Best Things to See in Gallup NM

Best Things to See in Gallup NM

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As I crossed the border from Arizona into New Mexico along Historic Route 66, the landscape began to change. The red rocks and saguaro cacti of northern Arizona slowly gave way to softer hills dotted with piñon pines. I was on my way to explore Gallup, an iconic Route 66 town with many unique attractions and scenery.

During my journey through northwestern New Mexico, I discovered incredible rock formations, ancient Native American sites, one-of-a-kind museums, and so much more. From outdoor adventures to indoor galleries and local shopping, Gallup offers visitors plenty of exciting things to see in Gallup NM.

Admire the Impressive Landscapes of Gallup

Admire the Impressive Landscapes of Gallup

The first thing that struck me about Gallup was the diverse, vivid landscapes surrounding this High Desert community. Before even reaching the city, I spotted my first memorable geographic feature – the stunning red sandstone formations called the Pyramid Rocks. These tower over the landscape to the east of town, creating almost alien-looking natural monuments that are beautiful during sunrises and sunsets when they glow red.

Closer to downtown, the prominent hill rising above Gallup is called Church Rock. It contains cave dwellings and petroglyphs left by ancestral Puebloan people, making it both a natural and historic site. To admire it from afar, stop by Ford Canyon for panoramic views. The canyon itself also makes for a nice quick hike near town.

Immerse Myself in Native American Culture

One of Gallup’s claims to fame is its proximity to various Native American communities, including the Navajo Nation. It has the nickname “Indian Capital of the World.” I saw symbols of Gallup’s Indigenous heritage everywhere I went, from artwork to architecture.

To learn more about the cultures of tribes like the Navajo and Zuni, I headed to the Gallup Cultural Center. This museum contains one of the Southwest’s best collections of Native art, from pottery and weavings to kachina dolls and jewelry. It also hosts performances and demonstrations.

In addition to the Cultural Center, I saw Native American culture come alive through events like the annual Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial. This 4-day festival includes a pow-wow with traditional music and dancing. Several tribes also participate in the yearly Navajo Nation Fair in September.

Step Back in Time on Route 66

No visit to Gallup is complete without exploring its historic downtown district along the Mother Road – Route 66. Vintage neon signs, classic diners and motels, and relics from the glory days of early American automobile travel transport visitors back to the 20th century.

I started my Route 66 tour at the Gallup Visitor Center inside the historic Santa Fe rail depot to immerse myself in this retro world. In addition to info about regional attractions, it contains engaging exhibits tracing the Mother Road. Right up the street is the acclaimed Rex Museum, showcasing additional Route 66 artifacts and Rotating black and white images.

No trip down memory lane would be complete without food! I indulged in a green chile cheeseburger and milkshake at the famous El Rancho diner, which opened in the 1930s and is still operational today. Before leaving Route 66, I posed for a photo beside the iconic Gallup metaphoric mural. This enormous work of art wonderfully captures the spirit of this legendary highway.

Trade Arts, Crafts, and Goods at Area Markets

Another aspect that makes Gallup culturally engaging is its thriving arts, trading, and flea market scene. Numerous dynamically colorful events allow visitors to browse regional creations while mingling with artists and locals.

Every weekend from spring through fall, artists and food vendors set up booths downtown for the Gallup MainStreet Outdoor Market. Visitors can peruse paintings, pottery, clothing, jewelry, and other handmade Navajo, Zuni, and Hopi pieces while listening to live music. The offerings rotate each week.

For an even more considerable trading experience, time your vacation for the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial Centennial Market. Occurring each August, this high-energy, open-air market features over 300 artisans and culinary vendors spread across uptown Gallup. It coincides with the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial festivities.

While visiting Gallup’s trading scene, I discovered two other excellent places to shop for Native artwork and global goods – Gurley’s Trading Post and the Palace Trading Post, Route 66 institutions loaded with handcrafted items operating for over 75 years each.

Get an Adrenaline Rush Outdoors

Although Gallup offers phenomenal cultural experiences, I learned it excels at outdoor recreation thanks to the surrounding badlands, mesas, and canyons. Whether hiking, biking, fishing, or riding ATVs, visitors can challenge themselves while admiring dramatic High Desert scenery.

For hiking, go to the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, located an hour south of Gallup. This otherworldly region filled with hoodoos and colorful rock formations makes for magical yet moderately strenuous treks. Closer to town, the trails up Pyramid Rock and around Ford Canyon deliver quicker yet still picturesque nature escapes.

