26 Stunning Scenic Drives in New Mexico

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Last Updated on: 26th July 2023, 10:15 pm

Abo Pass Trail

Abo Pass Trail is located near Abo Pueblo, New Mexico and it covers 31 miles of road. This scenic trail connects the Eastern part of Abo Pueblo and Belen. It also connects El Camino Real Scenic Byway to Salt Missions Scenic Byway. It was established in 1450 and is one of the oldest scenic byways in New Mexico.

The Abo Pass Trail Scenic Byway has been used to facilitate trade between eastern and western regions. Abo Pueblo has a rich Spanish culture that has helped maintain its appeal tol date.

Billy the Kid Trail

Impressive enough to be listed among one of the city’s national scenic byways, the Billy the Kid Trail connects Lincoln County to Capitan. The Trail which is also often called the Broken Trail is named after William H. Bonney, an Irish-American outlaw popularly called Billy the Kid who fought in the Lincoln County War.

Billy the Kid Trail is an 84 mile route with lots of grass and pine forests. It isn’t the most popular scenic byway in New Mexico, but it definitely holds the charm of the ‘Old West’.

Chain of Craters Back Country Byway

This byway is a part of the El Malpais National Conservation Area (NCA) Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Chain of Craters Back Country Byway is a 33-mile byway that passes through quite a lot of public lands. When you drive through the scenic byway, you get to see volcanic cinder cones and sandstone bluffs.

You can also explore the byway on foot. There are hiking trails and camping sites for lovers of outdoor activities.

Corrales Road

Corrales Road Scenic Byway is one of the most memorable byways there is and a must-see if you get the chance. It is located in the Village of Corrales in Rio Grande, New Mexico. The absolute calmness that you feel while driving through the road coupled with the sound of birds and the sound of waves add to the charm of the already picturesque scenery.

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The byway is about 7 miles long and includes hundreds of acres of land that is home to different species of animals grazing the lush greenery.

El Camino Real

El Camino Real National Scenic Byway was first recorded in 1598 when Don Juan Onate led his troops through the route. The byway which is also called the Royal Road was properly built and developed in the 1800s and is hundreds of miles of road. It links Fort Seldon to Socorro after passing through Jornado del Muerto which means the ‘Journey of the dead man’, a very dangerous desert between Fort Seldon and Socorro.

El Camino Real is California’s first highway and has been in existence way before the arrival of the first Spanish explorers.

Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway

The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway is about 135 km. Although the byway begins and ends in Taos, Northern New Mexico, it connects Angel Fire, Eagle Nest Lake, Red River and Questa. It was designated a National Forest Scenic Byway in 1989. The scenery is so stunning that some scenes from the movie ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ were shot in some parts of the byway.

Activities that go on here are numerous. They include hiking, camping, fishing and skiing among others.

Geronimo Trail Scenic Byway

Geronimo Trail is located in Sierra County, Southern New Mexico. It is an easily accessible trail that starts and ends in Gila Wilderness. The trail is part of the Gila National Forest. The vegetation is quite diverse. There are dry desert areas, lakes, mountain forests and grassy fields.

The Geronimo Trail Scenic Byway provides lodging and restaurant services for visitors. Outdoor activities here include birding, biking, boating, camping, fishing, hiking, golfing and even guided tour services provided by the park.

Guadalupe Back Country Byway

The Guadalupe Back Country Byway is one of the fee free byways in New Mexico and it is located in Queens Highway Carlsbad. It goes on for about 30 miles in which you get to see different animals such as mule deer, grey fox, songbirds, mourning doves and pronghorn antelope.

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There are signs that mark certain areas on the highway such as working landscape and livestock areas. There are also recreational activities enabled by access to public land. The activities include backpacking, horseback riding, caving and mountain biking.

High Road to Taos

This is a 56 mile winding road that passes through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. There are many desert and forest areas on this route. There are also mountains and small Spanish and Indian villages. The road begins at Santa Fe and stops at Nambe Pueblo.

