Here’s our sample itinerary from when we road-tripped to Taos, New Mexico (famous for its artists and pueblo-style art inspo) and the Great Sand Dunes National Park (famous for its, well, sand dunes, and the juxtaposition of mountains and desert). We did both locations in one week. Alternatively, you could add this itinerary to the Southern Colorado Road trip and make it a 14 day trip total. We enjoyed separating out Taos, New Mexico and the Great Sand Dunes National Park since it gave us ample amount of time to fully enjoy these two destinations.
Note: Alternatively, you could switch the destinations to initially going to the Sand Dunes first, and then head to Taos; I like to head to the Sand dunes National park after Taos only because there’s lots of sand, and it’s a different feel of scenery compared with Taos (and the drive from Denver to Taos is about 8 hours total so I like to break it up with a stop and overnight stay at the Sand Dunes instead)
Timeline: 7 days
Starting Point: Denver
Day 1: Taos, New Mexico (about 4.5 hours)
Day 2: Taos
Day 3: Taos
Day 4: Taos
Day 5: Sand dunes (Taos –> National park about 2 hours driving)
Day 6: Sand dunes (Sand dunes –> Denver about 5 hours and 40 minutes driving time)
Day 7: Denver
We stayed at La Fonda Hotel in Taos, which is right in the center of the city and within walking distance to lots of shops and restaurants. You’d be surprised by all the alleyways and narrow sidewalks that line Taos, making it look like a quaint town but also lots of people, so you get the feel of a city (but not too busy). We went to some great hand-crafted shops where they make jewelry and other home-made goods (imagine if Etsy storeowners had their own brick and mortar store). There’s other stuff to do in and around Taos other than eat and shop:
[ ] Rio Grande River
[ ] Hot springs
[ ] Suspension bridge
[ ] Nearby park for trails
[ ] Georgia o’keefe museum
Tip: you definitely need a car, either rent one or drive your own! It can get expensive with Uber.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
This place holds a special place in our hearts. Only here can you get mountains, plains, and sand dunes all in one giant geological swirl. Hiking in sand is also a really great workout!
[ ] hike the dunes to the way top
[ ] sand board down the dunes
[ ] swim in the river (you’ll have the cross the river usually to get to the sand dunes, especially if it’s high tide, so be prepared to get your feet wet)
[ ] do a night tour with a ranger (nightlife in the desert is so beautiful and alive!
[ ] camp out on the dunes at night (they offer permits for those who want to do some ‘backcountry’ camping)
[ ] car camp or camp nearby the Dunes at the lodge
- wear your socks or sandals with a heel backing when you hike up a sand dune. The sand is often too hot for bare feet, but flip flops don’t offer the stability you need to climb the san (you’ll just sink in). Sometimes tennis shoes work, but they can be a little too dense so you can sink into the sand as well (thus making it EXTRA difficult to get up a dune)
- bring sunscreen – protect your skin and yourself against skin cancer and wear sunscreen!
- wear a hat to protect your face and protect yourself against skin cancer
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