To New Mexico and Beyond – Plan Your Southwest Summer Vacation
University of Pennsylvania data scientist, Randy Olson, has made great strides in the world of road trips and family vacations. In 2015, he plotted a ‘quickest route’ map for those who want to travel the United States, seeing every state along the way. Then, in 2016, he took it a step further by plotting a new ‘quickest route’ map to guide you from one national park to another until you’ve seen them all. Now, we’re going to make use of that national park map to help you plan your southwest summer vacation to New Mexico and beyond.
Whether you are a New Mexico native or planning to visit the southwest from another part of the country, start your southwest summer road trip right here. We’ll work the Olson route from his Stop 5. Then, we’ll work the other direction to customize a southwest road trip with the first five on Olson’s Road Trip List. For those are prepared to take on the full route of all 59 national parks in the US, check out Olson’s Optimal US National Parks Centennial Road Trip Map. For those who can’t wait to explore the southwest this summer, read on.
Start Your Southwest Summer Road Trip at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico
Carlsbad Caverns is one of New Mexico’s greatest treasures. It is also one of the most popular national parks in the United States. Located in the Chihuahuan desert in south NM, there are over 100 caves in Carlsbad Caverns. If it’s your first time, the vast limestone caves and beautiful rock formations will leave you in awe. The entrance ticket is $10 per person over the age of 15. Children under the age of 15 get in free, making this an excellent start to your family adventure. Get self-guided entry for free by starting your vacation on August 25.
Travel from New Mexico to Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas
From Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, it is just a short drive to the west arm of Texas. Here, you can enjoy the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Salt Flat without getting off course from the road trip. In fact, this is the shortest leg of your trip, where you’ll reach one of the most well preserved wilderness areas in the United States. There are exciting options for hiking, backpacking, and exploring the Permian Era fossil reef. Visitors over the age of 15 only have to pay $5 for up to seven days of adventures, so this is one of the most affordable stops as well. Take time to explore and connect with nature by camping on site for $8 per night.
Travel from Texas to the Saguaro National Park in Arizona
From the southwestern wilderness of Salt Flat, Texas, you’ll re-enter New Mexico on your way to Tucson, Arizona. This is the longest part of the trip until you reach Arizona. The Saguaro National Park is named after the saguaro cactus. These are the largest cacti in the United States, and the least common. Yet, they are also the most frequently portrayed in television and films. Their unique size and shape stand out brilliantly against the horizon. This is another great place for hiking, camping, and photography. You’ll be inspired by the diverse range of beautiful southwest plants and wildlife. The cost is $5 per person (over 15) or $15 per vehicle for seven days.
Move Along to Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park
The second longest portion of your road trip is going to be between Tucson and Petrified Forest, Arizona. However, this will also be one of your most memorable of summer adventures. The banded badlands in the Red Basin Clambeds are a beautiful and inspiring sight. If you’ve been here before, you’ll be excited to learn of the recently opened areas. These majestic and colorful paths will allow you to discover the magic of the Petrified Forest National Park all over again. The cost for seven days is $10 per person or $20 per vehicle.
Your Southwest Summer Road Trip Culminates at the Grand Canyon
It’s an even shorter drive from Petrified Forest to Grand Canyon Village, Arizona, where you’ll get to explore one of the most spectacular places in world. The Grand Canyon National Park is one that every American should see at least once in their lives. Even if it is your tenth visit, the breathtaking views will still blow you away. There are very few experiences that can compare to visiting the Grand Canyon, making this the perfect way to complete your southwest summer road trip. The fee is $15 per person over 15 years old or $30 per vehicle for seven days that you will treasure among the best memories of your life.
Make Your Way Back to New Mexico or Head to Another State
After you’ve seen these amazing sites, you’re bound to have some favorites in mind to return to on the way back. You may revisit one or more of these amazing locations, or just enjoy a scenic drive home. If you aren’t from New Mexico, you can take the most practical or the most exciting route from Arizona back to your home state.
Or if you want to keep going, look at Olson’s Optimal US National Parks Centennial Road Trip Guide. This is the best way to see as many national parks as you can on your way home. Whichever route you travel, share your experiences and pictures with NewMexi.co!