10 Hikes in New Mexico Kids Love! (And Adults Love, too!)

Hiking as a family can be a most rewarding experience – not only do you get to get the kids out of the house, but you’re making memories that last a lifetime.  The following are some of the favorites of our children when they were young (plus a few others we would have liked if we’d known about their existence).  These kid-friendly trails and destinations are sure to be favorites of your children, too!

10 Hikes Kids Love (and Adults Love too!) in New Mexico

Main Loop, Bandelier National Monument

Views from the Main Loop, Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico
Views from the Main Loop

This was our first destination on our first visit to the American Southwest, and let’s just say we started with a bang!  How much fun is it to climb ladders into little caves high on the cliff?  Answer: So much fun we’ve been going back for years, and I still enjoy it… 1.75 mile loop; no pets; $25/vehicle/week

White Sands National Monument

Hiking in White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
Hiking in White Sands National Monument

This isn’t a specific hike per se, but that’s not to say you can’t take a hike over the dunes.  More fun is jumping down the pure-white piles of sand, or sliding down, or rolling down, or… Varies; no pets; $3/person 16+

McCauley Hot Springs, Jemez Mountains

Swimming in McCauley Hot Springs, Jamez Mountains, New Mexico
Swimming in the hot springs. PC Tracy Rolling

The trail itself may be enough reason to go for a hike – the views of Battleship Rock are quite impressive.  But at the end, you can enjoy a hot spring (clothing required) that is a constant 95F.  More info here. 3.6 miles out & back; dog-friendly; no fees

Natural Entrance to Carlsbad Caverns

Cave formations in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
Cave formations. PC Ken Lund

This trail is a little more challenging than some of the hikes on this list – people equate it with hiking down a 75 story building.  But there are a few cool things about the trail: 1) you can do it at your own pace, 2) you get to see a ton of cool cave formations, 3) there are variations that make it longer or shorter, and 4) you can take the elevator back up to the visitor center so you don’t have to re-ascend all 75 stories.  1.25+miles, no dogs; $15/person 16+

Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Culture National Historical Park

Doorways in Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico
Doorways in Pueblo Bonito

Pueblo Bonito was – and is – my favorite American Indian ruin in the US.  It’s also amazingly kid-friendly (which is probably why I liked it so much as a 5-year-old) with rooms to run through and explore, kivas to see, and plenty of things to fuel an active imagination.  The park service does ask that you stay behind any ropes or barriers and not climb on the walls… but at least for us, that didn’t stop us from enjoying the ruin. 0.25-1.25 mile loop; no pets; $25/vehicle/week

Catwalks Trail, Gila National Forest

Along the Catwalks Trail, Gila National Forest, New Mexico
Along the Catwalks Trail. PC Denny Armstrong

The interesting thing about the Catwalks Trail is that much of the wheelchair-accessible path hangs off the side of the canyon wall on metal catwalks.  You can continue beyond the end of the catwalks if you want – but you might need to cross the creek a few times.  1.1 miles out & back; leashed pets allowed; $3/vehicle/day

Kasha-Katuwe National Monument

Hiking a wider section of the Slot Trail, Kasta-Katuwe National Monument, New Mexico
Hiking a wider section of the Slot Trail

There’s a lot to see along the Slot Trail in Kasha-Katuwe National Monument.  The wash changes to a slot and rock formations rise high above the canyon.  Then the trail turns upward for views down on the formations.  It’s a pretty cool place to explore! 3.0-4.5 miles out & back or loop with spur; no pets; $5/vehicle/day

Williams Lake & Williams Falls, Taos Ski Valley

Williams Lake, Carson National Forest, New Mexico
Williams Lake

The trail up to Williams Lake isn’t terribly exciting.  But it’s easy enough for children used to hiking to do, and the exploration beyond the lake to Williams Falls adds a sense of adventure. 6 miles out & back; dog-friendly; no fees

Alcove House, Bandelier National Monument

The kiva in Alcove House, Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico
The kiva in Alcove House

This can be done in conjunction with the Main Loop discussed above.  The cool thing about this part of the hike is that the ladders are taller, longer, and there are more of them!  The ladders take you up to an alcove high on the cliff face with a kiva. 3.1 miles out & back or loop; no pets; $25/vehicle/week

Grasshopper Canyon, Santa Fe National Forest

Be ready to get your feet wet on this one.  The hike up the canyon is steep at times, but the stream makes it fun even for the younger ones.  A swimming hole at the end with a waterfall makes it a great warm-weather hike. 2.8 miles out & back; dog-friendly (a leash may be required); no fees

Bonus! Pueblo Alto Trail to Pueblo Bonito Overlook, Chaco Culture National Historical Park

Views from the pueblo Bonito Overlook, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico
Views from the Pueblo Bonito Overlook

As children, we loved hiking this trail.  Yet I hesitate to recommend it because the overlook has no guardrails and it’s a long, long way down.  But if your kids can handle that… The path itself is flat and welcoming for about a quarter mile to a ruin, then the trail scrambles upward through boulders (there is a trail, though!) and up through a crack in the rock to the mesa top.  How fun is that? 2.4 miles out & back; no pets; $25/vehicle/week

Did I miss any great kid-friendly hikes in New Mexico?  Comment below!

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For even more hikes that kids find fun, check out this book that lists more than 60 hikes in New Mexico.

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