Wild Beauty in Northern New Mexico (Days 32-34)

After leaving Arizona we were excited to cross back into New Mexico and experience the northern part of the state! And this time we’d have tour guides — Ryan and Emily, some of our best friends from college who now live outside Los Alamos. When we visited they were house-hunting and living with Emily’s parents, who were kind enough to let us camp out in their driveway. Our time in Los Alamos also gave us the opportunity to get to know their two little guys, James and Charlie, who we fell in love with and who kept us highly entertained through our whole visit!

To kick off our visit, Ryan and Emily gave us the driving tour of Los Alamos. The Rio Grande runs right past town, and looks much different here than it did down in Texas!

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The next day, the six of us spent an awesome day hiking and exploring. We started at Valles Caldera, a gorgeous spot up in the mountains. When Ryan and Emily told us they wanted to bring us to the caldera, my Ryan googled it, and we were excited to discover that a lot of the filming for one of our favorite shows, Longmire, is done there! (If you’ve been following along with us since last fall, you might remember that we got to visit the town Wyoming town where the Longmire series is set.)

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The caldera was beautiful, and incredibly large. Like the Grand Canyon, the scale is so big, it’s hard to comprehend. When Ryan spotted a cabin used in the Longmire series from the Visitors’ Center, he asked the ranger how long it would take to walk there, expecting an answer in the range of 10-15 minutes. As it turned out, the cabin was miles away, and most people take several HOURS to walk there and back. It seemed like a lot to ask of the little guys, and it was pretty cold that high up in the mountains, so we made a mental note to return in the future, and jumped back in the car.

Our next (and much warmer) stop was Bandelier National Monument. Bandelier is made up of 33,000 acres of rugged canyon and mesa country. Ancestral Pueblo people lived here from approximately 1150 CE to 1550 CE, and the monument features petroglyphs, dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls. We had a great time hiking with these guys, who were real troopers during a long day of exploring with no naps!

Bandelier 7 Our Streamlined Life
The little boys did ok, too 😉

We loved walking the trails around the homes carved out of the soft mountainside …

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And Ryan even climbed up the ladder into a cave with a toddler on his back! Look at those cute faces peeking out of the rock 🙂

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Like at Gila Cliff Dwellings, we were able to climb high up into the cliffs to explore the caves. The views were absolutely tremendous, although the high ladders were a little nervewracking!

The ladders at Bandelier National Monument
(My brave face!)

At the top was  large recessed cave…

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… with a tremendous view of the gorge below!

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We had an awesome time, and would highly recommend the Valles Caldera National Preserve and Bandelier National Monument if you’re traveling in northern New Mexico. A big thank you to Ryan, Emily, James, and Charlie for hosting us — and to Emily’s sweet parents, too!

I'm the oldest of 12 crazy kids and two pretty awesome parents. My love of travel developed during my early years traveling the globe as an Air Force brat. I'm a runner, a writer, and a reader, and I love cooking up good food and cozying up our camper.

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