Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu New Mexico.

10 Affordable Summer Vacation Spots In New Mexico

One of the Mountain States of the southern Rocky Mountains, New Mexico is home to stunning natural landscapes. From imposing mountains to mystical caves, visitors are drawn to the state’s endless array of attractions. Adding to the allure, many of New Mexico’s amazing destinations can be enjoyed without breaking the bank. Offering affordable amenities and lodging, whether it be in a tent or resort, anyone can take a summer trip to New Mexico on a budget and still have a blast at a fraction of the price.

White Sands National Park

White Sands National Monument Hills of gypsum sand dunes and shrubs plants in New Mexico with Organ mountains on horizon during colorful yellow sunset.
White Sands National Monument Hills of gypsum sand dunes and shrubs plants in New Mexico with Organ Mountains.

Often referred to as one of the world’s great natural wonders, White Sands National Park is a sublime retreat. Boasting miles of glistening white sand, visitors can experience a majestic environment rarely found elsewhere. The park is home to the largest gypsum dune field in the world, which gives the sand its white color. There are many ways to enjoy White Sands National Park. You can hike along one of the five marked trails which provide amazing views of the park. For example, the Hiking Alkali Flat Trail is a great route providing 3 hours of tranquility and sand dunes for company. If you're not into hiking, opt for photography, cycling, driving, or sledding instead.

No matter what you choose to do, you're sure to have a great time at White Sands National Park while staying within your budget. This is because the park features serene backcountry camping, so all you need to bring is a tent and basic supplies. Set up camp before nightfall and you can adore the star-studded sky and shimmering dunes engulfing your tent. To top it off, entry fees start at $15, and you get complete access to the park. Plan your trip on one of the celebrated holidays, and you might get into the park for free. So, pack your tent and head to White Sands National Park for a fun and affordable getaway.

Santa Rosa

The Blue Hole, a famous deep pool with clear blue water and hidden underwater caves, in Santa Rosa, New Mexico.
The Blue Hole, a famous deep pool with clear blue water and hidden underwater caves, in Santa Rosa, New Mexico.

Head back into civilization after White Sands National Park with an affordable vacation at Santa Rosa. The county seat of Guadalupe County, this city houses lush surroundings, amazing entertainment, and budget hotels. Start your trip at the famous Blue Hole Lake, a turquoise artesian spring surrounded by arid desert land. Popular with scuba divers, $25 is enough for a weekly pass to enjoy endless diving in the naturally maintained 62 °F (17 °C) water. Outdoor enthusiasts can bask in the beauty of mother nature at the nearby Santa Rosa Lake State Park. Encompassing 550 acres of protected land, enjoy fishing, hiking, boating, and other activities along the peaceful Santa Rosa Lake.

After all this effort, it's time to recharge your batteries with a delicious meal. So, head back into town to relish affordable Mexican and Latin dishes at the local favorite, Chico’s Torta y Pinas Lokas. To enhance the budget-friendly experience, stay at Super 8 by Wyndham or Econo Lodge, which boasts amazing rooms for less than $100 per night. Put it all together, and Santa Rosa is a lively place to enjoy summer on a budget.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, situated within the Guadalupe Mountains, is an insight into New Mexico’s underground appeal. Home to more than 119 caves, the most popular of the bunch is Carlsbad Caverns. This unique cave system comprises over a dozen rooms showcasing limestone, fossils, stalactites, and other interesting formations. Tourists can opt to explore the cave on their own or with a ranger-guided tour along the many underground trails. That said, no matter what you chose, be sure to check out Big Room, the cave’s largest chamber covering a whopping 357,469 square feet of floor space.

After indulging in the cave’s mystical appeal and endless chambers, head back to the surface for a new set of activities. With an area of almost 47,000 acres, tourists have a range of options, including hiking, backpacking, and wildlife watching. Carlsbad Caverns National Park is known for its abundant bat population in caves. Plan your trip after late May to attend the free Bat Flight Program and learn all about the elusive species. As night falls, set up camp in the backcountry to enjoy primitive camping without any extra charges. So, all you need is a few bucks to pay the entry fee, and a free backcountry permit, and viola, you’ll have a great time in New Mexico.


