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Stay safe in the post pandemic era with a cross country road trip that focuses on national parks, state parks, gardens, and zoos. With all outdoor actives and no airports, it will be much easier to control your environment and stay healthy. This two week road trip from Austin to Arizona and New Mexico was one the vacations I had put on hold when COVID-19 hit, but is at the top of my list once we open back up. Enjoy the road trip itinerary I planned for myself!
*Situations change by the minute these days, so please research ahead of time for closures or reservation requirements.
Start In Austin, Texas
Carlsbad, New Mexico
Though the caverns of Carlsbad Caverns National Park may be closed there is still plenty of unique activities in Carlsbad Caverns to make it worth a stop on your road trip itinerary. The Night Sky program is still offering star walks, moon hikes and meteor shower viewings through the summer, dawn and dusk bat viewing is available from the visitor parking lot, and a long list of hiking trails with panoramic views of the Guadalupe Mountains. The drive alone is worth it.
If you are traveling through southern New Mexico a drive through White Sands National Park is a must! Be sure to save time for some sand sledding which is free if you have your own sled or you can rent one from the visitor center for about $20.
No southern Arizona road trip is complete without a stop at Saguaro National Park. There’s a debate on whether East Saguaro or West Saguaro is the best, but I say do both! If you’re a fan of Old Westerns the Old Tucson Theme Park has preserved old western movie sets that take you back in time. For a change of scenery out of the old, dusty south head over to the Biosphere 2 for an unexpected Oasis.
The Desert Botanical Gardens hosts a variety of plants native to the desert which provides a unique perspective from more traditional botanical gardens.
Step back in time with hourly reenactments, museums, and various tours at the Goldfield Ghost Town – a preserved gold mining town that prospered for a mere 5 years in the 1890s.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
There is enough to fill an entire day at the ABQ BioPark; a botanical garden and zoo, If you prefer something more unique to Albuquerque then hike one of the three petroglyph viewing hikes at the Petroglyph National Monument, one of the largest Petroglyph sites in the country. Finish off the day with a scenic sunset view on the Sandia Peak Tramway.
TAOS, NEW MEXICO
Drive the Turquoise Trail scenic byway from Albuquerque to Taos for a scenic and unique view of New Mexico with eclectic shops and towns along the way. The art town of Taos is about an hour from Santa Fe and is full of history and hiking. The Taos Pueblos are a World Heritage Site built between 1000 and 1450 A.D and is a must see!
Earthship Biotecture is a home construction company that builds self-sustaining homes using natural and reclaimed materials. While you may not be able to afford one of these eco-friendly homes, you can fantasize about it on one of their tours.
Palo Duro Canyon, Texas
Palo Duro Canyon is known as The Grand Canyon of Texas and is absolutely the best canyon in Texas. Visit the Texas State Park website to reserve a day pass or campsite. Fun fact about Palo Duro Canyon; in addition to traditional accommodations, such as tent camping and cabins, there is an equestrian campsite for your horse. Only in Texas! Before leaving Amarillo, don’t forget to check out the roadside attraction, Cadillac Ranch.
Fort Worth, Texas
The Big D gets all the attention, so why not go to the FW in the DFW? I was raised in Dallas and still have family there, so there’s no need for me to go to Dallas. But, somehow I’ve never made my way to Fort Worth. One the most Texas things you can do is visit the Forth Worth Stockyards which is full of shops, restaurants, and history, Other outdoor activities in Fort Worth include the Botanic Gardens, Japanese Gardens, the Fort Worth Zoo, and the Nature Center & Refuge. In all my years as a Dallas resident, how I have never been out here?!