Skip to content

Road Trip Lessons with Mo

The goal? A road trip from Denver to Phoenix, but add a lil’ excitement along the way. I’ll admit I’ve made the drive between Colorado a handful of times already, always aiming a new or unique experience to the mix. In order to try to avoid any inclement weather, we opted to make our way down through New Mexico.

Stop #1: Great Sand Dunes National Park

I have heard a lot about these monster dunes with the gorgeous mountain backdrop illuminating the scene. While the choices of recreation in the area are quite extensive, we did not have a whole lot of time to explore. We opted for a pit stop at the visitors’ center (if you know me, you know I love a good visitor center to start a trip) before setting off to explore the park. 

With a storm incoming, we aimed to make it to the top of at least one dune before finding lunch. If you choose to come in the spring, be warned that it gets very windy…like, can’t feel your face windy. 

If you are in the area, I would 100 percent allot some time to check out Zapata Falls nearby. While it was completely frozen during our trip (be sure to always check your trail conditions), I’ve heard it is quite the view, both frozen and flowing.

Lessons learned: bring a windbreaker and maybe a beanie. Load the map to the next destination prior to losing service. Oh, and do not try to slide down any dunes on solely your butt. You will end up with sand everywhere.

Stop #2: Santa Fe

While we got there quite late on this trip, we didn’t have much time to explore beyond a late supper and an early coffee. But in past trips, we were able to walk around the arts district, which is full of small shops to browse, but make sure you make it a little earlier in the day if you want the full experience! And don’t forget to make time for some delicious Mexican cuisine while you’re here. We weren’t too impressed with our food this time, but a few years ago we went to a restaurant called Tomasita’s Santa Fe New Mexican Restaurant which had some of the BEST sopapillas I have ever had in my life.

The next morning, we were excited to see there were a handful of highly recommended coffee shops nearby. We stopped at Ohori’s Coffee Roasters and giftshop. While we originally aimed for the convenience of the drive-thru, we ended up checking out the gift store inside. They seemed to have quite the fan-base because they were busy! Displaying a unique spread of art and goodies inside, we ended up with our usual order vanilla lattes. Check out the photo below! I thought it was a cute feather, but my dad had a little more phallic theory…let us know what you thought of first in the comments. 

Lessons learned: Things close pretty early, especially in the shoulder season, and don’t pass up any opportunities for sopapillas. 

Stop #3: Petrified National Forest

This stop was so much cooler than I thought it would be. We’ve passed by it a dozen times, thinking it was just a few pieces of wood out in the middle of nowhere. Little did we know that this 28-mile stretch of the park included a handful of different sights and stops along the way. Of course, the first stop was the visitors center, where we stumbled upon an informational session with a professional. First, we hit the scenic stops that overlooked canyons of red rocks and an incoming storm (we just couldn’t seem to outdrive it). Continuing on, the landscape began to shift dramatically into what was called the Blue Mesa. What looked like beautifully painted desert mountains included accumulations of petrified wood particles. 

The real showstopper was the stops with up close disbursements of petrified wood. We reached the Rainbow Forest, eager to take off on the paved path that would take us through the majority of the “forest” sections of petrified wood. However, the hail and wind seemed to have different ideas for me and my camera, but we explored nonetheless. While we chose to take off a little sooner that day, it gave a very cool “world-ending” sort of vibe to an already ominous park. While there is some hiking and backpacking available in the park, it seemed most visitors were there as a drive-thru experience. Because the main highlights were all off the main road of the park, it was up there in the more accessible parks I have been to. 

Lessons learned: Always bring a raincoat even when you don’t think it will, it probably will. 

Step #3.5: Bush Highway/ Usery Pass

So. Much. Green. Albeit, this desert greenery is exclusive to the spring season. On this stretch of road, the mountains looked like they were absolutely glowing! If you’re looking for a little bit more fun, you pass right by Saguaro Lake, which offers opportunities for picnicking, hiking, and water sports. 


Lessons learned: Try a new way home, it’s cooler that way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *