Trip 3 in Review

Trip 3 in Review
19 days on the road
16 nights camping (0 campfires)
103 miles on foot
5,500 miles on the road

$811 total budget
$575 gasoline
$107 groceries (we brought along most dry goods)
$16 restaurants
$12 campgrounds
$77 hotels
$24 miscellaneous (cave tour, state parks)

18 NPS sites in 12 states
Fossil Butte NM
Golden Spike NHS
City of Rocks NRes
Whitman Mission NHS
Nez Perce NHP
Grant-Kohrs Ranch NHS
Yellowstone NP
Fort Union Trading Post NHS
Theodore Roosevelt NP
Knife River Indian Villages NHS
Wind Cave NP
Bent’s Old Fort NHS
Washita Battlefield NHS
Alibates Flint Quarries NM
Guadalupe Mountains NP
Carlsbad Caverns NP
White Sands NM
Gila Cliff Dwellings NM

Black Hills Rockhound Area

Black Hills Rockhound Area
Location: east of Safford, Arizona
Length of visit: 1 hour
Major draws: Scenic views, rockhounding
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: No shade, good dirt road
Description: 2 miles off Highway 191, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has a signed rockhounding area that is rich with fire agates.  Digging is allowed in this remote area.

Gila National Forest

Lightfeather Hot Springs—Gila National Forest
Location: north of Silver City, New Mexico
Length of visit: 2 hours
Major draws: Scenic views, hot springs, hiking
Strenuosity: 2 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Stream crossings, giant bullfrogs
Description: Less than a mile down the trail there is a shallow pool where 150-degree hot springs combine with cool river water; a great place to relax and watch (and listen to) wildlife.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
Location: north of Silver City, New Mexico
Length of visit: 2 hours
Major draws: Scenic views, Indian ruins, hot springs in area
Strenuosity: 3 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $5 per person or free with America the Beautiful pass
Additional considerations: Poison-ivy, uneven trail, ladder climb, backpackers on road
Description: A one-mile loop trail climbs 180 feet to a well-preserved collection of cliff dwellings.  Trailhead also provides access to Gila Wilderness.

White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument
Location: west of Alamogordo, New Mexico
Length of visit: 2 hours
Major draws: Scenic views, sledding, unique wildlife
Strenuosity: 3 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $5 per person or free with America the Beautiful pass
Additional considerations: No shade, albedo, missile tests can close road to park
Description: Dunes composed of gypsum make a great destination for snow sledding year round.  Specially adapted wildlife species include bleached earless lizards and kangaroo rats.

Oliver Lee Memorial State Park

Oliver Lee Memorial State Park
Location: south of Alamogordo, New Mexico
Length of visit: half day
Major draws: Scenic views, hiking
Strenuosity: 6 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $5 per vehicle day use
Additional considerations: Little shade, spiky plants
Description: A beautiful canyon hike climbs into the Gila National Forest for great views of the White Sands. Past the cabin ruins at the 3-mile point, look for fossils along the trail.

Left Hand Tunnel

Left Hand Tunnel—Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Location: southeast New Mexico
Length of visit: 2 hours
Major draws: Unlit portion of cave, historic candle lanterns
Strenuosity: 2 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $7 per person
Additional considerations: 56-degrees inside cave year round
Description: Behind the underground lunchroom (yes, they have that too) is an unlit cave passage where a ranger will point out fossil shells, aragonite crystals, and other speleothems by lantern light.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Location: southeast New Mexico
Length of visit: half to full day
Major draws: Bat flight program, speleothems, scenic views
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10 (handicap accessible)
Cost/Fees: Cave tour prices vary, Big Room free with America the Beautiful pass
Additional considerations: 56-degrees inside cave year round, natural entrance pathway is steep, no photography allowed at evening Bat Flight Program
Description: Tiff had never seen the 400,000 Brazilian freetail bats exit the natural entrance to Carlsbad Caverns at sunset, so we made our way here to see them.  They cooperated, but unfortunately we have no photographs to share since that is prohibited.  You’ll just have to come see the best cave in the U.S. for yourselves.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Location: western Texas
Length of visit: 3 hours
Major draws: Scenic views, hiking
Strenuosity: 4 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Park will probably be on fire in summer
Description: Even when all trails are closed due to wildfire, you can still drive out to Salt Basin Dunes to walk 3-miles on the bright white gypsum sand dunes with great views of the western escarpment of the Guadalupe Mountains.