An Exciting Family Road Trip To Four Corners
This family road trip to Four Corners is a wonderful trip that includes visits to Amarillo, TX; Santa Fe, NM; Durango, CO; and Dodge City, KS!
Four Corners Monument is a quadripoint where the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado meet. You can truly be in four places at once! While it’s located in a rather isolated area, a road trip to the Four Corners is one you and your family won’t forget.
Day One: Depart for Tucumcari, New Mexico
Mileage for us to Tucumcari: 586 miles or 10.5 hours
The Big Texan, located in Amarillo, really is a fun place to stop and eat. It is surprisingly good food and the boys had a great time watching people go to the front and try to attempt the 72 oz steak challenge. The waitstaff was great and kids receive a cowboy hat with their meal. The prices are really reasonable and it’s a great place for families to stop because there’s a huge gift shop and several photo opportunities.
Cadillac Ranch was created in 1974 by an art group called Ant Farm when they buried 10 Cadillacs as a public art installation. Even though it’s on private land, visiting is encouraged and the best part is spray painting the cars. Visiting is free and your kids will really enjoy being able to paint the Cadillacs. Since there is a Home Depot just a few exits away from the Big Texan, we stopped to buy a couple of cans of spray paint. You will walk through a field to get to the cars and get ready to spray paint to leave your mark.
TIP: If it has been raining, be prepared to put on rain boots or get your shoes muddy.
There are two motels in Tucumcari we would recommend. We stayed at The Historic Route 66 Motel that is retro in the coolest way! A double queen room was only $68 a night, so it’s friendly on the wallet as well. It also has a great coffee shop on the premises that was really good. To stay in a non-chain hotel was a great change of pace.
The other accommodation we would recommend is the Blue Swallow Motel. Established in 1939, it is the quintessential Route 66 place to stay. It also has a Cars movie tie-in that kids will like.
TIP: The Blue Swallow fills up well in advance, so book early if you would like to stay here.
For breakfast the next morning, we ate at the Kix on 66 Diner. Lots of locals were there and where the locals are is where the good food is. We had a hearty breakfast that was incredibly well priced and off we went to Farmington.
Day Two: Depart Tucumcari,NM for Farmington,NM
Mileage: 354 miles or approximately 6 hours
Clines Corners opened as a gas station in 1934. You can still fill up with gas at Clines, but over the years it has become so much more than a filling station. Today, it’s over 30,000 square feet of restaurants, shops and an RV park. This is a great place to stop and buy souvenirs, grab a drink and snacks.
Santa Fe is pretty amazing. We parked as close as we could to downtown so that we could walk for the day. We went to the Loretto Chapel, The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis Assisi Chapel, San Miguel Mission, the Plaza, the State Capitol building and Palace of the Governors. I wish we would’ve had time to go to the Georgia O’Keefe museum, but time didn’t allow.
Loretto Chapel has been on my list of places to see for awhile and it’s best known for its “miraculous staircase” that is not supported by a central pole. According to legend, the staircase was built sometime between 1877 and 1881. The nuns prayed for nine days to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, that someone would be able to build a staircase in such a small space. After the ninth day of prayers, a mysterious man arrived at the chapel, worked in seclusion and the nuns never learned his name. It is a beautiful staircase and whether you believe the legend or not, the Chapel and the staircase are worth visiting. There is a $5 entry fee and there is also a cute gift shop.
The San Miguel Mission was built in 1610 by the Tlaxcalan Indians of Mexico and is the oldest church still in use in the country. Being able to walk through a place this old was really neat. Picturing all the people that have walked in the Mission over the last 400 years is pretty remarkable.
Santa Fe is beautiful and you would be hard pressed to not find a good restaurant. Make sure at some point in your journey in New Mexico you have something with hatch chilies.
Farmington, New Mexico has really grown over the last several years with a lot of newer hotels. We chose to stay in the Holiday Inn Express and we ate dinner at the Three River’s Brewery which was FANTASTIC! It is located in downtown Farmington and you will not be disappointed if you go here. The food, atmosphere, service, location, and price is all on point. Their menu also includes an entire Keto friendly list of meals.
Day Three: Depart Farmington to Durango, Co
Mileage: 50 miles or 1 hour
TIP: If you need gas or to take a bathroom break, stop in Shiprock,NM since there is nothing from there to Four Corners.
Four Corners Monument is really something to see. Kids especially love being able to be in four places at once. There are some beautiful items you can buy from local Native American artists. The views from the Four Corners Monument is stunning. Cost per person is $5 (children 6 and under are free).
TIP: The bathrooms are not exactly for the faint of heart, and in the summer heat, the smell can be little strong. However, it is totally worth it to visit the Four Corners.
We stayed the night at the Holiday Inn in Durango, Colorado. This was a new Holiday Inn when we stayed and it was very nice and close to a lot of things. With that being said, hotels in Durango tend to be expensive. If you want to save some money, you could stay in Farmington,NM and drive back into Durango.
