Located 43 miles from Salt Lake City, Provo is Utah’s third-largest city. Provo is home to about 116,000 people, along with Brigham Young University and is close to the Sundance Resort, which is northeast of the city. It is not hard to find outdoor activities in Provo; Bridal Veil Falls, Utah Lake and Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest offer opportunities for recreation, with the Timpanogos Cave National Monument a few miles north of the city. Within the city are areas of cultural interest as well; like the Covey Center for the Arts and the LDS Missionary Training Center.
Regardless of the time of year, venturing east on a road trip from Provo to Albuquerque has plenty to offer. As you travel, you will have the chance to see parts of Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, where you will experience different landscapes underneath beautiful open skies. Your journey will take you past natural wonders and you will find plenty of opportunity to enjoy fresh air.
Just because you arrive at your destination of Albuquerque does not mean that the adventure is over. New Mexico’s largest city will not disappoint. Whether exploring its outdoor areas, enjoying its unique cuisine or learning more about its rich cultural history, Albuquerque is a worthy destination for all travelers. And with options for camping within and outside of the city, you can affordably relax and explore for a few days.
Start your road trip by heading southwest from Provo; around an hour and twenty minutes from the city is Price, which is the location of your first stop, the Utah State University Eastern Prehistoric Museum.
Located in downtown Price, the museum includes paleontology, archaeology and geology exhibits, with a number of full dinosaur mounts. The museum is home to a large ankylosaur skeleton, which is a sight to behold. In addition to dinosaur bones, you can view the world-renowned Pilling Figurines, along with pottery, basketry, tools made of stone, items used for hunting and the skeletons of a few mammals from the Ice Age.
The museum has a dinosaur “dig” pithouse for kids along with other hands-on activities, making it a great destination for visitors of all ages, with plenty of opportunity to learn about the prehistory of eastern Utah.
After departing the city of Price, continue on the road for about an hour and forty minutes to Arches National Park, the location of your next stop. Located five miles north of Moab, Arches National Park is where you can encounter the largest concentration of natural sandstone arches in the world. The park encompasses 76,518 acres, within which there are more than 2000 arches. In addition, the park includes numerous other rock formations, like sandstone fins, gigantic balanced rocks, and towering pinnacles and spires.
There are a number of hiking trails in the park that will allow you a close-up view of these geological marvels, with varying lengths and degrees of difficulty. There is also a paved scenic drive where you will encounter a number of the park’s popular viewpoints. Enjoy the unique scenery while stretching your legs!
Hopefully you saved up some energy after your visit to Arches National Park, because just 30 minutes away is Canyonlands National Park, the next stop on your road trip. Utah’s largest national park, there is a lot to see and do during a visit. Within the park, you will encounter a variety of landscapes. Expect canyons, buttes, and mesas, as well as the Colorado River, the Green River and the tributaries of both.
The park is split into four districts to include the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maz and the combined rivers, each of which carved large canyons into the Colorado Plateau. Each district shares similarities and differences and offers opportunities for hiking and exploring. Camping is available within the park, along with rafting, where you can engage in an adventure on Class V rapids or enjoy a relaxing and scenic float.
Now that you have gotten some energy out at two Utah national parks, you are ready to cover some distance on the road. Less than two hours from Canyonlands National Park is the location of your next stop, the Cortez Cultural Center. The Center is located in a historic building and includes a large amount of material regarding American Indian culture and archaeology.
Within the museum are interactive exhibits focused on several time periods of the Ancestral Pueblo people. Displays can be viewed that provide insight on the Ute, Pueblo and Navajo tribes. There are also traveling exhibits and, within the Center’s art gallery, the work of local artists. In the summer months, Native American dances can be observed on the plaza and visitors can also hear from storytellers and historians. Additional programs are offered outside the summer months for visitors.
Forty-five minutes away from Cortez is your next stop; the Shiprock Rock Formation. Meaning “rocks with wings” or “winged rock” in the Navajo language, Shiprock rises almost 1583 feet above the surrounding land of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico. Shiprock is also a town which gets its name from the peak and is 10.75 miles to the northeast of the formation.
Located in the middle of an area occupied by the Ancient Pueblo People, Shiprock is prominent in Navajo religion, myth and tradition and is popular among photographers. As the formation is considered hallowed among the Navajos, one cannot hike or climb on it or its surrounding rocks. In addition, you cannot drive on the road that leads to the formation. You are able to view the rock formation from Indian Service Route 13 or from US Highway 491.
As you continue heading toward Albuquerque, another two hours and forty minutes on the road will take you to the Mesa de Cuba Badlands, the location of your next stop. Located southwest of the village of Cuba, the Mesa de Cuba Badlands are located at the base of the Mesa de Cuba, which runs north to south for ten miles. The badlands wind along the wall of Mesa de Cuba, and can be accessed by traveling along a dirt road.
As you explore the badlands, you will encounter canyons along with areas that are easy to walk along and others that require you to scramble over fallen rock. Also look out for petrified wood and giant boulders, some as big as a house! Expect to encounter pinon and juniper trees as well. After a few hours in the car, the Mesa de Cuba Badlands are a great way to stretch your legs and get out some energy!
Upon leaving the Mesa de Cuba Badlands, it is time for the home stretch of your trip, with about an hour and forty minutes of drive time to Albuquerque. As you make your way to the city, you will first encounter the edge of Rio Rancho, a suburb of Albuquerque, before you drive through the small town of Bernalillo. After you drive through Bernalillo, you will find an entrance to the freeway, where you will head south to Albuquerque. Notice the beautiful Sandia Mountains to your east as you make your way to the city; if you time your arrival for sunset, you might experience them in a beautiful pink hue.
There is a myriad of things to do in the city of Albuquerque. Consider taking a ride the Sandia Peak Tramway, which will take you over the foothills to the peak of the Sandia Mountains at 10,378 feet. Old Town in the city is an ideal place to explore historic buildings, along with artwork and jewelry created by artisans from the state. While in the city, make sure to try some of the state’s unique cuisine; for a little adventure with your food, try red or green chile (or both).
There are opportunities for camping in and around the city, so find a place to stay for a night or more, and explore New Mexico’s largest city!