Pack up and hit the backcountry. Illustration by Ryan Johnson.
ALONG FR 437 IN THE CARSON NATIONAL FOREST near Taos, Garcia Park campers can spend an evening tucked in among the aspen groves, watching the sunset-pink shreds of clouds left in the sky. Thunderstorms roll through on summer afternoons, speckling the forest roads and trails that loop near here, including the 21-mile South Boundary Trail, beloved among mountain bikers for its flowy singletrack. The toughest miles are near its start, off FR 76, and in the last miles of a steep descent into Ranchos de Taos. From Garcia Park, sample the mellower middle sections, then loop back to the car for some respite. Fee: Free. —Elizabeth Miller
Saunter into the 46,963-acre White Mountain Wilderness, near Ruidoso, where summits drop dramatically 7,000 feet to the desert floor. The seven-mile loop hike up Argentina Canyon and down Big Bonito makes for a family-friendly overnight backpack. Camp in the oak forests off the 25-mile Crest Trail, which traverses the range, and relax in the wildflower-filled alpine meadows. At sunset, admire the dunes of White Sands National Park and the jagged Organ Mountains, to the west. Then rise with the sun peeking over the Great Plains to the east. On your way out, jump in Big Bonito Creek’s natural swimming holes. Fee: Free. —Christina Selby
Rattle down dirt roads that lace through the Jemez Mountains far enough and you’ll find quiet retreats with aspens and ponderosa pines, sun-filled meadows, rocky outcrops, and steep canyons. Proximity to Santa Fe and Albuquerque allows for loading up after work, driving out NM 4, then turning south onto FR 289, near Los Alamos. We hunted down a campsite within earshot of the road but out of sight of traffic, with time to soak in the late-day sun while dinner simmered on the stove. Finish with a quarter-mile hike to Jemez Falls or a soak in Jemez Springs. Fee: Free. —Elizabeth Miller