Try mountain biking at the Mentmore Recreation Area in the Zuni Mountains if you want to cover more ground on two wheels. Or, join a jeep tour to zoom across arroyos and mesas with companies like Ancient Way Tours or Beyond Balance. Head to Bluewater Lake State Park to boat, swim, or fish for water-based recreation.

No matter how you challenge yourself during your travels through the Gallup area’s natural playgrounds, prepare to work up an appetite!

Satisfy My Hunger at Unique Local Restaurants

Gallup’s dining scene impressed me with its diversity, from roadside drive-ins to contemporary bistros. Of course, classic Route 66 establishments like the Silver Stallion Coffee Shop and Genaro’s Cafe topped my list thanks to their connections to Mother Road history and traveler lore.

However, during my culinary explorations around town, I discovered several other excellent eateries showcasing global flavors. The casual Viet Taste serves steaming bowls of pho and banh mi sandwiches while street tacos sizzle at family-run Taqueria Michoacana.

For fine dining, I suggest making reservations at Ernie’s. In a converted 1930s house, this upscale restaurant blends Southwestern cuisine with gourmet influences. Their green chile sauce even won awards at the New Mexico State Fair!

No matter where you dine around Gallup, try classic regional specialties like Navajo tacos with frybread or earthy, spicy bacon-wrapped New Mexican enchiladas smothered in red and green sauces. The chile-infused flavors will tempt your tastebuds.

Immerse Myself in Gallup After Dark

Immerse Myself in Gallup After Dark

Although Gallup offers plenty of daytime attractions, visitors should not overlook its lively entertainment options after the sun sets! From local dive bars to Vegas-style gaming, I discovered many ways to continue enjoying myself long into the cool High Desert nights during my visit.

Several Route 66 institutions, like Jerry’s Cafe and the Silver Stallion Saloon, host live music venues primed for dancing and letting loose. And just east of downtown along the Mother Road, Fire Rock Navajo Casino lights up the night with Vegas-style gambling, entertainment from comedy shows to boxing matches, and satisfying late-night meals.

On weekends, join locals and visitors in exploring Gallup’s craft beer and cocktail bar scene, epitomized by establishments like High Desert Brewing Company and the eclectic Bisti Bay Drive-In. Here, Southwestern pub grub and hoppy microbrews or unique mixed drinks provide fuel for continuing your adventures after hours.

So whether you want to twirl across a dance floor, try your luck at blackjack, move to live music, or relax with new friends over local ales, experience Gallup’s vibrant nightlife. The entertainment extends far beyond sunset!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time of year to visit Gallup?

Thanks to cooler temperatures and fewer crowds, late spring and early fall tend to be ideal. Events like the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial and Navajo Nation Fair also occur in late summer/early fall.

Is Gallup safe for travelers?

Yes – Gallup sees over 2 million tourists annually and depends significantly on visitor dollars, so they aim to provide guests with secure, welcoming accommodations, attractions, and infrastructure. However, always remain aware of your surroundings when exploring new places.

What type of clothing should I pack?

Dress is casual throughout most of New Mexico. However, they bring layers for both hot afternoons and cooler evenings. And if hiking or exploring the outdoors, wear suitable shoes/gear.

How long does it take to drive to Gallup from popular Southwestern cities? 

Albuquerque – approximately 200 miles/3.5 hours, Phoenix – about 300 miles/5 hours, Denver – around 500 miles/8 hours.

Where can I find additional help planning my Gallup trip? 

Start by contacting the Gallup Tourism Department and Visitor Center at 505-863-1227 or through their website at They can suggest itineraries, accommodations, and personalized guidance.

Final Thoughts

As the California Zephyr train whistled eastward down the tracks, carrying me away from Gallup, I longed to return to this surprising New Mexican crossroads. My time exploring the area far surpassed expectations.

From admiring iconic trading posts and breathtaking desert landscapes to investigating ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings and sampling fiery Hatch green chiles, Gallup captured my curiosity and appetite for adventure. Now, as I plan my next escape, the allure of the Best Caribbean All-Inclusive Resorts Adults Only beckons, promising a seamless blend of luxury, relaxation, and vibrant experiences to satisfy my wanderlust.

Whenever wanderlust leads you to take a road trip across the Southwest, I highly recommend things to see in Gallup NM to spend time in charming, surprising Gallup. With so many distinctive things to see and do, you will create vivid memories to last a lifetime during your adventures here. Just be careful – like me, you might never want to leave!

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