Itinerary: 8-Days West Texas, NM & Arizona

Our kids got a Fall Break this year at school and we decided to take full advantage of it! It fell on the first week of October which happens to be one of the best times to travel just about anywhere in the world. We have been wanting to do portions of the desert with our kids, but summer months are just way too hot! So, to Southwest Airlines website I went to see what kind of flight deals I could find for West Texas, NM & Arizona.

We fly out of Dallas Love Field and I found some amazing flight prices to Midland and Lubbock Texas. These are good starting points to get to Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park in NM and far West Texas. We flew out of Phoenix – flight prices were too good to pass up.

On this trip we saw 4 National Parks: Carlsbad Caverns, Guadalupe Mountains, White Sands, and Saguaro. We stayed in Lincoln National Forest on our way to White Sands. See our itinerary below:

Day 1- Fly DAL to LBB, drive to Whites City Cavern INN ( closest hotel to Carlsbad Caverns)

Day 2 – Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Day 3 – Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Day 4 – Any last things in either Carlsbad or Guadalupe, drive toward White Sands

Day 5 – White Sands National Park

Day 6 – Drive to Saguaro National Park ( spend afternoon in park)

Day 7 – Saguaro National Park

Day 8 – Pima Air & Space Museum, fly out PHX to DAL

Carlsbad Caverns Welcome Sign

Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns is pretty much out in the middle of nowhere New Mexico. The nearest town is 30 miles away. We decided to stay at the closest motel to the park since we were also going to be traveling to Guadalupe Mountains National Park during this stay. Whites City Cavern Inn was just what we needed. We spent most of the day out at the park and only came back to the inn to sleep. We happened to come in on a Sunday, the only restaurant in town was closed, so we got groceries on the way in.

We spent the entire day exploring Carlsbad Caverns. We did the ranger led hike to Kings Palace and I cannot recommend this tour enough. It was the highlight of the day. Our guide brought lanterns for us to travel through the cave like they did decades ago. He also played music, turned off the lights, and took us through portions only reachable with a guide.

We absolutely loved Carlsbad Caverns!

Guadalupe Mountains

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is known for Guadalupe Peak – the highest mountain peak in Texas. At 8,751 feet this hike is not easy. Especially with kids. Our 6 & 7 year olds have hiked extensively in several National Parks. But, this hike would be their most difficult to date. At 8.4 miles and a 3,000ft elevation gain this hike took us over 7 hours to complete. We packed lots of water, snacks, and lunch. The views were absolutely incredible. Everyone in Texas should put this on their bucket list.

We were WHIPPED after this hike. Originally, we had planned to come back a second day to do Devils Hall, but my husband and I could barely walk that next day. Our knees took a beating on the way down from Guadalupe Peak. So, we skipped Devils Hall, did a short nature trail, and made our way toward White Sands National Park.

s NaGuadalupe Peak, Guadalupe Mountains National Park

On the drive to White Sands we passed through Lincoln National Forest. Here, we stayed at a precious cabin in the mountains. We absolutely loved it! Booked via AIRBNB here. We made a huge campfire, had s’mores, caught up on laundry, enjoyed the wildlife and just being in the mountains.

S’mores by the campfire in Lincoln National Forest

White Sands

White Sands ended up being our kids’ favorite park of the whole trip! Our AirBNB supplied sleds for the sand dunes and we spent the day watching the boys climb up and slide down the dunes. (Should also note: we stopped at the most adorable local owned coffee shop on the way in to the park – Mad Coffee)

We headed back to our cabin in the mountains for another night before heading to Tucson where Saguaro National Park is located.

White Sands National Park


The drive from our AirBNB to Tucson was a solid 5 hours. We left fairly early in the day and made our way West. We got to Tucson around 4 and wanted to see the East side of the park. Saguaro National Park has 2 sides: East and West. They are about an hour apart from each other. We wanted to do the Wasson Peak trail on the West side for our full day in the park the next day.

The East side blew us away. We were greeted with a double rainbow for the entire loop drive on that side. We got out and did the short nature trail, Javelina rocks, and all of the lookouts. We could not believe the rainbow stayed the entire time. The cacti also blew us away. Do not underestimate this park! It was stunning from every angle.

On the West side we started the Wasson Peak trail fairly early in the day. This was another 8 mile hike with a decent elevation gain. Thankfully, we had recovered from Guadalupe Peak a couple of days earlier. This hike was difficult. The views were just about the only thing that got us off this trail. We were there early October and heat was still a major factor. The last mile was easily the hardest! We would absolutely do it again. This one took just over 6 hours to complete.

Double Rainbow in Saguaro National Park

On our way to Phoenix from Tucson we stopped at the Pima Air & Space Museum. Highly, highly recommend! They had a STEM room where our kids played and they have one of the largest collections of airplanes the world!

I say it for every trip, but it really is true… this was one of our most memorable trips. The weather was wonderful. The time together I will cherish forever. Making it to Guadalupe Peak and Wasson Peak with our kids is something I will never forget. Those many hours together doing something hard with our 6 & 7 year olds is just incredible.

If you love hiking and have National Parks on your list – this trip is a must! The one-way drive from Lubbock to Phoenix was perfect. Our kids decided on this trip that they want to see all 63 National Parks before graduating high school. So… here we go! They’ve checked 18 off the list, only 45 to go.

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