➤ Take a culture tour.

A historic thoroughfare for thousands of years, the roughly 35-mile Abo Pass Trail connects Belén to the remnants of the San Gregorio de Abó II church, which was completed in 1651. “This is a road trip back in time,” says Natalia Sanchez Hernandez, chief of interpretation and visitor services at the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. “It gives you a window into the resiliency of the Pueblo people who lived here.” The verdant area around the Río Grande dotted with small farming communities shifts dramatically to desert with unobstructed views of the Manzano Mountains. At the historic site, walk the three-quarter-mile interpretive trail through the mission church; learn about why Ancestral Puebloans occupied this area and made it a center for trade, ideas, and cultural exchange starting around AD 800; and see what happened when the first Spanish settlers arrived. On the drive back, take note of the rail lines, established by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad as a major transcontinental freight route. “It’s an interesting experience to be able to see all of these periods of history alongside you on this road trip,” Hernandez says. DON’T MISS: Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument’s monthly Dark Skies, Bright Stars program. “When you get to see the night sky in all its glory away from urban areas, you get to see the stars and constellations, but it also places you into what it would have been like to have lived in this area,” says Hernandez.

Enjoy the water at Eagle Nest Lake. Photograph by Andrew Kornylak.

➤ Catch the scenery.

Circling Wheeler Peak, the 84-mile Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway connects Taos, Questa, Red River, and Eagle Nest, passing by New Mexico’s first incorporated town, Elizabethtown, now a ghost haunt. “It’s an enchanting drive,” says Dan Vaughan, executive director of the Taos Ski Valley Chamber of Commerce. “The light on the horizon and the way the topography changes, it’s really incredible.” Vaughan suggests taking time to explore the 11-mile Goose Lake Trail in Red River, then resting at the Laguna Vista Lodge and its historic 1898 saloon, in Eagle Nest (call ahead for a tour of the former brothel). Bring your mountain bike for Angel Fire’s more than 60 miles of purpose-built terrain and then refuel at Enchanted Circle Brewing Company. “Each spot along the Enchanted Circle is its own thing, where you’ve got these pockets of culture and craftsmanship,” he says. “There’s no shortage of art galleries, great restaurants, and shops, but the drive alone is just so beautiful.” DON’T MISS: The Daleee at KTAOS Solar Center. The bar, restaurant, and performance venue includes an outdoor space with volleyball courts and scenic views.

Navajo Lake State Park offers world-class conditions for trout fisherman. Photograph courtesy of New Mexico State Parks.

➤ Ride back into history.

The 123-mile Tracks Across Borders Byway, in northern New Mexico, traverses forest-dense mountains and valleys from Chama to Durango, Colorado, while also touching Jicarilla Apache and Southern Ute lands. Start in Chama, the New Mexico home of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, the narrow-gauge railway that helps give the route its name. “Tracks Across Borders refers not only to the railroad tracks that used to be in this area,” says John Bush, president of the Tracks Across Borders Byway Commission, “but also to animal tracks, [the area where] Spanish explorers used to travel, and to Native American trading routes.” In Dulce, stop at the Jicarilla Apache Cultural Arts & Heritage Center, where nearly a dozen artisans produce basketry, beadwork, pottery, and more. Once across the Colorado border, a spur of the byway leads to Chimney Rock National Monument, a central piece on the route, thanks to its natural beauty and connection to Chacoan culture. “It’s got a rich history across cultures and time,” says Bush. “The byway gives a real opportunity to look back and understand at a deeper level what our past was like. Plus, you can really soak in the quiet.” DON’T MISS: Navajo Lake State Park. The second largest lake in New Mexico stretches into Colorado and offers multiple campgrounds, a beach, and access to a variety of activities for water lovers and land dwellers alike.

Take a hike to see the the Gila Cliff Dwellings. Photograph by Jay Hemphill.

➤ Get in tune with nature.

Named for those who have traveled this area over centuries, the 95-mile Trail of the Mountain Spirits, also known as the Inner Loop, crosses six climatic zones and is guaranteed to stir your soul. Weave through the grasslands along the Continental Divide, the pine-scented Gila Wilderness, and historic Silver City, then loop around through fishing hot spot Lake Roberts and mineral-rich Mimbres Valley. Be on the lookout for at least 300 types of birds in one of the nation’s most biodiverse regions. “It’s such a beautiful drive to find inspiration from,” says Amaris Ketcham, a poet, professor, and author of Best Tent Camping: New Mexico: Your Car-Camping Guide to Scenic Beauty, the Sounds of Nature, and an Escape from Civilization. “The drive is a kind of poetic route itself. The views are so impactful and you can see for so long, so far away.” DON’T MISS: The Gila Cliff Dwellings. A moderate, one-mile hike leads you to the dwellings occupied in the 1200s by the Tularosa Mogollon people.

Read more: Fill up on the best events of the season.