Your gateway to Four Corners Farmington is located in the northwest corner of New Mexico, situated about 50 miles from Arizona and 20 miles from Colorado. The far majority of the NW New Mexico corridor would be described as desert, but Farmington has three rivers that cross through the city and create a fertile valley (which explains the origin of the Farmington name). I had very few expectations for the area as I hadn’t traveled in that part of the country before, and I was very pleasantly surprised to find genuine, friendly people that worked in natural gas and oil (sound familiar?) that populated an area with a fantastic Native American history. There is a Navajo reservation immediately to the west of Farmington, and the entire region is spotted with historical sites.
I visited several of the historical sites including Salmon Ruins, Chaco Culture National Historical Park and Aztec Ruins National Monument. All of the sites are staffed with employees that are very educated on the area and many lead research on their respective sites. To give you an idea of how old these sites are, most were established around 1000 A.D. and were populated and were occupied until at least 1200. Some of the structures are in fantastic condition, considering how old they are. At Aztec Ruins, they’ve recreated a Kiva structure so you can sit inside of the large room and get a feel for how advanced these cultures were even though they existed nearly a thousand years ago. Chaco Canyon is about an hour south of Farmington and is a large grouping of ruins spanning an entire canyon. The Chaco Culture National Historical Park is maintained by the National Park Service who maintains a visitors center which contains a museum and even a movie theater to teach you about the area. The trip to Chaco should be required if you make it out to this part of New Mexico.
The region is also known for its beautiful hand-made Navajo blankets. We traveled to several trading posts including Hogback Trading Company, Two Grey Hills Trading Post and Toadlena Trading Post. The bread and butter of these posts are definitely the blankets. The blankets are even more special because the proprietors of the trading posts typically buy them directly from the Native Americans. Most of the blankets I saw for sale included a card with the name of who made it. I didn’t mind the drive to the trading posts at all as the New Mexico scenery is incredible. The mountains and buttes are beautiful and with almost 300 days of sunshine a year, you are almost guaranteed to get to enjoy them.
With so much sun and fun terrain, outdoor athletic enthusiasts are sure to follow. Farmington is home to some fantastic biking and fishing, and I was lucky enough to get to try both. We did a 22 – mile ride through Chaco Canyon and enjoyed the perfect weather with beautiful views of the canyon and several sites of ruins. The temperature can peak into the upper 80s during the hot summer months, but the average daily temperature is in the 70s throughout the summer. Combine that with little to no humidity and plenty of sunshine, and you can see how a long bike ride through a canyon might be enjoyable.
We traveled about 30 miles to the east of Farmington to the Soaring Eagle Lodge on the San Juan River. The lodge is located a few miles downstream from the Navajo Dam and is considered to be the best trout fishing in North America. Tens of thousands of trout occupy this part of the river and people travel from all over to get their lines wet. There are several restrictions on fishing, but the state is perfectly in line to protect one of the most beautiful places on earth with some of the best fishing anywhere. The incredible fly fishing combined with my cell phone running out of juice provided me with one of the most relaxing days that I can remember.
Farmington Proper definitely has the feel of a small town, but it has these little eccentricities like the Four Corners storytelling festival that make it special. Fantastic shopping and a great choice of accommodations make it easy to stay there, as well. There is also a fantastic museum and visitors center hosted by the city. They teamed up with the Houston Museum of Natural Science to work on some exhibits to show how local oil and natural gas mining work, as well as telling the history of the area. The museum was very impressive and worth stopping by.
Farmington may be a little off the beaten path, but that’s one of the best things about it. Nearly perfect weather, interesting history and a little bit of something for everyone.
Planning a trip: It is possible to fly directly to Farmington via Denver on Frontier Airlines, but I would recommend flying into Albuquerque and then making the drive up to Farmington. You are going to want a rental car to get around to the different sites anyway, and you’ll get to take in the scenic drive. Continental does fly direct from Houston to Albuquerque. The Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau maintains a list of potential accommodations on their Web site: www.FarmingtonNM.org. For complete information, visit the CVB’s Web site listed above or give them a call at 800-448-1240. www.FarmingtonNM.org www.soaringeaglelodge.net www.hogbacktrading.com www.twogreyhills.com www.toadlenatradingpost.com
(Article originally published on 05/27/09)