The road is safe and the scenery is quite beautiful. You get to experience some rich Spanish and Indian culture if you stop by one or two villages along the way. There is a lot to learn from these original settlers.

Jemez Mountain Trail

Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway passes through Jemez Pueblo and Jemez Springs. There are high volcanic cliffs close to the Jemez River. The trail loops through Santa Fe National Forest and Valles Caldera National Preserve.

You can view the colorful Soda Dam shaped uniquely like domed falls and the Spence Hot Springs. Popular outdoor recreational activities around this trail include hiking, fishing and snow sports. The Meadows and forests in the trail also offers spectacular views and ground for picnickers.

La Frontera del Llano Byway

Located in North-eastern New Mexico, La Frontera del Llano Byway starts from Abbot and stretches from Solano to Gallegos; and ends in Logan where the Ute Lake State Park is located. It is a 94 mile route with missionary churches along the way. There are grassy farmlands and animals can be seen grazing.

Outdoor activities are quite common along the byway especially with the presence of a state park. Some of the recreational activities you can enjoy here include fishing, picnicking, walking, camping, fishing and boating.

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Lake Valley Back Country Byway

If you want a little history of the mineral-rich Black Range Mountains in New Mexico, the Lake Valley Back Country Byway has all the knowledge you may need rooted in it. The scenery is quite epic too making it one of the most spectacular routes for a road drive.

It is a 48 mile drive located in the southern parts of New Mexico. Explore the forgotten parts of the city as there is a lot of nostalgia to last for a lifetime in this abandoned road.

Mesalands Scenic Byway

The first things to probably take note of in the Mesalands Scenic Byway are the activities surrounding it. There are two lakes and a state park located on this byway; the Ute Lake, Santa Rose Lake and the Conchas Dam State Parks.

The Mesalands Scenic Byway covers a lot of land stretching for about 320 miles in the east central part of New Mexico. If you are driving through this route, you may want to stop by and get involved in recreational activities such as fishing, scuba diving and picnicking. It makes the journey less tiring.

Narrow-Guage Scenic Byway

The Narrow-Guage Scenic Byway is a 10-mile isolated road that is perfect for an exciting albeit scary road trip. This byway started out as a rail trail constructed by the early settlers.

When driving through, endeavor to maintain a safe and steady speed as there are several twists and turns on the road. Driving in wet or slippery weather is not advisable as the road narrows at some point with rocks impending on both sides.

You certainly don’t want to have a claim that causes your insurance rates to rise!

Puye Cliffs Scenic Byway

Puye Cliffs Scenic Byway may be short, but the excitement that awaits is mind-blowing. At the end of the byway lie the lofty Puye Cliffs Dwellings. The Puye Cliffs Dwellings have been named a National Historic Landmark.

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There are rolling hills beside the road that flatten out to give way to a field spotted with grass. The Puye Cliffs Scenic Byway offers a bit of insight into the lives of Native Americans. The cliffs were constructed by Pueblo Indians and the byway offers access to the cliffs for non-hikers.

Quebradas Back Country Byway

This is a 24 mile road that offers travelers a view of the wind-whipped dunes in New Mexico. The road is unpaved, evidence of the ruggedness that lies in the wilderness. The Quebradas Back Country Byway lies between Sevilleta and Bosque del Apache; and Ladd S. Gordon Waterfowl Complex.

While driving on this road, you get to view wildlife especially at sunset and dawn. It is also a favorite spot for hiking, hunting and rockhounding.

Salt Mission Trail

The Salt Mission Scenic Byway is 150 miles and is located in Central New Mexico. Established in 1998, the trail starts from the Village of Tijeras in eastern Albuquerque and connects it to the Gran Quivera mission site.

Salt Mission Trail or Salt Mission Scenic Byway takes you through the heart of New Mexico. The Trail also explores the Estancia Valley on the eastern part of the Manzano Mountains. The Trail later connects the three units of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.

