Spring break is finally upon us, and with unseasonably warm weather blessing the Land of Enchantment, it’s time to drop the textbooks and get out into the wild and beautiful landscapes that give our state its legendary nickname.
Here’s a few ideas for day trips, camping excursions and romantic getaways that are close to home and won’t break the bank.
Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Just across the Colorado border, deep in the beautiful San Juan Mountains, sits the sleepy and idyllic mountain town of Pagosa Springs. Named after the Ute Indian word for “healing waters,” Pagosa Springs is home to some of the best natural hot springs in the West. It’s completely free to take a dip in the San Juan River, which flows right through the heart of town and is lined with pools that are fed by the bubbling hot waters beneath. The town’s main street is full of interesting shops, restaurants and bars, as well as affordable bath houses where weary students can soak their school stress away.
If you’re vacationing on the cheap, there are plenty of options for camping outside of town, and you can soak all you want for free in the pools around the river. If you want to soak in style and are willing to pay for it, The Springs Resort and Spa is the way to go. It’s an amazing castle-esque hotel towering over the banks of the river, boasting 20 different hot pools of varying temperatures. When soaking in their outdoor pools, visitors can enjoy views of the entire town and the mountains surrounding it.
For a less expensive but equally relaxing spa experience, check out the Overlook Hot Springs. We soaked there all night for $14 each, and you can even get a beer or glass of wine as you enjoy their awesome rooftop tubs.
Less than a four hour drive, Pagosa Springs is the perfect destination for a romantic weekend or just a chance to soak those sore, mid-semester muscles. And if the hot springs aren’t enough to take the edge off, the town also has several recreational marijuana dispensaries.
Taos, New Mexico
You don’t have to travel too far to have a world-class vacation. Just over two hours north of Albuquerque, historic Taos offers a wide range of fun and affordable options for students. The natural beauty of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the breathtaking Rio Grande Gorge and the colors of the high desert have attracted artists like Georgia O’Keefe and Jim Henson to Taos for a century. With dozens of art galleries and museums and the Native arts and crafts market, Taos is an art lover’s dream.
For an educational trip back in time, make sure to visit the world famous Taos Pueblo. Built around 1000 years ago and considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited locations in the country, the pueblo was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. Check out the five-story adobe dwellings that are still inhabited by Taos Native Americans to this day.
For those looking to hit the powder, the world-famous Taos Ski Valley is the place to be. With nearly all their trails and lifts still open, spring break is the best opportunity to get your winter sports fix before next season.
To walk in the footsteps of one of America’s greatest artists, visit the stunningly gorgeous Ghost Ranch, where Georgia O’Keefe made her home. The site is an essential pilgrimage for any hardcore O’Keefe fan, and anyone who enjoys the desert vistas that inspired her. The ranch offers daily tours on horseback around the property, and also offers camping and lodging at various price points. Just two hours north of Albuquerque, it’s an easy day trip that won’t be forgotten soon.
Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary
Just outside of Grants, N.M., lies the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, where captive-bred wolves and wolf-dogs have found a permanent home. Visitors get the chance to meet these beautiful animals up close and personal, even feeding them and getting their photos taken with them. Tours can be a bit pricey, starting at $125 per person, but where else do you get to hike through a beautiful desert landscape with your own personal wolf guide?
The sanctuary offers very cheap camping sites, where you can sit around the fire and listen to the howling of the wolves. They also have private cabins, where a small group could enjoy a more posh wilderness experience for around the cost of a Motel 6. While you’re there, make sure to check out the nearby Bandera Volcano Ice Caves, a frozen cave in a collapsed lava tube where the temperature never rises above freezing.
With so many amazing options so close to home, there’s no excuse not to get out of town this spring break. So drop the books, get outside and have some well-earned fun.
Jonathan Baca is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JonGabrielB.