Gallup, New Mexico is destination located along Route 66 that’s worth the roadtrip! Gallup has many reasons for tourists to stop and stay and is located within a two-hour drive from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
I’m sharing more about some of my favorite adventures to try in Gallup during your visit.
One of the things that I appreciated about the community of Gallup, New Mexico is that they are unapologetically themselves.
What you see is what you get. You get authenticity from your very first encounter. You see a diverse community that IS a welcoming community with a small-town feel.
Gallup is completely surrounded by the Navajo Nation and has been named America’s most Patriotic Small Town by Rand McNally.
1. Visit Red Rock Park
825 Outlaw Rd, Church Rock, NM
With an average of 279 sunny days per year in Gallup, you have the perfect excuse for an outdoor adventure hiking at Red Rock Park.
Red Rock Park is the perfect place to take in closer views of the red rock formations and majestic Pyramid Rock along the 3-mile moderate trail.
Church Rock Trail, a 2.6 mile out and back hike, is another trail option at Red Rock Park that allows hikers to experience a closer view of Church Rock.
The trails are open to dogs as well if you are traveling with your pet and there is also a campground at Red Rock Park with electric and water hookup if you want to stay overnight at the park.
Red Rock Park also has a 5000 seat arena for outdoor performances special events, and rodeos.
In preparation for your hike, you’ll definitely want to bring water and also be mindful of the changing elevation. I would also recommend dressing in layers and wearing sunblock because you are hiking in full sun.
There are signs that mark the trail distance and elevation change as you progress on the trail with benches to stop and rest and admire the view along the way.
Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride with X-Treme-Lee Fun Balloon Adventures
I’ve been fortunate to have gone hot-air ballooning twice in Gallup, New Mexico and both of those experiences have set the bar pretty high.
My first hot air balloon ride was in the summer and my second ride was in the winter. What sets the experience apart from other locations is the landscape!
In the winter the basket can hold more people than in the summer which might be a very important detail depending on your group size.
What should you wear during a hot air balloon ride?
If you Gallup during the colder months, make sure that you dress in layers and dress WARM during the morning.
My fingers were numb while they were preparing the balloons for our flight in the early morning but as the day progressed the temperatures warmed up an additional 30 degrees which is pretty common.
If you visit in the summer months you will want to wear something comfortable because not all hot balloons have a gated door to enter the basket.
I also recommend wearing sunglasses and close-toed shoes because the location of the landing may be on uneven ground and you might need to walk a little bit through the brush to the truck and trailer.
Like I said earlier the landscape at Red Rock Park is truly phenomenal with gorgeous landscape views at every turn….and they are even more AMAZING when you view them from the sky! To be able to rise above the formations in a balloon is truly magical.
If you are normally scared of heights I will tell you that this experience is so gradual that you barely even notice when you are lifting off the ground. The awe of the surrounding views will help you quickly forget how high you are above the ground.
When you ride with X-Treme-Lee Fun Balloon Adventures you’ll also have a new appreciation for the pre and post work that goes into your flight. It definitely takes a team!
You can even help set up and disassemble the hot air balloon after your flight. It’s really fun to help and makes you even more connected to your ride.
During your flight, there is a team on the ground with a radio who drives to your landing destination for pickup. The pilot and the driver are in constant communication during your flight.
When you return to the parking lot, you will participate in a special ceremony with your pilot to celebrate your incredible adventure.
If you visit Red Rock Park in the first weekend in December you can enjoy a beautiful sight at the Red Rock Balloon Rally with over 150 balloons participating and a special balloon “Glow in the Park” event.
2. Eat Local in Gallup
One of my favorite parts of travel is the food. New Mexico food does not disappoint, especially if you are a fan of green or red chili.
New Mexican meals with chilis don’t typically include sour cream or queso and if you can’t decide between red or green chili, no worries, you can order “Christmas-style” for the best of both worlds on top of your entree of choice.
A few local recommendations to check out during your visit are Jerry’s Cafe, who was voted Gallup’s best green chili, Anthony’s A Taste Of The Southwest and Grandpa’s Grill. Make sure that you also try Navajo “frybread” (deep-fried bread) while you are in town.
