25/05/2024

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Best Times to Visit New Mexico for Good Weather, Outdoor Adventure, and Festivals

6 min read
Best Times to Visit New Mexico for Good Weather, Outdoor Adventure, and Festivals

Locals weigh in on when to explore New Mexico.

New Mexico is one of the most beloved travel destinations in the Southwest, rich in Indigenous history, bursting with colorful and dramatic landscapes, and buzzing with art and culture. Add some incredible national parks, hotels, and restaurants, and you’ve got a state that’s great to visit year-round. Determining the best time to visit New Mexico will greatly depend on where your interests and passions lie.

“New Mexico offers a variety of experiences and attractions that cater to everyone, depending on each person’s individual interests,” says Hans Loehr, an adventure center architect at Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe. “Some of the unique activities that guests seem most interested in are visits to Native American pueblos, which are beautiful year-round, as well as curated museum and art gallery tours.”

In addition, New Mexico has beautiful ski resorts, hiking trails, eclectic towns, and incredible landscapes to explore. Typically, the best time of year to enjoy these activities is during the warmer months, which run from May to October. But keep in mind that summer is also when New Mexico sees its highest number of visitors.

  • High Season: May through September

  • Shoulder Seasons: March to April and October to November

  • Low Season: December through February

While there is never a wrong time to visit, read on to discover the best times to visit New Mexico and what you can expect during each season.

Best Times to Visit New Mexico for Smaller Crowds

Because New Mexico is chock full of things to do and plenty of natural beauty, it is one of the top vacation destinations in the Southwest. And because Albuquerque has robust connectivity, New Mexico welcomes many domestic travelers. You’ll see droves of tourists here in the summer and over traditional school breaks, so if you’d like to dodge the fray, early spring or late fall are the best times to visit New Mexico.

March to April and October to November are all considered shoulder seasons in New Mexico, so during these stretches you will find fewer crowds.

Best Times to Visit New Mexico for Good Weather

<p>Mary Robnett/Travel + Leisure</p>

Mary Robnett/Travel + Leisure

For beautiful, warm weather, spring is the best time to visit, according to Mary Cropper, senior U.S. and Southeast Asia specialist at Audley Travel and a Travel + Leisure A-List Advisor. “I like early spring because it is not overheated,” says Cropper. “The weather is still crisp, and you can see snow-capped mountains in the distance. If someone is a skier, they can still hit the slopes, but it’s not freezing.”

Loehr names June through October as his favorite time of year in New Mexico, with September taking the lead. “During September, we get the extra bonus of the gorgeous fall colors, including the turning of the Aspen leaves, which is spectacular and lasts into October,” Loehr says.

Best Times to Visit New Mexico for Lower Prices

<p>Mary Robnett/Travel + Leisure</p>

Mary Robnett/Travel + Leisure

Travelers may find lower prices on accommodations, flights, and activities when the weather turns colder. New Mexico’s elevation ranges between 4,000 feet and 8,000 feet above sea level, so winters can get chilly and quite snowy. 

“The best time to visit New Mexico to take advantage of off-season rates is November through March,” says Loehr. “During these months, Santa Fe is a hidden gem; a destination for family-friendly ski adventures, Ski Santa Fe provides 86 powdery and scenic trails.”

Cropper highlights November as the best month for low prices, saying, “Winter isn’t peak season [in New Mexico] because of the weather; it has a high season in December because of the holidays, but November is when rates will be at their lowest.”

Best Times to Visit New Mexico for Outdoor Adventure

<p>Mary Robnett/Travel + Leisure</p>

Mary Robnett/Travel + Leisure

New Mexico is a paradise for outdoor adventurers. From national parks to Carlsbad Caverns, plus national forests, lakes, rivers, and ski resorts, New Mexico is truly one giant outdoor playground.

The best time to enjoy these outdoor activities is late spring (May to mid-June), or early fall (September to October), as these time frames deliver comfortable weather. The average high temperature in May in New Mexico is 79 degrees Fahrenheit. In September it’s 83 degrees, and in October it’s 72 degrees.

Of course, if it’s skiing that you’re interested in, winter is the best time to visit, and Taos Ski Valley is one of the Southwest’s top ski resorts. The best time to visit New Mexico for skiing is from December to late February, though in certain areas you may be able to ski well into March and April.

Best Times to Visit New Mexico for Festivals

New Mexico is a state that loves to celebrate with festivals, whether it’s to honor Indigenous culture and art or to fly hot air balloons high over White Sands National Park. The best times to visit New Mexico for festivals are the summer and fall months.

During the month of July, visitors flock to Santa Fe to experience the International Folk Art Market, which has taken place every year since 2004 and is one of the largest folk markets in the world. Santa Fe also draws visitors in August with the Santa Fe Indian Market and the Traditional Spanish Market.

“The Santa Fe Indian Market brings more than 1,000 Native American artists from more than 100 tribal communities together to showcase their works and compete for awards in its prestigious judged art competition,” says Loehr. “The Traditional Spanish Market is the oldest and largest juried art show of its kind, which aims to preserve and celebrate traditional Hispanic culture. The market features hundreds of local Hispanic artists, live music, art demonstrations, and regional foods.”

During the month of September, the New Mexico State Fair comes to Albuquerque, while the White Sands Balloon and Music Festival brings a sea of brilliantly colored hot air balloons over the sparkling white dunes of White Sands National Park.

Best Times to Visit New Mexico to Learn About Indigenous Cultures

<p>Mary Robnett/Travel + Leisure</p>

Mary Robnett/Travel + Leisure

The presence of Indigenous people dates back more than 2,000 years in this region, and more than 1,000 years ago, these ancestral tribes came together to establish permanent settlements known as pueblos.

The best time to visit New Mexico to learn about its Indigenous history is during the warmer months, typically between May and October, when visitors can be outside comfortably. Taos, for example, is a great destination in which to learn about New Mexico’s Native history, thanks to its UNESCO-recognized pueblo, which has more than 1,000 years of history. Today, about 150 people live within the pueblo full time.

The Puye Cliff Dwellings, near Espanola, are the ruins of an abandoned pueblo located within Santa Clara Canyon, and they’ve been a National Historic Landmark since 1966. Chaco Culture National Historical Park, located in the Four Corners region, is another site with preserved pueblos to consider visiting.

Related: The New Mexico Pueblo is Ensuring Tourism Happens on the Community’s Terms

Worst Times to Visit New Mexico

While skiing enthusiasts will argue that winter is a great time to visit New Mexico, many experts will tell you that winter may actually be one of the worst times to visit New Mexico. The weather can be frightfully cold, and the threat of snowstorms means a higher risk of delayed or canceled flights.

“I would say December and January are the worst times to visit New Mexico because of the snow,” says Cropper. “It’s a matter of flight cancellations and driving risks. It gets quite cold. Santa Fe is the highest capital in the U.S., at more than 7,000 feet above sea level, so you can expect snowstorms and poor road conditions.”

Loehr adds that the weather in April can be rather unpredictable, but that the upside to that is that there’s the possibility for a morning ski run followed by an afternoon dip in the pool. “For those who aren’t interested in outdoor activities, April is a good time to explore the hundreds of galleries and museums,” Loehr says.

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