Sandia Crest Byway

Do you want to experience what it’s like to be so high up into the mountains you never think you can come down? The Sandia Crest Byway can give you all that and more. The byway is about 2 miles above the sea and it is the highest scenic drive in the southwest.

There is a lot of wildlife viewing going on around here. You get to see black bear, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mule deer and golden eagle. There is a gift shop and a restaurant down the crest much needed after a rigorous afternoon hike.

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Santa Fe National Forest Scenic Byway

Some travelers will say that this is by far the most beautiful byways in New Mexico. Arguably, of course. The Santa Fe National Forest Scenic Byway is truly breath-taking and that’s putting it lightly. The views are even more spectacular in autumn.

The byway begins and ends in Santa Fe, from the downtown plaza to Santa Fe Ski Area. The entire journey is only average; about 16 miles. There are grounds for outdoor activities such as camping and picnicking along the way.

Santa Fe Trail – New Mexico

For years, the Santa Fe Trail is known to connect Franklin, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was America’s First commercial highway. This trail was established in 1822 and is maintained by the National Park Service.

Some parts of the trail in both Missouri and New Mexico are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Some of them include the Santa Fe Trail Remains, Santa Fe Trail-Grand Pass Trail Segments and the Santa Fe Trail Mountain Route-Bent’s New Fort. It holds some history and makes for an interesting road trip.

Socorro Historical District Scenic Byway

This byway is located in Socorro, an ancient mining town in New Mexico. This town prides itself in its rich Spanish architecture and the Socorro Historical District Scenic Byway is evidence of that as every structure tells a story revealing the history of Socorro bit by astonishing bit.

The byway is 9 miles long, a little short compared to many byways in New Mexico, but what it lacks in distance it makes up for in history and diversity. There is a lot to learn from the stories the structures in Socorro have to tell.

Sunspot Scenic Byway

The Sunspot Scenic Byway takes you on a journey through thick woodlands and is about 35 miles long. It is rated as one of the difficult trails in New Mexico and is mostly used for biking. It is also used in scenic driving as it offers a wonderful view of the valley and white sands.

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There are also many hiking trails and a solar observatory to make for a nice albeit short visit.

Trail of the Ancients – NM

Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway is as dazzling as it is lonely. It offers not just beautiful scenery, but a rich history as well. This trail has been in existence since 850 AD.

The Chaco Canyon which is at the center of the byway was used in ancient times as a ceremonial center. Some parts of the byway such as the Aztec Ruins National Monument and Salmon Ruins are open for public viewing. There is a canyon along the byway with hills striped in yellow and grey.

Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway

This trail is probably one of the most well-known byways in New Mexico because of its popularity among bicycle racers. It is a 110 mile National Scenic Byway that cuts through the Gila and old cliff dwellings. It is known among locals as the Inner Loop as it loops from Silver City, New Mexico.

As much as it is fun for bicycle racers, bicycles sometimes give way to cars and motorcycles too. There is an ancient western town, a Buckhorn saloon and an opera house along the trail.

Turquoise Trail

Located in Northern Mexico, this 54 mile route connects Albuquerque to Santa Fe. The trail is off the freeway and it is one if not the most perfect road trip from Albuquerque to Santa Fe! The view is astonishing especially when you are atop Sandia Crest. The mining towns of Madrid, Cerrillos and Golden are located down the crest.

The road trip promises to be unforgettable with arts, museums and restaurants to provide extra fun to your already mind-blowing experience.

Wild Rivers Back Country Scenic Byway

The Wild Rivers Back Country Scenic Byway is a special closed-loop byway located close to Alta Road, Taos, New Mexico. This byway gives access to the rocky strewn areas of Rio Grande.

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This scenic trail is one of the most ploughed byways in New Mexico. It is a favorite spot for hikers who especially want to view Rio Grande. Cyclists, fishermen, wildlife lovers and lovers of outdoor recreational activities also find the Wild Rivers Back Country Scenic Byway a much-loved spot.