You may find yourself passing through Gallup: Both Interstate 40 and Amtrak's Southwest Chief rail line run through town, as does a portion of old Route 66 (the town even gets a mention in the musical tribute to the highway, "Get Your Kicks on Route 66"). Located in western New Mexico near the Zuni Pueblo and the Navajo reservations, Gallup is home to about 60 Native American arts-and-crafts businesses (both wholesale and retail), where pottery, jewelry and rugs may be purchased at fairly good prices. Prized Pendleton blankets can also be a bargain in Gallup.

You might consider spending the night at the El Rancho Hotel. Built by the brother of film producer D.W. Griffith in 1937, it hosted a slew of Hollywood stars back when westerns were filmed in the surrounding red-rock countryside, and the rooms are named for such cowboy luminaries as Tom Mix and Ronald Reagan. In August, Gallup is the site of the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial, which attracts participants from all over North America. Held in Red Rock State Park (and its natural amphitheater) for four days, it includes tribal dances, games, a rodeo and arts-and-crafts exhibitions.

Collectors of Navajo rugs will want to attend the auctions held every month at Crownpoint, about 40 mi/65 km northeast of Gallup. El Morro National Monument (40 mi/65 km southeast of Gallup) contains pre-Columbian petroglyphs and Inscription Rock, which bears the names of Spanish explorers and westbound pioneers. Teddy Roosevelt proclaimed El Morro a national monument in 1906, which has helped preserve the historic carvings. The short hike at the base of the monument is worth taking. Be sure to pick up a park guide from the rangers: It details the inscriptions along the trail—there are more than 2,000. A more challenging trail leads to the top of the bluff. Gallup is 130 mi/210 km west of Albuquerque.

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