Fly to Farmington, New Mexico, to visit cultural and geologic treasures you can literally find nowhere else on earth. Feel like you’re walking on Mars, visit ancient ruins, and stock up on authentic Native American artwork. Try whitewater rafting or kayaking, visit a one-of-a-kind museum, have a nice meal, and then curl up for the night in a cave. And come Fourth of July, one of the locals puts on a great fireworks show.
Farmington’s Four Corners Regional Airport (FMN) lies in the northwest corner of New Mexico. The town is cradled by three rivers: the Animas, La Plata, and San Juan. In the heart of town you’ll find the Animas River Whitewater Park, popular with rafters and kayakers. During spring runoff, rafters enjoy Class I and II rapids. Once flow decreases, kayaking and tubing are popular.
For something completely otherworldly, head south about 40 miles to the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness. There are no trails, cell service, or water. Striated hills in layers of gray, tan, and rust are punctuated by weird, miniature mushroom-shaped hoodoos, gray columns topped by brown rocks, and petrified tree stumps. This extraterrestrial-like landscape is a photographer’s dream.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, holds the largest collection of ancient ruins north of Mexico. Pueblo Bonito, the largest complex, comprised at least 650 rooms; some parts were four stories high. Its long straight wall runs directly east-west and lines up with the rising and setting sun on the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. You can hike up to Pueblo Alto and Nuevo Alto for great views. Guided ranger walks are available year-round; telescope viewings of the spectacular night sky are held April–October.
Have you ever wanted to own a fine, handwoven Navajo rug? The Crownpoint Rug Auction, a tradition more than 50 years old, takes place the second Friday of each month at the elementary school in Crownpoint. Fourteen miles east of Farmington at Salmon Ruins, you can visit a museum and archaeological sites and take a guided tour. Or, find Native American treasures right in town at Fifth Generation Trading Company and Shiprock Trading Post. Farmington’s River Corridor extends over five miles along the Animas River and features landscaped parks, trails, museums, two pedestrian bridges, and easy parking. The stretch between Animas and Berg parks is the prettiest. Golfers: Golfweek Magazine has ranked Piñon Hills as one of the best municipal golf courses in the country for more than 20 years. High on a bluff near San Juan College, the wildly undulating course features deep grass bunkers, gnarly doglegs, numerous arroyos, and swift greens.
Farmington boasts more than 100 restaurants; standouts include the St. Clair Winery & Bistro; Three Rivers Brewery Block, which includes a brewery, restaurant, pizzeria, tap room, and distillery; and Sparerib BBQ Company. At the end of a residential street, the Casa Blanca Inn is an elegant bed-and-breakfast oasis. One of America’s most unique B&Bs, Kokopelli’s Cave is literally a cave built into vertical sandstone cliffs. Pretend you’re Fred and Wilma Flintstone as you enjoy the living room with TV/DVD/VCR, plush carpet, recliners, futon, queen hide-a-bed, wood-burning horno, rock waterfall shower, kitchen, and porches with expansive views of the valley and Shiprock, the giant volcanic plug that makes a great flightseeing opportunity on your way in or out of Farmington, the small town full of surprises!