The Ultimate Albuquerque to Durango Roadtrip Guide
We love a good road trip! This is especially true out west, where the roads are wide open and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous. One of our favorite journeys to take out on that open road? An Albuquerque to Durango road trip!
Not only is Durango an incredible place to explore and take adventures, but the route between the two cities provides all kinds of amazing roadside attractions and hidden gems. For this reason, we recommend RVing from Albuquerque to Durango. This will give you the freedom to stop and check out all the beautiful natural features, enjoy the kitschy roadside stops, and travel at your own pace, all in complete comfort.
That said, it’s always good to go into every trip with at least some sort of loose plan. This ensures you have a few quality stops along the way, even if your last-minute choices are a bust. It also gives you benchmarks to meet each day so you arrive at your destination in a timely manner. Of course, having lodging reservations already set up can also be helpful if things happen to be booked up when you arrive.
Not sure how to start making a plan for your Albuquerque to Durango road trip? You’ve come to the right place! Below, we’ve included everything you need to know to plan for such a trip, as well as a stellar itinerary that you’re sure to love.
El Malpais National Monument, Image source: Alexander Hatley
First things first, let’s talk a bit about planning your Albuquerque to Durango road trip. The tips below will help you be fully prepared for your getaway so you can have an awesome time without any mishaps.
Wondering how long you should expect to be driving? Well, taking the most direct route from Albuquerque to Durango, you will drive a total of ~215 miles, or about 3 hours and 40 minutes.
That said, we recommend taking a slightly longer route because it provides you with tons of things to see along the way. Of course, stopping at these attractions will also add some miles and time to your drive, but that’s what road-tripping is all about, right?
Now, if you include all of the stops suggested in our itinerary on your route, your drive will increase to a total of 5 and a half hours, but honestly, the stops make the trip 100% better. Besides, we split the drive up over two days, so you really aren’t spending much time in the car each day.
We said above that RVing from Albuquerque to Durango is our favorite option for getting to Durango. That said, we are aware that not everyone has this option. If RVing from point A to point B isn’t possible, try one of the options below.
Hitting the road for an Albuquerque to Durango road trip in a car is one option, and is our second pick. This allows you to see all of the cool spots mentioned in our itinerary, even if you don’t have an RV. Once you arrive, you can settle into an Outdoorsy Bayfield glamping tent or even have an Outdoorsy RV rental set up and delivered to one of Outdoorsy Bayfield’s many awesome campsites.
Another way to get to Durango? Hopping on a plane. This isn’t our favorite backup plan because it removes the road trip aspect of the trip. However, it is the best option for those who don’t have a lot of time. Fortunately, you’ll still be able to sneak in the camping experience by staying in a rental at Outdoorsy Bayfield.
The next step? Packing. When RVing from Albuquerque to Durango, we recommend packing to be outdoors. This means hiking pants, t-shirts, hoodies, hiking shoes, a wide-brim hat, and a swimsuit when the weather is warm.
Check the weather forecast before you leave, and pack accordingly. Keep in mind that you will likely get dirty and might need extra clothes.
In addition to some sturdy outdoor garb, you’ll also need to pack camping essentials in order to ensure your camping trip is as comfortable as possible. Check out this RV packing list for details on items to include.
In addition to clothes and camping gear, we also highly recommend packing an “America the Beautiful” Pass. This pass is amazing because it allows you to enter all National Park Service sites (as well as a number of other government-owned sites) free of charge. It will get you into all NPS sites listed in our itinerary and it can be used for a full year after purchase.
Note: If you are a senior, a fourth grader, a member of the military, or you have a disability, you may be entitled to a free or very low-cost national parks pass. Those with senior or disability passes also receive discounted camping at NPS campgrounds!
Now it’s time to talk about the actual Albuquerque to Durango road trip itinerary. Since the drive from Albuquerque to Durango is a relatively short one, this itinerary is only spread out over two days. That said, if you wanted to see more along the way, you could definitely stretch it to three days. It would also be possible to remove some stops and make the drive in a single day.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Image source: Alison Ruth Hughes
On the first day of your Albuquerque to Durango road trip, you will drive from your starting point to Chaco Culture National Historical Park. This leg is about 160 miles long and will take you around 3 hours without stops.
Note that Chaco Culture National Historical Park is very remote. Don’t expect any restaurants or grocery stores when you arrive. What you should expect is a super cool history lesson, some amazing buildings left by the Ancestral Puebloan people, and some beautiful scenery!
— El Malpais National Monument —
The first place we recommend you stop? El Malpais National Monument.
This is an absolutely stunning NPS site, and it would be easy to fill an entire day exploring the place. We recommend giving yourself plenty of time in El Malpais by leaving Albuquerque early and arriving at the park when the visitor center opens at 9:00 AM.
Be sure to start your visit to El Malpais National Monument in the visitor center. Check out the exhibits there and watch the park video to learn more about what you are about to see.
After the visitor center, you can choose to take a scenic drive, hike to sandstone arches, walk across lava flow, or explore lava tube caves. All are wonderful experiences, so you really can’t go wrong!
— Route 66 Drive Through Sign —
We also recommend stopping at the Route 66 Drive Through Sign on your way to Chaco Culture NHP. This sign is located in Grants, NM, and is a silly stop with some excellent photo opportunities.
