New Mexico truly is the Land of Enchantment as you'll see by visiting these seven fantastic natural wonders. Discover a wonderland of ancient volcanic activity, wildlife preserves playing home to endangered and rare species of North American animals, and wide open spaces perfect for your student group!
Valles CalderaHike through this 89,000-acre and discover a storied and violent geological past of one of the three super volcanoes in North America. The caldera of the inactive volcano spreads 13.7 miles wide, complete with hot springs, fumaroles spewing subterranean gas, and much more. The highest point of the park is Redondo Peak which rises more than 11,000 feet, striking an intimidating shadow. Also located within the park is the Valles Caldera National Preserve and the multitude of North American native animals like elk, cattle, among others. Most of the recreation in Valles Caldera revolves around hiking the many trails as well as the scenic horseback riding trails.
White Sands National MonumentWhite Sands National Monument, as evident by the name, offers 275 square miles of ethereal scenery made by otherworldly white sand dunes of gypsum crystals. This is the single largest gypsum sand dune in the entire world and a hotspot for geological study. Because of the nature of the sand dunes, there aren't the traditional hiking trails of other parks though photography is a major activity here. A section of the park is utilized by the U.S. Army as a missile testing base and is inaccessible to the general public.
Carlsbad CavernsWithout question, Carlsbad Caverns is one of the most important cave systems in the world for geological study. Here, scientists have been able to study the evolution of geology and as laypeople, your group will enjoy the magnificent hanging limestone stalactites and gigantic caverns of echoing sound. The system has more than 80 known caves to its name, making it fun and interesting for your group to tour. As one of the world's most preserved, most accessible cave systems, Carlsbad Caverns is definitely a must see in New Mexico.
Tent Rocks National Monument40 miles south of Santa Fe, you'll find the alien-looking cone shaped rocks of Tent Rocks National Monument. These strange rocks were formed by an explosion of volcanic ash and rock, layered over millennia. The park was established by President Clinton in 2001 shortly before leaving office and covers nearly 5,000 acres of land on the Pajarito Plateau. The recreation available in the park is limited to foot traffic on the hiking trails though many people use their visit to participate in bird-watching, geological and plant study, and photography.
Much of New Mexico, as you probably know, lacks an abundance of fresh water. At Bottomless Lakes State Park, however, that's not the case. 14 miles from the famous Roswell, your group can enjoy kayaking or canoeing, fishing, camping, and more in the nine perfectly blue lakes! The lakes were formed by ancient sinkholes which range in depth from 17 to a staggering 90 feet deep, making them wonderful places for learning about the nature of the landscape.
P.S. If you enjoyed this park, try the Blue Hole, which reaches a depth of over 180 feet.
The picture above shows the strange and rocky mushroom capped formations of the Bisti Badlands, a 45,000 acre park in San Juan County. Significant to the Navajo, the Bisti Badlands are spotted with petroglyphs and archaeological evidence of an ancient history. Like most of New Mexico's wonders, the Bisti Badlands is notable for its geological formations, made by an ancient volcanic explosion and millennia of layered buildup which resulted in these strange rocks. Hiking, camping, wildlife watching, and photography are highly popular at the Bisti Badlands though if you do camp here, know that campfires are forbidden.
Otherwise known as the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, the Taos Gorge Bridge crosses the Rio Grande at 565 feet in the air, making it the seventh highest bridge in the U.S. Built in 1965, the steel deck arch bridge was awarded the "most beautiful steel bridge" by the American Institution of Steel Construction in 1966. However, the gorge itself is what draws the attention of most visitors. The gorge is actually formed by a tectonic chasm and reaches a depth of nearly 800 feet just south of the Taos Gorge Bridge. In 2013, the gorge was established as a National Monument as well as over 240,000 acres of surrounding land.