small photo of group of children among the trees at Prince William Forest Park
Last Week's Getaway:
Prince William Forest Park
Triangle, Virginia

small photo of friend and dog at Prince William Forest Park, Triangle, Virginia Other Previous Getaways

photo of church ruins on a sunny day, surrounded by yellow wildflowers
The remains of the mission church at Gran Quivira are nestled in seasonal wrap of wildflowers, bringing new life to the ancient rocks (NPS Photo)

photo of a group of childen exploring the ruins
A group of Junior Rangers explore the ruins at Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument (NPS Photo)

photo of a cute young owl, placidly sitting in the corner
A young owl gazes intently from a protected corner of the Quarai ruins (NPS Photo)

Experience America's Best Idea This Summer

National Park Getaways


Every Wednesday, Cool Spots for Hot Days in ... New Mexico

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
Mountainair, New Mexico

New Mexico's enchanting sunlight, sky and desert meet the mystery of the early Southwest at Salinas Pueblo Missions, now in its 100th year as a national park. The colorful ruins of 350-year-old colonial churches and prehistoric Indian towns are a ridiculously easy (and very scenic) drive away from the traffic and noise of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. And admission is free – let's go!

Beneath the Manzano Mountains, the monument's three mission-and-pueblo sites form a triangle around Mountainair, population 1,054 and the park headquarters and visitor center. The 6,500-foot elevation offers a breezy summer escape, with warm days and cool nights.

Awaiting you are not just piles of old rocks. The Quarai, Abo, and Gran Quivira pueblos and missions are prehistory and history surrounded by stunning landscapes. And they are surprisingly close: Only 75 minutes from Albuquerque and about 90 minutes from Santa Fe. Do it all in a day or stay the weekend. Mountainair has lodging options and there is camping nearby in Manzano Mountains State Park and Red Canyon campground in Cibola National Forest.

Come prepared to relax and explore:

This is a fitting place for comings and goings. Ancestral Puebloans – formerly called “Anasazi” – settled the neighborhood back in the 10th century. Spanish conquistadors came in the late 1500s, and priests and churches followed. For barely a century, they coexisted until drought, famine, and disease took over. In a single decade, the 1670s, as many as 4,000 villagers and the Spanish missionaries abandoned the pueblos (hundreds died) and resettled along the Rio Grande. Listen carefully in today's stillness and you can almost hear the ghosts: Villagers, missionaries, and the Apache raiders who hastened the fall of a once-prosperous trading center.

Ready to get away to 17th-century New Mexico? Before saddling up, scope out more activities at the park's website and the National Park Service's American Southwest travel itinerary page. And if you teach school, here's some cool extra credit: Salinas Pueblo Missions' lesson plan part of our online “Teaching with Historic Places” series.