This giant Route 66 shield sign has a cutout big enough for a car, truck, or even an RV to drive through. There is a stand to put your phone into so you can get group photos in your vehicle under the sign, and the neon on the sign lights up at dusk.
After your stop at the Route 66 Drive Through Sign, it’s a pretty short drive to Chaco Culture National Historical Park. We recommend arriving early enough to do some exploring the day you arrive, as there is a lot to see and do.
— Visitor Center —
We always recommend starting a visit to any NPS site at the visitor center. Wander the exhibits, watch the park movie, find out about ranger programs, and grab trail guides.
— Una Vida & Petroglyphs —
Go on a one-mile hike to check out the Chacoan “great house.” Make sure to watch for petroglyphs along the way!
— Pueblo Bonito —
Pueblo Bonito is a must-see! Take a 0.6-mile round-trip hike through Pueblo Bonito, and be sure to use a trail guide to spot unique characteristics of Chacoan architecture.
— Casa Rinconada —
Stop here and hike 0.5 miles to Casa Rinconada and the nearby villages where you can see the diversity of architecture that was used by the Chacoan people.
— Ranger Programs —
If offered during your visit, be sure to attend at least one ranger program. We especially love the night sky ranger programs that take advantage of the incredibly dark night sky in the park.
Wondering where you’ll sleep in this incredibly remote place? Fortunately, Chaco Culture National Historical Park has an onsite campground.
The Gallo Campground features 32 campsites, which can be reserved at recreation.gov. The campsites do not include hookups, but there are flush toilets in the campground. A dump station is also available to campers.
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Day two of RVing from Albuquerque to Durango will take you from Chaco Culture National Historical Park to your destination. This stretch is about 108 miles long and will take you around 2 hours and 20 minutes without any stops.
Depending on how much of the national historical park you were able to see on your first day there, you might want to get up early on day two to explore more spots before you head out. Once you do hit the road, there are a couple of stops we recommend checking out along the way!
— Angel Peak Badlands Overlook —
The first stop of the day will be at Angel Peak Badlands Overlook. This is a fee-free BLM site that offers some seriously incredible views.
You’ll find three different picnic areas at this stop, making it the perfect place to have lunch or a snack. There is also a short and easy nature trail that winds its way to an overlook where you can relax for a bit and take in the view before you get back on the road.
— Aztec Ruins National Monument —
Aztec Ruins National Monument is the second stop of the day and is one you won’t want to miss. Here you will see more ruins left by the Puebloan people.
Start in the visitor center where you can see some amazing 900-year-old items made by the Puebloan people. You’ll also get a chance to watch a short video that provides perspectives on the site from Pueblo people, Navajo tribal members, and archeologists. While in the visitor center, be sure to pick up trail guides and find out about scheduled ranger programs.
Once done at the visitor center, we recommend heading to the Aztec West Self-Guided Trail to see the ruins. Strolling the Heritage Garden and Native Plants Walk is also nice, and ranger programs are fantastic if you can catch one.
After seeing the Aztec Ruins National Monument, you’ll move on to your final stop: Durango! Because there are so many amazing things to see and do in Durango and the surrounding area, we recommend giving yourself several days to see it all.
Some of our favorite things to do in this area include the following:
— Mesa Verde National Park —
Head to Mesa Verde National Park and see some amazing cliff dwellings and go on a guided tour through one of these incredible ancient homes.
— San Juan National Forest —
Whether you prefer hiking, fishing, horseback riding, or cycling, there is something amazing for you in San Juan National Forest.
— Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad —
Hop on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to see the gorgeous scenery from a different point of view while having a totally unique experience.
— Top Notch Hiking —
The hiking around Durango really can’t be beat. Be sure to don your boots and hit a trail or two!
— Excellent Fishing —
Durango-area fly fishing is also amazing. If you’re an angler, you’re going to adore what this place has to offer!
— Adventure Tours —
Not sure you feel comfortable exploring the wilderness that surrounds Durango on your own? Not to worry, there are tons of amazing companies that offer adventure tours in the area.
Of course, you will need someplace comfy to stay while you explore all that Durango has to offer. This is where Outdoorsy Bayfield comes into play. Here you’ll find clean bathhouses, beautiful walking paths, and private river access.
As mentioned above, this amazing campground also has lovely campsites and well-appointed glamping tents available, and getting a Durango RV rental delivered to the campground is no problem at all. Why not book today so you can start your Albuquerque to Durango road trip as soon as possible?
No road trip would be complete without things like the ultimate road trip playlist, some travel guidance from local influencers, and other wild off-the-beaten path ideas+pit stops.
Here’s a smattering of that for your Albuquerque to Durango Road Trip:
A cool cat who goes by ‘Momondo’ on Spotify created this playlist that’ll keep you bumping the whole way through.
Folks don’t get large followings for nothing – it’s usually because they’ve earned the eyeballs by showing must-see stuff for the areas they highlight. Here are a few to check out for your Albuquerque to Durango road trip:
–Adam Nish is an Albuquerque’an who’s been making waves with some exquisite posts about travel around the area.
–Jordee Arvin is a local travel filmmaker who’s cinematically capturing the spaces and places you ought to see ’round there.
–John Hurkes is another ABQ travel influencer who’ll show you some unique flavor when you roll in and around the area.