new mexico

Petroglyph National Monument | Travel (55/556)

Petroglyph National Monument | Travel (55/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s) While driving through Albuquerque, I noticed a sign for Petroglyph National Monument. With a little downtime in my schedule, I was excited to visit an extra 556 location and hike a few miles in the desert.

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Boca Negra Canyon - a fully developed area, great for hiking, picnics and easy views of petroglyphs.
  2. Mesa Point Trail - a short trail in the Boca Negra Canyon area.
  3. Piedras Marcadas Canyon - This short 1.5 mile trail allows you to see nearly 400 petroglyphs.
  4. Rinconada Canyon Trail - this 2.2 mile trail allows for up to 300 petroglyph sightings.
  5. Volcanoes Day Use Area - offers multiple short trails, varying in difficulty. Plus, as the name suggests, there are volcanoes :)

What are you favorite hikes and places to explore in Albuquerque's Petroglyph National Monument?

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta | Travel

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography For years, I have wanted to travel to Albuquerque for the International Balloon Fiesta. Last year the stars aligned and I was in town for the first few days of the event.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

Even though wind interfered with seeing the balloons actually launch, I had a wonderful first experience walking through the endless colorful balloons :)

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

Balloon Fiesta Tips
  1. Plan to be in town and available for several days, in case weather and/or wind interfere with balloon launches.
  2. Wake up insanely early and arrive at the park around 5:00 am. Enjoy less traffic and be sure to wear layers. The desert is chilly in the morning!
  3. Stay late for the balloon glow in the evening. It's magical.
  4. Bring food and water. Highly recommend breakfast burritos if you have an awesome friend with a delicious recipe!
  5. Walk between ALL the balloons and smile at the amazing colors :)

Have you ever been to the ABQ International Balloon Fiesta? I look forward to making my way back, for a longer stay, in the future!

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

Santa Fe National Forest | Travel (54/556)

Santa Fe National Forest | Travel (54/556) | Alaina Ann Photography Talk about aspen heaven! If you are in the Santa Fe area during early October, I highly recommend exploring Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico. The colors, light and blue skies are amazing.

I was grinning from ear to ear my entire visit :)

Santa Fe National Forest | Travel (54/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Aspen Vista Picnic Site - step out of your car into aspen goodness! The picnic tables are perfect for a relaxing meal. Also serves as a trail head for Tesuque Peak and Alamo Vista Trail.
  2. Holy Ghost Trail - a 3.3 mile hike filled with colorful trees or wildflowers, depending on the season.
  3. Jemez Falls - a short half mile hike to Jemez Falls, the tallest waterfall in the Jemez Mountains.
  4. Jemez Mountain Trail Scenic Byway - the scenic byway covers 163 miles, with approximately 65 miles in the national forest. Enjoy cliff dwellings, small mining towns and endless beautiful views.
  5. Santa Fe National Forest Scenic Byway - a glorious, aspen filled 16 miles of highway starting in historic downtown Santa Fe, ending at the Santa Fe Ski Area.

What are you favorite hikes and places to explore in Santa Fe National Forest?

Santa Fe National Forest | Travel (54/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Carson National Forest | Travel (53/556)

Carson National Forest | Travel (53/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s) Carson National Forest was filled with beautiful aspens, great hikes and awesome little mountain towns. Next time, an overnight stay in Red River is a must!

Also, an active alert of "Bears are stressed. Be alert!" was slightly alarming. Thankfully, there were no encounters with stressed out bears.

Carson National Forest | Travel (53/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Devisadero Loop Trail - a 5.1 mile trail, perfect for viewing summer wildflowers.
  2. Enchanted Circle Loop - An 83 mile scenic drive circling through Taos, Questa, Red River, Elizabethtown, Eagle Nest and Angel Fire. I was definitely enchanted!
  3. Red River - an awesome mountain town worth exploring on foot, especially during fall.
  4. Rim Vista Trail - a 2.7 mile hike offering an incredible view of the Chama River Canyon Wilderness.
  5. US Hwy 64 - noted as one of the most beautiful highways in the United States. The route is between Tres Piedras and Tiera Amarilla.

Tell me all about your favorite hikes and places to explore in Carson National Forest in the comments below!

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument | Travel

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s) While making my way south from Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, I briefly stopped at the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico. My middle of the day visit deterred me from capturing too many photographs and convinced me to make another visit in the future to explore a bit more.

This second photograph makes me giggle. I was on the phone with my mom while driving on NM Highway 570 and yelled "Mom, I have to go! I see the river and it is BEAUTIFUL!"

This happens frequently while traveling :)

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s)

Starting today, travel posts will include my top five list - hikes, scenic drives, overlooks, etc. Simplicity is my new motto over here and five seems to be my average.

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. La Junta Trail - giving access to the confluence of the Rio Grande and Red Rivers, this 2.5 mile round-trip hike is worth the moderate to difficult terrain.
  2. New Mexico Highway 570 - loved driving so close to the Rio Grande River and stopping to listen to the water rush by.
  3. Rift Valley Trail - a moderate nine mile hike through the entire Taos Valley Overlook area.
  4. Rinconada Loop Trail - a six mile, easy hike near the gorge rim. Enjoy sage and woods along the way.
  5. Wild Rivers Backcountry Byway - a fantastic 13 mile scenic drive northwest of Questa. Thoroughly enjoyed cruising along and stopping at the vistas.

Would love to hear about your favorite spots in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument for my return visit!

