos and Santa Fe. To us Albuquerque is too dangerous and busy.

In TEXAS we love:

Near Amarillo we love Caprock Canyon State park. All of the beauty of Palo Duro without the nazish ranger and crowds. Also has a great hiking trail (CCSP )

Also Cadillac Ranch and Big Texan are about as iconic as you can get

If you cross through Big Bend then you might be in line to stay at Lake Brownwood they have both tent camping and great CCC vintage cabins (cheap)

Near Dripping Springs is the wonderful Hamilton Swim Hole ( HERE ) and the famous Salt Lick BBQ joint ( HERE )

Once you get your route worked out I'd be happy to suggest anything along the way. We have been searching out out-of-the-way, cheap fun for 30 years (15 with kids).

OH YEAH in Colorado

Bishop Castle is one of my kids favorite places in the whole world. It is kind of crazy so read the details before you go. (HERE)
 

sethingham

Rank I
Member

Traveler I

233
Indianapolis, IN, USA
Member #

6443

Some of our favorite places are short side trails that are just off the main road when we are en-route somewhere else.

In NM we love:

Sitting Bull Falls waterfall as well as the trails around Queen NM that are in the Guadalupe National Forest. ( HERE )
-It is a great place for dispersed camping or there are great hotels in Artesia ( we stay at the Heritage Inn HERE )
-Also Carlsbad Caverns as mentioned above, but I haven't found anywhere outstanding to stay in Carlsbad.

Bottomless Lakes State park ( HERE )
-I literally grew up a mile from here and have camped here hundreds of times. The trails are limited but there is a lot to explore.
- Unless something has changed very recently it is not a good place to camp (lots of drive through partying)
- I like to stay here to camp. Lake Van near Dexter ( LAKE VAN )
- Of course Roswell has all the alien stuff if you're into that but they have an outstanding rocket museum too ( Goddard Rocket museum )

White Sands National Monument ( HERE )
- Be prepared for lots of bugs in the summer and plan accordingly.
- We stay in this vintage Motel when we are in Alamogordo ( White Sands Motel )
- Space Hall of Fame ( HERE ) and giant pistachio farm (HERE )

In Northern NM we love Capulin National Volcano. A fun off shoot and hike. (HERE)
-We stay here in Capulin it is super clean for tent camping or trailer ( HERE )

Lots of beautiful stuff in Northern NM around Taos and Santa Fe. To us Albuquerque is too dangerous and busy.

In TEXAS we love:

Near Amarillo we love Caprock Canyon State park. All of the beauty of Palo Duro without the nazish ranger and crowds. Also has a great hiking trail (CCSP )

Also Cadillac Ranch and Big Texan are about as iconic as you can get

If you cross through Big Bend then you might be in line to stay at Lake Brownwood they have both tent camping and great CCC vintage cabins (cheap)

Near Dripping Springs is the wonderful Hamilton Swim Hole ( HERE ) and the famous Salt Lick BBQ joint ( HERE )

Once you get your route worked out I'd be happy to suggest anything along the way. We have been searching out out-of-the-way, cheap fun for 30 years (15 with kids).

OH YEAH in Colorado

Bishop Castle is one of my kids favorite places in the whole world. It is kind of crazy so read the details before you go. (HERE)
That's a lot of info...thank you so much! I'll look into these and let you know if I have any questions.