Valley of the Gods
Valley of the Gods near Mexican Hat, Utah is a hidden gem that doesn’t get the accolades that other parks in Utah receive. Its been featured in several movies and in two episodes of “Dr. Who”.
It’s a pretty close drive from the Four Corners (approx 64 miles or 1 hour). The day we went, we were the only ones there for a long time. It is STUNNING! STUNNING! STUNNING! The terrain through the Valley of the Gods can be a little rough and if there has been a hard rain, a 4 wheel drive might be the better option. We were there on a bright, sunny day and driving a mini-van and had no issue. It is incredibly peaceful and a perfect place for a family.
Mesa Verde National Park
Next stop was Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. The cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde are so amazing to see in person and I think you will enjoy it as much as we did. It’s a narrow and steep road to get to the Cliff Dwellings so be prepared for that. However, it is totally worth it to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site. While you can arrange to climb to the dwellings with a Park Ranger, we didn’t feel comfortable having the boys do that so we chose not to. We did see a lot of people doing it and, if you have older kids, it may be something worth considering. There is a great observation area that you can clearly see the cliff dwellings and marvel at how they were built in such a place so long ago.
Be sure to bring your child’s National Park Passport so you can stamp it.
Day Four: Durango, CO to Alamosa,CO
Mileage: 150 miles or 3 hours
Stops: Durango to Silverton Train
The train from Durango to Silverton is so beautiful and fun that we cannot recommend this enough. This is an absolutely perfect thing for families and if you have any train lovers in your group, you will definitely want to ride the train.
TIP: Due to the high volume of people for this excursion, definitely book in advance.
Your kiddos will love the train ride and the views of the Animas River are stunning! You can walk to the open air car and enjoy unimpeded views.
TIP: Be aware that very small and hot pieces of coal can fly into the open air car so keep your eyes protected with sunglasses.
Once you arrive in Silverton, it’s like stepping back in time. Silverton is a former mining camp and has been designated as a National Historic Landmark District. Before our trip, we watched an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and Guy Fieri was in Silverton raving about a BBQ joint called Thee Pitts Again. We decided to take Guy’s advice and he was right, it was delicious!
We also heard the Handlebar Saloon was a good place to go so there are some other options.
I actually really like the picture of us in Silverton because it shows the realities of traveling with kids. Our youngest was upset about something and it shows in his face. He DID NOT want to take that picture. Thankfully, kids are resilient and about 5 minutes later he was laughing and having a great time. Sometimes, memories like this are great to remember that you are a family and there is always love and grace.
Day 5: Alamosa, CO to Wichita, KS
Mileage: 521 or approx 8 hours
When coming into Dodge City from the West you will see a large sign that says Santa Fe Trail Tracks. Definitely take the time to see it! We are a history loving family and this certainly fit the bill. For 60 years in the 19th Century, wagons traveled West across this land. The Santa Fe Trail was essentially the superhighway of its day. Fast forward to the 21st Century and you can still see the remnants of the wagon trails and the ruts they left behind.
This stop off has a very nice boardwalk, as well as, informative plaques that detail the history and are very interesting to read.
Dodge City is famous for the many infamous folks that lived, worked or passed through here. For a time in 1884, Dodge City even had a bullfighting ring where Mexican bullfighters would put on a show with specially chosen Longhorn bulls. Now that’s a crazy Old West town! Of course, many people know about Wyatt Earp’s time here and that Doc Holliday even spent time here.
Dodge City is in the process of building a pretty incredible new museum that will be a big hit with visitors. For the meantime, the current location is housed in the Boot Hill Museum and store. They are well worth a visit and we enjoyed learning even more about the Old West, cattle drives and the Santa Fe trail.
While you are in Dodge City you need to get a picture of El Capitan that is just a couple of minutes from the Boothill Museum. The sculpture is of a Texas longhorn steer, common as the lead in cattle drivers. From 1875 and 1885, over four million longhorns were shipped to eastern markets from the railhead in Dodge City and huge economic impact.
We love a good road trip and this family road trip to four corners didn’t disappoint. Being able to visit the Cliff Dwellings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is always impressive and we love showing our kids these sites. The Four Corners is the only quadripoint in the United States and going somewhere this isolated makes it feel like a real adventure. The Silverton to Durango train ride is incredibly beautiful and kids really enjoy this type of excursion. Ending the trip with an old frontier town like Dodge City was tremendously fun and we imagined Wyatt Earp patrolling the streets getting the “bad guys”.
This summer, I hope that you and your family are able to have an adventure. Even if you can’t make a family road trip to Four Corners, maybe you can make it to one part of our trip and make some fun memories. After you get back, we hope you re-visit Suitcase and a Map to tell us all about it!