Holidays in White Sands, NM & Big Bend, TX
We are rounding out our fourth month of travel and are still west (far west) of the Mississippi... life on the road has been sweeter than expected. With the east coast still to discover and The Lance hitting her stride, our adventure seems to be pushing us towards another six months on the road. So… it was December and somehow we were back in New Mexico, clearly meaning more cacti and tacos, right!? I mean sand dunes and Chinese food...
Hanukkah in White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
Stay: Aguirre Springs Campground - $7/night, no hook ups – RVs cannot camp at the National Monument (only backcountry tent camping available) so the options are to stay at a whatever RV Park in Las Cruces (45mi SW of Monument) or in Lee Roy State Park (30mi NE of the Monument which does look like a nice option) OR make the best decision and stay at Aguirre Springs. The Campground is on the backside of the Las cruces Mountains on BLM property. They don’t recommend trailers over 24’ but at close to 30’ (with bikes and our tongue) we made it just fine. The road is totally doable, a little narrow and curvy with some elevation but paved. The main concern for bigger rigs is site availability, there might only be a handful of sites that can fit something over 30’. With mountains in your backyard and valley views below, the slight uncertainty is worth the risk. We did not get to hike the two trails inside the recreational area but both seem like great treks.
Explore: White Sands National Monument - Arrive around 2pm leaving several hours to explore before posting up for sunset. Stop at the visitor center for a sled (purchase new for $15 and if you return it they will reimburse you $5 or if inventory allows, buy used for $10). Take your time on Dunes Drive, an eight mile (one way) scenic drive that leads from the visitors center into the heart of White Sands. Park in the back and either follow the very well marked Alkali Flats Trail (five miles RT) or carve your own path through miles of the gypsum dunefield.
Our campground inspired us to stay another night so we celebrated Xmas doing laundry and eating Chinese food in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
New Years in Big Bend National Park, TX
Stay: Rio Grande Village Campground - $14/night (no hookups) or stay across the street in the Campground Village's RV parking lot for full hook ups (only hookups in the park). The National Park is HUGE (over 800k acres... be prepared to tack on mileage to your vehicle) and one of the least visited National Parks making it the perfect spot to soak in Texas's solitude.
Explore: SO many options... camp, run, hike, swim, backpack, hot springs soak, row boat to Mexico... Our top picks:
- Day trip to Mexico - it will be the cheapest trip to Mexico you will ever take ($5 row boat ride across Rio Grande to a $5 burro or truck ride into Boquillas, Mexico)...the whole journey will take about 30 minutes. Plan to arrive around lunch time for a few cervezas/margs and tostadas. ProTip: walk around the town prior to consuming any margs (they will hit you pretty hard).
- Hike Boquillas Canyon - nice easy stroll along the Rio Grande into a deep canyon, very close to Rio Grande Village Campground.
- Hike South Rim Trail in Chisos Mountains - you can tackle this hike in a day or opt for an overnight backpacking trip. The 12 ish mi RT South Rim hike is doable day hike but if you have more days there are 20+ miles of trails to explore. After either option, we recommend enjoying a celebratory beer at the Lodge with a view of The Window.
- Hike Lost Mine Trail - 5mi RT moderate hike with spectacular views of the Chisos Basin. If you do not have time to hike the 12+mi South Rim Trail, make sure to do this hike!
- Off road to Ernst Tinaja tent campground for a 1.5 mi RT hike along canyon walls to a spectacular watering hole.
- Soak in Boquillas Hot Springs - to reach the hot springs, take the short hike starting near Rio Grande Village Campground for beautiful views of the Rio (or you can drive and park about .25mi from springs). ProTip: go in late evening for sunset and/or after any long day hike.