Rugged, rural New Mexico has a magical landscape that is perfect for outdoor activities. Though most of the state is dry high desert, there are plenty of alpine peaks and mountain ranges laced with trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. In winter, the state’s 11 ski areas are covered in snow, offering some of the best skiing in America's southwest. Golfers have about two dozen pretty and challenging courses to choose from during the long golfing season.
With the state getting over 300 days of sunshine a year, it’s rare that outdoor plans get rained out. Rivers like the Chama and Rio Grande are great for rafting and kayaking, while scenic byways like the Taos High Road offer some of America’s most surreal driving. New Mexico has some unique natural attractions to explore like White Sands, the Rio Grande Gorge and Carlsbad Caverns.
New Mexico is one of America’s premier regions for bird watching because it sits along the Central Flyway. Every part of the state has excellent and diverse parks to enjoy the 478 species that live in or pass through the area. Among the most impressive are Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge and Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Let Wings West Birding Tours or Wild River Tours guide you to the sweet spots.
Overshadowed by neighboring Colorado and Utah, the skiing and snowboarding in New Mexico is actually very good. The top mountain resort is Taos Ski Valley, followed by smaller and friendlier spots like Angel Fire, Santa Fe and Red River. If it’s not dumping fluffy powder, the skies are likely bluebird brilliant. Even more adventure awaits in the backcountry, where outfitters like North Country Outfitters guide folks on downhill, cross-country and snow-shoeing excursions.
The rivers of New Mexico are perfect for kayaking and rafting whatever your level of skill. Between May and July, the Rio Grande and Chama are at their peak, with lots of professional guide companies like New Mexico River Adventures and Los Rios River Runners arranging all kinds of river excursions. Taos and Santa Fe are two of the best towns to base yourself for a day outing through a multiday camping and boating adventure.
In summer, the mountains of New Mexico open up for some of the southwest’s best biking. The entire state offers excellent terrain for riding, whether it’s in the national forests around Santa Fe or down the ski slopes at Angel Fire. In the north, Taos is littered with challenging and scenic single-track rides, while the south has Cloudcroft and Silver City. Top guide companies include Known World Guides and Mellow Velo out of Santa Fe.
An unforgettable way to explore the backcountry of New Mexico is on horse. Horseback riding has been a way of life here for centuries, and the state is covered in historic trails. Stables and guides can be found in every corner of the state. Experience the alpine scenery around Taos with Rio Grande Stables or the red rock beauty of Abiquiu with Equine Escapes.
Another way to immerse yourself in the natural beauty and unique cultural heritage of New Mexico is by driving along the rural roads. One of the best routes in America loops from Santa Fe northward to Taos and back again. The Taos High Road passes through ancient hamlets and the gambit of this state’s magical landscape.