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Best Road Trips: Arizona and New Mexico
Soak in hot springs. Eat organic. Slow down. It's not rocket science, but the concept of "soft adventure" is a sea change. Nowhere can you experience this shift more than on a weeklong, spa-to-spa loop through New Mexico and Arizona.
Text by Christopher Percy Collier   Map by Computer Terrain Mapping

Illustration: Map of Arizona and New Mexico

Coast to Coast  |  Costa Rica  |  Southwest  |  South Africa

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The Southwest Soul Quest: 7 Days
There's a revelation creeping into the outdoor world: Not every brush with nature has to be spiked with adrenaline or long, joint-rattling romps in the backcountry. Instead, soak in hot springs. Eat organic. Slow down. It's not rocket science, but the concept of "soft adventure" is a sea change. Nowhere can you experience this shift more than on a weeklong, spa-to-spa loop through New Mexico and Arizona.  

Driving Tips

On the Radar:
Albuquerque is rated the seventh worst city in the nation when it comes to speed traps, and a few other roads in the Southwest are almost as notorious. To locate local police hideouts, consult www.speedtrap.org. And please, slow down.

Rental Info:
For this trip a 2WD vehicle is adequate, but you'll likely want the space of an SUV. Budget Rent A Car in Santa Fe rents Ford Explorers ($409 a week;
www.budget.com).


Day 1
Soak in a Spring
To most folks, Santa Fe means adobe buildings and quaint pueblo-style plazas, but the city lies at the heart of a rich geothermal zone—and that means hot springs. To sample some of the best, drive north about 50 miles (80 kilometers) to Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa ($109; www.ojocalientesprings.com). The main attractions here are ten naturally heated hot pools, each one infused with minerals purported to bestow medicinal benefits.
 
Day 2
Work the Land
Forgo the fast-food joints ubiquitous on most American road trips. At Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Cultural Center ($145; www.lospoblanos.com), just outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, the goal is slow food. The community-supported organic farm cum bed-and-breakfast cultivates over 75 varieties of fruits and vegetables. Plan on getting there by midday so you can handpick items like heirloom tomatoes, baby salad greens, and melons (great for dinner or a picnic). Come late afternoon take a mountain bike ride through cottonwoods, willows, and wildflowers along nearby Paseo del Bosque Trail, a 16-mile (26-kilometer) pathway that parallels the Rio Grande.
 
Day 3-4
Enter a Vortex
Spend a day ticking off the 350 miles (563 kilometers) of deserts, Indian reservations, and old mining towns between Albuquerque and Sedona, Arizona, and rest up at L'Auberge de Sedona ($195; www.lauberge.com), a resort set beside Oak Creek. For vexingly unclear reasons, Sedona is considered a center for spiritual vortexes, nebulously defined energy portals that (happily) also happen to be striking formations of red rock. On a "spiritual hike" with Sedona Spirit Trails Expeditions ($185 a day, including lunch; www.sedonaspirittrails.com), you'll head first to the vortex of Cathedral Rock, perhaps the most photographed monolith in Arizona, then take a barefoot walk along Oak Creek.

Day 5
Build Inner Strength
If any resort has pioneered the "adventure spa" concept, it's Miraval ($540 per person; www.miravalresort.com), just north of Tucson. To sample the surrounding Sonoran Desert and Santa Catalina Mountains, take the eight-mile (12-kilometer) guided hike to Wasson Peak. Return and be revitalized with a skin-tightening body wrap of locally quarried clay.
 
Day 6-7
Step Back in Time
As you wind your way back toward Santa Fe, stop in at the famed Gila Wilderness outside of Silver City, New Mexico. First check out the Gila Cliff Dwellings, left behind from the Mogollon culture, circa 1280 A.D. Then take a 20-minute hike to Lightfeather Hot Springs, which discharges a spume of 130-degree (54-degree Celsius) water every minute. If that's too hot, hike eight miles to Jordan Hot Springs to soak in a 94-degree (34-degree Celsius) pool. Bunk down that night at Forks Campground, along the West Fork of the Gila River, and visualize a safe journey back to Santa Fe the next day.

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