If you want to tour nearly 200 miles of the Land of Enchantment, then you may want to take a Ruidoso, NM, to Albuquerque, NM, road trip. Some great national and state parks are within driving distance of your route, and some interesting destinations and towns await you. Just a little over three hours may seem like a short road trip, but if you're willing to add some fairly distant national parks to your road trip itinerary from Ruidoso to Albuquerque then you'll really get that road trip feeling.
White Sands National Park
Before you leave Ruidoso on your road trip from Ruidoso, NM, to Albuquerque, NM, you should travel a little over an hour southwest to White Sands National Park. These white gypsum sand dunes, coupled with the surrounding surreal desert landscape, will captivate you. You can explore the dunes on foot or horseback courtesy of five trails ranging from short and easy to lengthier and more strenuous. Be sure to take a few turns sliding down the dunes on a sled as this is a favorite pastime at White Sands National Park.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is three hours southeast of Ruidoso close to the New Mexico/Texas border. These lengthy underground limestone caves in the Guadalupe Mountains delight more than 400,000 people per year. The caves are the main attraction, but there are also some lovely trails that take you through part of the Chihuahuan Desert. Another fun activity here is to watch the Brazilian free-tailed bats fly out of the cavern and into the evening sky at sunset. Stargazing is also popular here thanks to the dark skies of the park.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is right down the road from Carlsbad Caverns and across the New Mexico/Texas border. It's a newer national park, so it's not as well-known as some of its peers. What it lacks in fame, it makes up for in terms of rugged beauty and adventure potential. Features like Guadalupe Peak, the Frijole Ranch, and El Capitan can be explored on multiple trails that take you through a variety of environments. Whether you want an easy walk or a strenuous stroll, you can choose your own adventure at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park is only three hours west of Albuquerque in Arizona, so it's worth visiting even though you've technically finished your Ruidoso to Albuquerque road trip. After all, how could you pass up the opportunity to explore more than 200 square miles of gorgeous painted desert—and, of course, the petrified logs that call this park home? You'll also be able to view Native American petroglyphs and a bevy of desert flora and fauna. Hiking and horseback riding are popular here thanks to the excellent trails, but you can also take off on a multi-day backcountry camping adventure.
Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park is four hours northwest of Albuquerque in southwestern Colorado, so it's also within driving distance of your final destination. If you want to see some of America's best Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings and ruins, then Mesa Verde National Park is the place to go. More than 600 cliff dwellings are preserved here; the most famous is Cliff Palace, which is the largest such dwelling in North America. The dwellings themselves are the big draw here, but there are multiple trails that take you along the mesa and give you views of Spruce Canyon and Navajo Canyon.
Elephant Butte Lake State Park
Elephant Butte Lake State Park is close to two hours from Carrizozo, so it's a bit off your route. It's the largest state park in New Mexico, however, so it's worth the extra driving time. Elephant Butte Lake is 40,000 acres large, so it's the ideal place for swimming, boating, and fishing. On land, you can hike on 15 miles of excellent trails.
Bottomless Lakes State Park
Bottomless Lakes State Park is roughly an hour and a half to the east of Ruidoso and just to the east of Roswell, so it's close to the route you would take to get down to Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The lakes themselves are not, of course, bottomless; they merely appear to be so thanks to the unique color produced by aquatic plants. Scuba diving is popular here as are swimming and kayaking.
Sumner Lake State Park
Sumner Lake State Park is about an hour and 20 minutes from Vaughn on the banks of Lake Sumner. The lake itself is a 4,500-acre reservoir filled from the Pecos River, so it's an excellent place for swimming and boating. The fishing is good here, too, so if you drop a line in the water, you might pull out a bass, catfish, or walleye.
Santa Rosa Lake State Park
If you travel 45 minutes northeast of Vaughn, you'll reach Santa Rosa Lake State Park. Like Sumner Lake, Santa Rosa Lake is also fed by the Pecos River. Water skiing, kayaking, fishing, and swimming are all favorite pastimes here. There are some easy paved paths to stroll on, so you can still have fun on dry land.
Villanueva State Park
About 35 minutes from Clines Corners is Villanueva State Park. Canoeing and fishing on the Pecos River are both popular activities; visitors also enjoy hiking to the observation bridge that spans the river. If you keep your eyes peeled, you should see some of the birds and wildlife that live at Villanueva State Park.
Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area
The Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area is one of the first points on your road trip itinerary from Ruidoso, NM, to Albuquerque, NM. It was established around a decade ago in order to protect the subterranean cave system on its premises. In addition to the Fort Stanton Cave, this conservation area boasts 73 miles of trails you can explore on foot, bike, or horseback.
International UFO Museum and Research Center
If you decide to head down to Carlsbad Caverns National Park and/or Guadalupe Mountains National Park, then you'll pass through the unique town of Roswell. Even if you decide not to visit those amazing national parks, you should still take the opportunity to go to this town that's dedicated to the study of UFOs and alien life. One great place to learn about the Roswell Incident of 1947 and other facets of UFO research is the International UFO Museum and Research Center.
Smokey Bear Historical Park
Not too far beyond Fort Stanton is Smokey Bear Historical Park, which is a tribute to the real Smokey Bear. At this park, you can learn about Smokey Bear's life, the history of the Capitan area, and forest health tips. Multiple historical and educational exhibits make this a great place to explore on your road trip from Ruidoso, NM, to Albuquerque, NM.
Wildlife West Nature Park
Wildlife West Nature Park is half an hour outside of Albuquerque in Edgewood. The park contains 24 different species of local wildlife; all of the animals are rescues that couldn't survive in the wild and must be cared for in captivity. Bobcats, black bears, coyotes, mule deer, and more are on display here, making for a great afternoon of education and relaxation.
Sandia Peak Tramway
Before you drive into Albuquerque, head 15 minutes north and take a ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway. On this tram, you can ascend to the summit of Sandia Peak, which is 10,378 feet high. Panoramic views of Albuquerque and its surrounding areas make for a meaningful road trip experience.
This is a short road trip, so you won't really need to stop anywhere to tend to or park your RV. There are multiple dump stations and campgrounds in New Mexico, however, so you can visit them if you want to do some more exploring of this gorgeous state.
You'll reach Carrizozo 40 minutes into your Ruidoso, NM, to Albuquerque, NM, RV road trip. You can take a walk around the Valley of Fires Recreation Area and pay a visit to the Carrizozo Heritage Museum.
Moriarty is about 40 minutes away from Albuquerque. If you're interested in learning about old cars, you should stop by the Lewis Antique Auto & Toy Museum. Those interested in touring breweries should visit Sierra Blanca Brewing.
Ten miles west on Interstate 40 is the town of Edgewood. Its biggest attraction is Wildlife West Nature Park. You can also visit Enchantment Equitreks, which specializes in group and horseback riding vacation packages and daytrips.
Tijeras is 20 minutes outside of Albuquerque. You can take a drive on the Singing Road and take a hike on the Piedra Lisa or Embudito Trail.
Carnuel is your last stop before you reach Albuquerque at the end of your Ruidoso, NM, to Albuquerque, NM, road trip. Walk on the Three Guns Trail and visit the Canon De Carnuel Grant.