Bosque del Apache NWR | Travel

Bosque del Apache NWR | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s) Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge was on my list of places to explore for a few years. In 2014, I found myself in the area for a quick visit.

Although I was a few months off prime time migration season, driving around and seeing a few birds here and there was quite enjoyable. November to mid-February is the best time for large bird migrations.

And yes, I do stray from my 556 in 12 locations from time to time ;)

Bosque del Apache NWR | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s)

Favorite Hikes + Places to Explore
  • Auto Tour Loop - a lovely drive through the refuge, offering access to wetlands, scenic views and hiking trails.
  • Canyon National Recreation Trail - this 2.2 mile hike goes through the Chihuahuan desert and into Solitude Canyon. Enjoy the deep ravine, carved into sandstone.
  • Lagoon Trail - a 4.2 mile hike offering the best opportunity to see great blue herons and turtles.
  • Marsh Overlook Trail - an easy 1.5 mile trail providing access to a seasonally flooded wetland.
  • Rio Viejo Trail - a 1.7 mile trail through a cottonwood forest.

I would love to hear about your favorite spots!

White Sands National Monument | Travel (47/556)

White Sands National Monument | Travel (47/556) | Alaina Ann Photography Sand dunes have a way of taking my breath away. Every single time.

It begins in my car, when they first appear on the horizon. And then my heart begins to pound a bit, as I get closer and their grand size if revealed. Once I step on the sand and begin walking along the ridges, my heart soars. Simply put, sand dunes are incredible.

White Sands National Monument | Travel (47/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Why are they so intriguing?

Perhaps the endless view of goodness. The contrast between sand and mountains. How the sun makes the individual grains of sand glitter. Maybe the ripples, smooth spots and everything in between. Or, more likely, everything about them.

White Sands National Monument | Travel (47/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

White Sands National Monument, in New Mexico, was impressive, as expected. I met tarantulas, crazy looking bugs and enjoyed hours walking across the dunes, watching the sun disappear for the day while the moon rose.

White Sands National Monument | Travel (47/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

It's safe to say I will be going back. Soon.

White Sands National Monument | Travel (47/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Favorite Hikes + Places to Explore
  • Alkali Flat Trail - a 4.6 mile, round-trip, wilderness hike with little vegetation in sight. The trail leads to the Alkali Flat, the dried lakebed of Lake Otero.
  • Amphitheater - evening program area in the dunes.
  • Heart of the Sands - picnic area near the end of Dunes Drive.
  • Interdune Boardwalk - this quick, 650 yard walk takes you to a scenic view on top of a dune.
  • The Dunes Drive - drive eight miles from the visitor center into the heart of the dunes. Allow ample time for stopping to explore on foot.

Tell me all about your favorites spots at White Sands National Monument!

Lincoln National Forest | Travel (46/556)

Lincoln National Forest | Travel (46/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s) Many areas in Lincoln National Forest (New Mexico) were closed during my visit, due to a recent fire and flooding. The portion of the forest I did explore was a refreshing welcome back to aspen country :)

Lincoln National Forest | Travel (46/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s)

Favorite Hikes + Places to Explore
  • Alamo Canyon Trail - a 7.3 mile trail that ends at the mouth of the Alamo Canyon in Alamogordo.
  • Bluff Springs - a short trail will take you up and over the waterfalls.
  • Capitan Mountains Wilderness Area - accessible only by a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle, this area offers solitude, rugged wilderness and ample hiking.
  • Cloud-climbing Trestle Trail - a short 1.3 mile hike, ending at the southern viewing area for the Mexican Canyon Trestle.
  • Last Chance Canyon Trail - this 6.2 mile long trail takes you along the bottom of Last Chance Canyon.
  • Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area - pools of water and the Sitting Bull Falls may be found here.
  • Sunspot Scenic Byway - the byway follows NM 6563 for 14 miles along the rim of the Sacramento Mountains.
  • White Mountain Wilderness Area - climbing to over 11,000 feet, this area offers amazing views and higher elevation hiking.

What are your favorite spots in Lincoln National Forest?

Carlsbad Caverns National Park | Travel (45/556)

Carlsbad Caverns National Park | Travel (45/556) | Alaina Ann Photography Exploring underground is always intriguing and fun. As you might expect, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, in New Mexico, is quite the treat if you LOVE caves.

There are guided and self guided tours available. I went for the self guided tour, enjoying a leisurely (steep) walk down to the Big Room.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park | Travel (45/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Sparing any health issues, I highly recommend walking into the caverns. Descending underground, as the light above quickly disappears, adds a whole new element to hiking the park.

And be sure to stay into the night for the evening bat flight program, or arrive in the morning bright and early to watch them return! Keep an eye out for tarantulas walking along the amphitheater seats while you take in the bat flight :)

Carlsbad Caverns National Park | Travel (45/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

The drive in and out of the park is beautiful, offering pullouts to take in the view and ample opportunities to see wildlife.

Have you made your way to Carlsbad Caverns National Park? If so, I would love to hear about your favorite memories in the comments below!

Carlsbad Caverns National Park | Travel (45/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Travel Self Portraits

Travel Self Portraits | Alaina Ann Photography Before hitting the road for 23 days, my cousin suggested spending time capturing travel self portraits.

I LOVED this idea. For several reasons...

Most of my travels are solo and I rarely make my way into the photographs I capture. Having travel self portraits will be a nice, personal keepsake.

Adding a person to a scene provides a new perspective. Especially a small person :)

It's always fun to capture behind-the-scenes images in my happiest places.

For now, I will attempt to share one travel self portrait each month.