Sandstone Formation at Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, New Mexico
Sandstone formation at Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, New Mexico.

Located in northern New Mexico, Abiquiu offers visitors plenty of interesting attractions to explore while also being budget-friendly. Home to a tight-knit community of 230 residents, there is always someone up for a lively conversation. That said, no matter who you speak to, everyone is sure to mention Ghost Ranch. This popular 21,000-acre retreat and education center near town provides spiritual development through yoga, meditation, art, and other activities. A short drive from Ghost Ranch and you’ll find yourself at the exquisite Echo Amphitheater. Scream and shout as this natural rock amphitheater throws your voice back at you as an ominous echo.

Abiquiu is not all arid desert and orange rocks. A short drive away is the gleaming Abiquiu Lake. Visitors can enjoy an affordable evening of fishing, hiking, and picnicking along the lake. Boating is also available so one can relish an in-depth experience engulfed by the waters. Moreover, if you want to save money on lodging, ditch the hotel for an outdoor camping experience along the lake's soothing atmosphere. All in all, Abiquiu is an interesting bundle of outdoor experiences that you can enjoy on a budget.

Angel Fire Resort

Small western style tourist town near Angel Fire ski resort in New Mexico with cars parked on main drag through town and mountains in background at dusk
Near Angel Fire ski resort in New Mexico. Image credit Vineyard Perspective via Shutterstock

Nestled within the quaint town of Angel Fire, Angel Fire Resort is an alpine ski resort beckoning travelers with thrilling activities. Enter a world of adrenaline-pumping fun that you can enjoy on a budget. Head out to one of the resorts with 60+ miles of cycling routes where you can challenge your skills and bike through verdant forests. With lifts serving all the routes, you can sit back and focus on having as much fun as possible. For a more relaxing experience, the 18-hole golf course is a bundle of enjoyment. Grab your mates, and you can tee off for hours surrounded by panoramic views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains. Apart from this, tennis courts, chairlift rides, zipline adventures, hiking trails, and other activities provide a limitless array of fun in the resort.

After spending your day out and about, cool off from the summer heat at Monte Verde Lake. While swimming isn’t allowed, you can soak your feet or catch fish for a cheap dinner. With so much on offer, Angel Fire Resort might sound like an expensive destination. Thankfully, that’s not the case. The resort runs regular offers providing freebies such as an extra night on your stay. Plan your trip with a few friends and you can enjoy a lovely room, activities, and more at less than $200 per night.


Historical downtown of Cloudcroft, New Mexico.
Historical downtown of Cloudcroft, New Mexico. Image credit Purplexsu via Shutterstock

On the other end of New Mexico, Cloudcroft is an affordable destination encompassed by Lincoln National Forest. Often overlooked by tourists, this lovely locale in Otero County boasts a mix of towny fun and natural allure. Start off with an interesting stroll to the Off the Beaten Path art gallery, featuring artists from across the country. Another great option is the nearby Osha Trail, a 2.5-mile of well-marked trail. Here, you can witness the verdant beauty of New Mexico from altitudes over 8,000 feet! With these and many other hiking trails, cycling routes, and activities available, there is no end to the fun at Cloudcroft.

No matter what you decide to do, you’re sure to get hungry after all the activity. For a budget meal, stop by Western Bar, where you can enjoy yummy food, great company, and delicious drinks. End your trip at the Burro Street Exchange, a shopping center selling quirky gifts and treats at affordable prices. To amplify the budget-friendly experience, stay at Cloudcroft Hotel or Dusty Boots Motel for lovely views and spacious rooms at around $100 per night.

Riverbend Hot Springs

Truth or Consequences, A well known city for its Hot Springs
Downtown Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Image credit Cheri Alguire via Shutterstock

Retreat from the hustle and bustle of urban cities at the enchanting Riverbend Hot Springs. Tucked along the Rio Grande River’s banks, this affordable resort is an ideal getaway. As soon as you arrive, choose between an array of rooms starting at $115 with all the amenities you need. With hot spring access, wifi, and a TV, you won’t have to worry about anything during your stay. Or, if you have an RV, save more cash by booking a $75 RV spot to stay on your own terms.

