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15 Absolutely Stunning New Mexico Scenic Byways the Rest of the World Are Jealous Of



Did you know that New Mexico is home to 25 byways that totals over 2,900 miles across a diverse landscape? That’s right, there are plenty of options if you are looking to go on a fun adventure. It doesn’t matter whether you are going on a day trip, weekend getaway or a simple road trip, we’ve already compiled the top New Mexico scenic byways so you can just cruise your way along any of these:

Check out the absolutely stunning Top New Mexico Scenic Byways

These are not in order. Feel free to be the judge!

Billy the Kid Byway

Relive the Wild West lore of outlaws, gunfights, and Buffalo soldiers when you travel along the Billy the Kid Byway. It is one of the top New Mexico scenic byways because you get to see the stunning backdrop of snowy peaks, rolling rivers, orchards and ranchlands. This short but spectacular mountain loop will take you through the Lincoln National Forest in central New Mexico. It begins in Ruidoso Downs, which can be accessed via the US-70. From there, you will also witness the rich history at Ft. Stanton.

Quebradas Backcountry Byway

Quebradas Backcountry Byway road

Source: Instagram

This unpaved county road traverses about 24 miles of rugged, rainbow-hued ridges, and colorful landscapes east of Socorro. You will clearly see the vast and wonderful views of New Mexico’s geologic past because there are glimpses of desert wildlife, especially at dawn and dusk. Do you love going into rough geographies? Then this is perfect for you! Aside from backcountry vehicle touring, you will also be able to enjoy many recreational opportunities here.

Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway

Chaco Canyon Ancient Ruins NM trail of the ancients

Source: Instagram

Embrace a portion of the American Southwest and be in awe of a canyon filled with yellow- and gray-striped hills. The Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway delights many road trippers its geologic drama, as well as plant and animal life. Visitors of this place will surely take delight in the beautiful sandstone landscapes carved by wind and water into shapes of every kind!

Chaco Canyon, which functioned as a ceremonial center between 850 and 1250 A.D., is the center of the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway.

Salt Missions Trail Scenic Byway

Salt Missions Trail nm

Source: Instagram

Travel from the mountains to the plains, and check out the Salt Missions Trail Scenic Byway that traverses the heart of New Mexico! It will take you through old trade routes as well as rail beds that detail the activities of yesteryear. Just remember that the eastern and southern branches of the byway run through the plains. On the other hand, you can take the western branch if you prefer the mountain views.

Santa Fe National Forest Scenic Byway

Santa Fe National Forest Scenic Byway top new mexico scenic byways

Source: Instagram

What makes this one of the top New Mexico scenic byways? Well, we have to give credit to its vast vistas of badlands, and the stunning azure mountains. The road takes you through the Hyde Memorial State Park, which is a famous destination when one wishes to partake in summertime activities. There are also many opportunities for you to camp, ski, or go on a picnic here, a solace from Santa Fe’s cultural deluge. This road will brighten up your day!

El Camino Real National Scenic Byway

El Camino Real National Scenic Byway

Source: Socorro NM

There is an interesting story behind this byway. Back in 1598, Don Juan de Onate led 500 colonists through the remote and unfamiliar country which we now know as Mexico. The Onate route followed and was known as the “royal road,” or El Camino Real. The El Camino Real National Scenic Byway begins north of Las Cruces, in Fort Selde. It then crosses 90 miles of flat but waterless and much more dangerous desert, before finally reaching Socorro, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and ending at San Juan Pueblo, the first capital of New Mexico.

Guadalupe Back Country Scenic Byway

Guadalupe Back Country Scenic Byway

Source: Instagram

What do we love about the Guadalupe Back Country Scenic Byway? For starters, it shows patches of prickly pear and sotol grow out of cream-colored limestone outcrops. It’s a refreshing sight when you’re looking out the window of your car. The byway begins north of Carlsbad in the Chihuahuan Desert. Then, it ascends into the Guadalupe Mountain, treating you to cooler temperatures.

La Frontera Del Llano Scenic Byway

One of the top New Mexico scenic byways has its northern part running through the Kiowa and Rita Blanca National Grasslands, a unit of the Cibola National Forest. You will also see many little mission churches, and animals along this byway.

Wild Rivers Scenic Byway

Wild Rivers Scenic Byway top new mexico scenic byways

Source: Youtube

The Wild Rivers Scenic Byway loops through the BLM Wild Rivers Recreation Area, and gives adventurers access to the upper reaches of the Rio Grande, thus making it a haven for hikers and cyclists alike. Those who have been to this byway would attest to the stunning 360-degree vista at La Junta Overlook. To put it simply, it is “worth the drive.”

High Road To Taos Scenic Byway

High Road To Taos Scenic Byway top new mexico scenic byways

Source: Instagram

Do you want to be in a place that can remind you of Old Spain? The religion, architecture, as well as topography you will notice along the route lends an authenticity you can’t find just anywhere else. This byway travels through Chimayo and continues through the crinkled badlands, and the Jemez Mountains.

Trail of The Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway

Trail of The Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway new mexico

Source: Instagram

This byway is locally known as The Inner Loop, and it is a famous spot for bicycle race enthusiasts since it serves as the route for the Gila Race Annual Tour. It is a 93-mile National Scenic Byway that passes around the southwest corner of New Mexico, and back and forth across the forested Continental Divide.

Corrales Road Scenic Byway

Corrales Road Scenic Byway nm

Source: Youtube

Nature is at its best at the Corrales Road Scenic Byway. You can just breathe in the earthy smells of tilled earth, and marvel at the lush greenery in front of you. Some say that this provides the wonderful remaining example of the middle Rio Grande cottonwood forest.

Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway

Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway top new mexico scenic byways

Source: Instagram

One of the top New Mexico scenic byways just so happens to link the oldest continuously occupied residence in New Mexico, Taos Pueblo, and beautiful vistas recognizable from such films as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “Easy Rider.” There are many hiking and camping spots along the byway, and it is perfect for those who appreciate coming to a high alpine scenery adventure.

Lake Valley Back Country Byway

Lake Valley Back Country Byway nm

Source: Instagram

Explore the heart of the Black Range Mountains when you pass by the Lake Valley Back Country Byway. Expect tree-lined streets, and many old buildings that date back to the 1800s. This is a real ghost town, because its last residents moved to Deming in 1994.

Puye Cliffs Scenic Byway

Source: Instagram

Source: Instagram

Last but not the least, the Puye Cliffs Scenic Byway gives road trippers a taste of New Mexico’s seven life zones, which is an area of low hills blanketed by piñon, juniper and grama grass. The drive is a combination of flat terrain and rolling hills. You should definitely keep your camera ready so you can snap photos of the Puye Cliffs visible in the distance, and the Jemez Mountains.

Which among the top New Mexico scenic byways is your favorite?

Before you go, check this out: The Complete Guide to 10 of the Most Beautiful Waterfalls You Can Find in New Mexico and 10 Top-Rated New Mexico Destinations That Every Traveler Should Visit.

A writer big on nature, travel, and dogs. If you can't find Errot with her furry pal, then she's probably out exploring.