Where in the Universe is Aztec, New Mexico?

It’s just south of the Colorado border, south enough that the distant mountains to the north give way to arid badlands and sandstone shapes that are out of this world. A rustic charming town full of beauty blooming just beneath the surface.

1) Aztec arches

It’s surprising to many who even live nearby that more than 220 arches have been carved by wind and water out of the soft sandstone that abounds around Aztec. Maps are available at the Aztec Visitors Center, and you can venture out on self guided tours to these magical sandstone structures.

2) Aztec’s ancient Pueblos

Taking the half-mile walk through Aztec Ruins National Monument is mesmerizing. The massive 900-year-old archeological complex consists of a walled village with more than 400 rooms. The site also features a great kiva, a kind of round ceremonial structure, the third largest of its kind ever found. Here you can walk through America’s stone age.

3) Ride with the aliens

The Alien Run singletrack trail in Hart Canyon located just outside Aztec is fantastic and popular with mountain bikers. The site features twisted sandstone slick rock features and fun desert trail conditions all within view of the Rocky Mountains. But watch out, you might not be alone. As the story goes, in 1948 an unidentified flying object went down in here, and the singletrack goes right by it. A plaque marks the spot and details the event.

4) Desert beach

The 25-mile-long Navajo Lake at Navajo State Park is a great way to escape the heat. At more than 15,000 surface acres, there’s enough to go around. Enjoy hiking trails, 138 campsites, a marina and boat rental. Sailors, paddlers, water skiers and anglers all descend on this scenic, sizable body of water.

5) Insanely delicious

At The Bistro in downtown Aztec, think simple and tasty. In addition to a selection of espresso and hot drinks, for breakfast try the Potato Madness: fried potatoes, sauted onions, green chili, red onions and tomatoes smothered in Colby-Jack cheese. For lunch, try the Three Cheese and Veggie Grill: three blended Italian cheeses on a croissant smothered with grilled veggies like caramelized onions, zucchinis, tomato and sweet peppers.