Get out. Learn more about the Chihuahuan Desert’s wildlife at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park, in Carlsbad. A 1.3-mile hike threads among yucca, agave, shrubs, and trees, through an arroyo and over a ridge in the Ocotillo Hills, with views of the Pecos River valley and piñon-juniper forest. Resident wildlife includes Bolson tortoises, pronghorn, prairie dogs, Mexican gray wolves, and a black bear named Maggie. An hour from Carlsbad, a tiered waterfall threads through a hanging garden into a pool prime for swimming at Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area, in the Lincoln National Forest. Cabanas nearby are a popular picnic spot, particularly in spring and fall. Visit Guadalupe Mountains National Park, a sister park to Carlsbad Caverns, just 32 miles across the state line in Texas, where geologists mapped out the Permian Reef Trail through the famous formations that comprise this area.

Meet desert residents at Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park. Photograph by Minesh Bacrania.

Eat. Stop by Blue House Bakery and Café for breakfast sandwiches, burritos, and a bakery case of muffins, cookies, and croissants. Dine on the porch or in one of the cozy interior spaces. Guadalupe Mountain Brewing Co. pours pints and fires pizzas just off the southern edge of town. Dig into a burger, prime rib, or a sizeable salad at YellowBrix Restaurant. Red Chimney BBQ has had the smoker going since 1954 and still serves brisket, ribs, and rope sausage with hush puppies, mac and cheese, or baked potatoes on the side.

Stay. Fiddler’s Inn was built in 1912 as part of a beet farm before becoming a place for overnight stays. The latest renovations, completed in September 2020, freshened decor and revitalized the landscaping. Each room is named for a fiddle tune—check out Sailor’s Hornpipe, Whiskey Before Breakfast, or the new Skye Boat Song, which has strong Outlander vibes. The Trinity Hotel occupies a historic downtown building that previously housed a bank, a newspaper, and the local irrigation district office. Peruse a selection of Balzano Vineyard wines and peer into the former bank vault in the lobby before retreating to unique rooms with updated amenities and creature comforts. Modern vibes dominate the Post Time Inn, newly opened in 2020 and centrally located downtown.

Read more: Lace up your boots and explore Carlsbad Caverns’ aboveground wonders on these hiking trails.