Grants, NM: A Wild Spirit

Grants is a vibrant New Mexico community. Roughly an hour west of Albuquerque, the town is full of hidden gems that make it a stop that no Southwestern traveler would want to miss. Recently I spent some time exploring Grants, and I found something new around every corner. Had I not made this trip, I would have never known about this uncommon destination. Though there is more to do in Grants than I had time for, I’m excited to tell you about just a few of my favorite areas to experience and things to do in Grants, NM.
Prepared By:

David Rule

World Explorer, Photographer & Videographer

This article was created in partnership with the City of Grants, New Mexico. 
Grants, NM horizon view

An Un-typical Small Town

The county seat of Cibola County, Grants boasts a population almost 10,000 strong. Known as “The Uranium Capital of the United States,” the town today straddles the line between history and avant-garde. Located on that world-famous piece of Americana, Route 66, Grants has a thriving Main Street where shopping local is the theme.

Like the idea of farm to table dining? Grants has you covered with a booming Farmer’s Market held every Saturday, August through October.

Located on Route 66 and Santa Fe Avenue, the Cibola Arts Council runs an art gallery and museum that features the works of local artists and many Route 66 artifacts. The museum hosts special events, shows, and openings on a regular basis. Along this historic stretch of highway, you’ll find the New Mexico Mining Museum, the only uranium mining museum in the world, and a display of giant baskets along Route 66. What a great representation of Americana!

Feeling a little zen? Located just a short trip to the west of town is the Buddhist temple Zuni Mountain Stupa. Built in 2009, this temple holds numerous retreats and events throughout the year.

Downtown Grants, NM

Ya’at’eeh-The Crownpoint Rug Auction

Located just outside Grants on the Navajo Reservation is the exquisite experience that is the Crownpoint Rug Auction – it’s definitely one of the most unique things to do in the Grants, NM area.

Founded over 50 years ago, the auction is a genuine Navajo event featuring contemporary, handmade, all-wool Navajo rugs and the weavers who make them. 

The auction takes place once a month at the Crownpoint Elementary School. Weavers from all over the Navajo Nation bring in their expertly crafted handmade traditional rugs. Rugs sell from less than $50 to thousands of dollars. This is truly an event well worth the time and a great way to learn more about and support local Indigenous communities.

El Malpais National Monument in Grants, NM

El Malpais National Monument

Arizona is home to many incredible national monuments, and the unique landscapes around Grants are some of the most extraordinary I’ve seen in my life. Just south of Grants, you will find El Malpais National Monument. The area is full of many trees, yet it has the wild rock formations of a desert. If you aren’t scared of tight spaces, be sure to explore some of the caves in the area. I was blown away by how many opportunities there are for caving here. You would need at least a week to explore them all. Above the ground, my favorite natural feature is La Ventana Arch. This sandstone feature is the second largest natural arch in New Mexico.  Only a short walk from the main road, this incredible arch is much larger than photos could possibly convey.

Grants, NM wolf sanctuary
Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary

In the same area as El Malpais, you will find the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. Whether you’ve never seen a wolf before or are a wildlife expert, this is a wonderful place to be. The sanctuary is home to a wide variety of rescued wolves, foxes, and more. The experienced volunteers here will take you on a tour of the sanctuary, giving you an informed look at the beautiful animals up-close. I never thought that I would have the opportunity to look a wolf in the eyes, but this sanctuary made it a reality. Put this wildlife experience at the top of your list of things to do in Grants, NM. 

Grants, NM desert landscapes

Land of Fire and Ice

Not too far from the wolf sanctuary, you can find something that you would never expect to find in the southwest: a large ice cave. The otherworldly cave is a 10-15 minute hike from the parking lot. As you walk down the stairs into the cave, you will begin to feel the temperature dropping, which is very refreshing after spending a day in the hot desert sun. The cave looks beautiful, and it has a green tint in areas due to arctic algae. It’s truly unlike anything else on the planet.

Just a short hike from the ice cave, you will also find the Bandera Volcano. This volcano erupted nearly 10,000 years ago and left an 800-foot-deep crater in the earth. The trail allows visitors to hike to the rim of the crater and admire this enormous opening in the earth. Where else can you experience a volcano and ice cave coexisting within such close proximity to each other? 

The Land Of Enchantment

Though these are the main things to do in Grants, NM, other areas nearby, such as Acoma Pueblo, El Morro National Monument, and Mount Taylor, are also worth exploring.  I would love to return to discover more of the area surrounding Grants, but for now, the journey is up to you.

Ready to plan your trip? Download the Explore Grants app from your favorite app store.

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