While you are dining you might notice local artisans walking from table to table with their jewelry. This is pretty common in the community but might catch you off guard if you are not expecting it.
You might find a jewelry piece of your dreams from a local artisan but if you don’t, that’s ok, and you can just politely say “no thank you.”
If you need a caffeine boost, make sure that you stop at Gallup Coffee Company and sports fans MUST visit Sammy C’s Rock n’ Sports Pub & Grille displaying over 5,000 rock and sports autographs and memorabilia.
3. Visit the El Rancho Hotel
1000 E Hwy 66, Gallup, NM
Located on Route 66, El Rancho Hotel is a historic hotel built in 1936, that was a popular hotel for guests, including celebrities who were in the area filming westerns on location around Gallup in the 1940s and 50s.
El Rancho Hotel is a time capsule in the best kind of way. From the moment that you enter the hotel, you get a sense of what it was like in another period in time allowing the next generations to have insight into that era.
Whether you stop in for a few minutes, a meal, or an overnight stay, El Rancho Hotel is definitely worth a stop!
The second floor is covered in photographs of famous patrons who stayed at the hotel over the years.
There are also signs to mark the rooms where famous guests slept too. You can even sleep in the same suite where a former President, Ronald Reagan slept.
4. Shop From Local Artisans in Downtown Gallup
You may not realize that 80% of the jewelry that you’ll find in Santa Fe was actually made by artisans around Gallup!
There are 1,000 artists and 100s of traders in the region making Gallup a great place to purchase jewelry (especially if you are a big fan of turquoise), art, and crafted goods. You’ll find multiple trading posts in the city with a large selection of items to choose from.
The Gallup Native Arts Market is another great to purchase from a local artisan if you visit during the time Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial in August. I love to purchase prints when I travel and I have two pieces from local artists displayed in my home.
You’ll find Taos Moccasins and Santa Fe leathers are manufactured in the basement at City Electric Shoe Shop in downtown Gallup.
Perry Null Trading Company located at 1710 S 2nd St, Gallup, is another shop worth a stop!
During our visit, Perry Null took us to the Saddle Room where saddles are stored for customers who wanted a safe place to keep their valuable saddles. I’ve never seen so many saddles in one location. I’m sure that they could hold a record because each row could hold hundreds of saddles and there were multiple rows.
The incredible detail in each piece displayed will make it easy to loose track of time while you wander the shelves and cases.
5. Celebrate Local Native American Culture
The five main Native American tribes near Gallup are the Navajo, Zuni, Hopi, Acoma, and Laguna giving tourists an opportunity to learn more about different backgrounds, culture, and traditions.
As a midwesterner, I loved learning more about the diversity within the different area tribes.
In the summer I highly recommend attending the Gallup Summer Nightly Native American Dances. They take place every evening from 7-8 pm, Memorial Day through Labor Day at the McKinley Courthouse Square Plaza.
The Gallup Summer Nightly Indian Dances last about an hour and showcase Native American music and dances.
Photos are allowed and encouraged at this event which is nice because cameras are not allowed without special permission if you are visiting a reservation.
During my visit, we were able to witness 15 crown dancers from the Apache tribe for the first time ever in Gallup which made the experience even more special.
The event is held weather permitting and there are bleachers available for observing guests. I would recommend arriving a little early if you want a good seat.
Another MUST SEE event in August is the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial with participation from Native Americans from tribes from all over the United States. There are multiple events that take places over several days that include special displays by Native American artisans and vendors.
The evening parade was an incredible display of the coloful clothing, dancing, and music representing Native American tribes from all over the United States.
Inter-Tribal Ceremonial runs from Wednesday through Sunday on select dates every August. You can check the schedule of events for more details.
Where to Stay in Gallup, New Mexico
During my visit, I stayed at Springhill Suites (1105 W Lincoln Ave, Gallup, NM) You can save on booking a hotel room in Gallup here.
My King Size suite had plenty of space to work and rest with the bedroom area separated from the living area. The room could sleep 4 with a sofa bed, trundle in addition to the King Size bed and included a mini-fridge, coffee maker, and microwave.
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