After settling in, it's time to indulge in the heated mineral water hot springs in Truth or Consequences that attract people from all over. Jump into any of the beautiful eight pools and feel the stress seep out of your body. While in the water, appreciate the luscious greenery and majestic vistas surrounding the resort. Once you’re out of the pool, check out the gift shop where you can purchase branded robes, keychains, and other items to remember your trip. Retreat to your room and relish a peaceful night’s sleep in New Mexico.

Carson National Forest

Carson National Forest park sign.
Carson National Forest.

Follow the Rio Grande River north, and you’ll find yourself at the beautiful Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico. Encompassing an area of 1.4 million acres, this immense natural area is a wellspring of outdoor scenery and activities. Witness soothing rivers, enchanting forests, and imposing mountains for an all-encompassing allure. For example, the immense Wheeler Peak stands tall at 13,167 feet, attracting visitors from all over the country. With so much to see, around a million people visit each year to admire and enjoy Carson National Forest.

In terms of recreation, one can enjoy a range of activities, including hiking, mountain biking, skiing, camping, and wildlife viewing. For hikers, the park boasts five trails with a combined length of about 600 miles, so you’ll never get bored. Animal enthusiasts can admire dozens of interesting species, such as elk, black bears, bobcats, and cougars, within the park. No matter what you plan on doing, have fun on a budget with annual passes available at just $80. Moreover, children under 15 enter for free, so the whole family can have a blast!

Gila National Forest

Gila River in Gila National Forest, New Mexico, USA
Gila River in Gila National Forest, New Mexico.

If Carson National Forest sounds enticing, wait till you visit the natural abode that is Gila National Forest. Boasting a seemingly endless area of 2.7 million acres, it is the sixth-largest national forest in continental America. Tourists are drawn by the encompassing aura and rugged terrain embellished with tall mountains, deep canyons, and charming mesas. Take in the charm firsthand with a hike along the park’s extensive trail system. Engulfed by spruce forests, aspen glades, and juniper woodland, even a short hike feels like you’ve entered a different dimension. Apart from hiking, you can also spend the day bicycling, horse riding, hunting, or picnicking.

After a day of activity, Gila National Forest has several hot springs to relax your body. The Jordan Hot Springs and Middle Fork Hot Springs provide the perfect environment for a soothing time in mother nature’s caress. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the local wildlife, such as the Gila woodpecker, bald eagle, and bobcat. However, with dangerous species such as the Gila monster and black bear abound, always keep an eye on the treeline. The best part is, you can use the same annual pass you bought for Carson National Forest to enter this lovely expanse. So, enjoy the great outdoors within double-digit spending at Gila National Forest.

Bandelier National Monument

Looking up at Cliff Dwellings in Bandelier National Monument.
Cliff Dwellings in Bandelier National Monument.

Spanning three counties in northern New Mexico, Bandelier National Monument is an abode of historic beauty. Embrace 33,000 acres of wilderness centered around a monument for the Ancestral Puebloans, an ancient Native American tribe once residing in the area. Visitors can admire their unique homes carved into natural cavities along cliffsides thousands of years ago. In addition to this, rock paintings and petroglyphs tell the timeline of these ancient people and their interesting past.

Once you’ve taken in the monument, don’t miss out on affordable fun in the surrounding wilderness. Several designated trails provide an ideal way to take in the views and explore the pure environment. As some routes stretch to multi-day backpacks, you can become one with your surroundings in this slice of natural appeal. Throughout the hike, keep your eyes and ears open, and you’re sure to notice some of the area’s permanent inhabitants. From deer and mountain lions to hummingbirds and vultures, a diverse ecosystem thrives throughout. To enjoy this mix of history and nature, all you’ll need is $15 for a week’s pass. With access to most areas and camping sites, few places can match the affordable beauty of Bandelier National Monument.

Embrace the beauty of New Mexico this summer without breaking the bank. From the glistening sands of White Sands National Park to the verdant expanse of Gila National Forest, the possibilities are endless. That said, be sure to book your tickets early so you can avail the best prices for an enjoyable summer vacation.


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