Gilbert Ray Campground, Tucson, AZ
Just Back

JS Travel Diaries: Just Back from a Southwest Road Trip

Recently back from a road trip through California, Arizona, and New Mexico, JS Senior Photo Editor Gretchen Dorosz covered over 1,300 miles of the American Southwest. Here, she shares a photo diary of the adventure.

Korakia Pensione Staircase

First things first—my husband and I kicked off the vacation by spending a day unwinding at the tranquil Korakia Pensione in Palm Springs.

 

Korakia Pensione entryway

I’d been wanting to check out the Moroccan/Mediterranean–inspired hotel for years, and it did not disappoint.

 

The property is surrounded by citrus blossoms, olive trees, date palms, and bougainvillea vines. We spent most of the day in the shade of an olive tree, reading and relaxing by the pool. Once the sun goes down, you can find fireplaces all around the grounds, and every night the hotel screens a different classic movie under the stars.

 

Korakia Pensione guest room

We stayed in the Aegean Bungalow. Its French glass doors open to the courtyard of the Mediterranean pool, making for such a dreamy, bohemian vibe.

 

Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson AZ

After a six-hour drive from Palm Springs to Tucson, we arrived at the Mission San Xavier del Bac just in time for sunset.

 

Mission San Xavier del Bac

The Catholic mission dates back to the late 1700s when Southern Arizona was part of New Spain. It’s the oldest European structure in Arizona.

 

Gilbert Ray Campground, Tucson, AZ

We had an amazing dinner at Penca in Tucson before making our way to Gilbert Ray Campground for the night.

 

The campground boarders Saguaro National Park, so you get to sleep among the native plants and saguaros.

 

Gilbert Ray Campground, Tucson, AZ

To me, a road trip and camping go hand in hand. If I visit the Southwest without camping for at least a night or two, I feel like I’m missing out. It’s always such a special experience.

 

Gilbert Ray Campground, Tucson, AZ

We took a sunrise hike at the campground before visiting the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. If you get a chance to go to this museum, I highly recommend joining one of the free tours, where a docent will explain everything about the plants and animals that are native to the Sonoran Desert.

 

White Sands National Monument Visitor Center

Our next stop was one of my favorite places on the planet: White Sands National Monument.

 

White Sands National Monument

This is easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, with its rare white gypsum sand dunes as far as the eye can see.

 

During sunset we walked a mile or so out into the dunes, and the entire landscape seemed to be glowing.

 

White Sands National Monument

You can’t visit White Sands without catching a sunset or sunrise—it’s a magical experience.

 

A hand out a car window at sunset, White Sands National Monument

Even as we drove out of the park, I couldn’t look away from the sight of the twilight hues on the dunes.

 

White Sands Motel, New Mexico

Our plan for a night of backcountry camping at White Sands was interrupted by a recently scheduled missile test (The United States Army operates the White Sands Missile Range, a military testing area nearby). So we made some last minute changes and checked into the kitschy White Sands Motel.

 

World's Largest Pistachio roadside attraction in New Mexico

The next morning we were back on the road heading to Santa Fe, making a stop or two for some roadside attractions. Here my husband and I pose with the world’s largest pistachio!

 

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Once we arrived in Santa Fe, our first stop was at the Museum of International Folk Art. At the museum (and all over Santa Fe) the Chamisa was blooming and creating a beautiful pop of yellow against the adobe buildings.

 

El Rey, Santa Fe

After a few days on the road, we were looking forward to our stay at El Rey Court, and the classic motel exceeded our expectations. El Rey captured that iconic Western feeling, while still being modern and undeniably cool.

 

La Reina bar at the El Rey Motel, Santa Fe, New Mexico

El Rey’s bar, La Reina, was a draw for travelers and locals alike. We sipped mezcal drinks while listing to live music one night and an artist’s talk the next.

 

Yellow flowers, Autumn in New Mexico

More Chamisa! Fall is such a beautiful time to visit New Mexico.

 

Georgia O'Keeffe's home in Abiquiu, New Mexico

After a few days in Santa Fe, we went further north to the town of Abiquiu. Artist Georgia O’Keeffe spent many years living in Abiquiu—now her historic home and studio are available to tour through the O’Keeffe Museum.

 

Skull detail at Georgia O'Keeffe's home in Abiquiu, New Mexico

A detail at Georgia O’Keeffe’s home: one of the many animal bones she collected and painted.

 

Georgia O'Keeffe's home in Abiquiu, New Mexico

The famous courtyard and black door that you may recognize from her paintings.

 

Landscape view from Ghost Ranch, Santa Fe

We spent the day seeing some of Georgia’s New Mexico. This is the view from a hike at Ghost Ranch, another area where she lived and worked.

 

 Plaza Blanca landscape, New Mexico

A short drive from Ghost Ranch is a landscape known as Plaza Blanca, yet another area that inspired her paintings.

 

 Plaza Blanca landscape, New Mexico

Wandering through the otherworldly landscape of Plaza Blanca.

 

New Mexico landscape in autumn

We had to pull over and snap a shot of the stunning Rio Chama river during peak autumn.

 

Taos, New Mexico

After a full day in Abiquiu we drove on to picturesque Taos.

 

Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

Taos is full of beautiful nature, great shops and restaurants, and it’s also home to the must-visit Taos Pueblo. The adobe buildings have been continuously inhabited by the Native American tribe of Puebloan people for over 1,000 years.

 

Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

I recommend joining one of the tours then make your way around the northern and southern sections of the pueblo, where you can purchase traditional crafts and food made by members of the Taos Pueblo community.

 

Exterior of Hotel Santa Fe, Hacienda & Spa

Back in Santa Fe we checked into the Hotel Santa Fe, Hacienda & Spa, where we indulged in the hot tub and spa services. Hotel Santa Fe is a short walk or drive to the plaza, where you can shop for Western souvenirs or eat an authentic New Mexican meal.

 

Tent Rocks, New Mexico

Squeezing in every last bit of nature before heading back to NYC, we split our final day between downtown Santa Fe and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, pictured above.

 

Yellow tree, Autumn in New Mexico

The colors of New Mexico in the fall blew me away. One of those places that truly has it all, it’s easy to see why it’s known as “The Land of Enchantment.”

 

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