I grew up in northern New Mexico, but as many years as I lived there and as many times as I have visited since, the state has so much to offer that there is always something I hadn't seen. Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is about 30 miles from my parents house (though is a much longer drive), yet last week was the first time I'd been. Not sure how we could have missed this place for so long.
Opt for the slot canyon hike (approx 2.5 miles round trip) if you can - snaking through the narrow tufa/sandstone canyon is unlike anything I've ever done, and in fact, my folks compared it to the canyons you hike through at Petra in Jordan.
From the slot canyon, the climb is pretty significant (something I am glad I wasn't fully aware of when we set off) , and if you go on a Sunday like we did, very crowded. Yet the unique nature of the hike and the views are worth the shortness of breath, hassle and forced interaction with strangers (probably my least favorite of the three) that it brings. Thanks though, to the man who pulled me up one particularly steep section. We needed you.
After our desperately short but lovely visit with my parents, we began the trek back across New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas on our way back to Kansas City. We stopped this time as we almost always do any more at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Storms rolled through on our way north, and we could see the rain from the distance, and hoped we wouldn't be stuck in a storm in our tent all night. It cleared as we arrived though, and offered views both that evening and in the morning that were among the most interesting I've had a chance to photograph in a handful of trips to the dunes. To me they always look like a painting.