A Free Pass to the Great Outdoors

A Free Pass to the Great Outdoors

Families get rewarded for spending time in nature

By Katie Bruell

The Los Alamos Nature Center/Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) and Los Luceros Historic Site are debuting a new, fun way for families to get outside and try different activities in nature this summer. The New Mexico Outdoor Pass is a free booklet of activities featuring eight themes relating to the nature and culture of our region, such as water, mammals, plants and more. 

Each theme has a variety of activities from which families can choose. Participants will make observations and discoveries that will help them learn about the ecology, conservation, culture, history and climate of Northern New Mexico. When the theme is completed, families will earn stamps towards outdoor-themed prizes. Families can earn stamps by completing activities at home, during community events and workshops, or at public lands in the region. Pass booklets are available in English and Spanish, so everyone can join in the fun.

Los Luceros Historic Site is partnering with PEEC as host for many events related to the New Mexico Outdoor Pass, which will bring more people to its beautiful location in Alcalde, just north of Española. Los Luceros has so much to offer families, from trails to easy river access, historic buildings, friendly farm animals, lush gardens, fruit orchards and a rich cultural history.

Many families have done all the hikes in PEEC’s Passport to the Pajarito Plateau program and have been asking for more. The Passport to the Pajarito Plateau, which guides families on three sets of easy to moderate hikes in Los Alamos County, Bandelier National Monument and Valles Caldera, is ongoing and free to anyone who wants to participate. As you hike the trails inside the passport, look for a wooden post or a bench with a small metal plate on it (also shown on the page for that trail in your passport). When you find the post, make a rubbing with your crayon rock (provided with your passport). Return the passport to the nature center after you’ve hiked two, five, eight and 12 trails, and you’ll earn a prize that you can use on your next trail adventure. Pick up these passports at PEEC or print them out at home: peecnature.org/passport/.

The New Mexico Outdoor Passport also guides parents and children through activities outdoors, but because it is not tied to a particular trail or location, families all over New Mexico can participate whenever they want. 

The program launched on May 1 with a fish-themed event at Los Luceros Historic Site. The next event at Los Luceros, focusing on mammals, will be on June 5. The passport is loaded with other activities that you can do at home or in other outdoor locations in Northern New Mexico, on your own schedule. 

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More events are planned throughout the summer and fall at Los Luceros on the first Sunday of every month — which are the historic site’s “Dawn ‘til Dusk Days.” Entrance on these days is extended from sunrise to sunset and admission is free for New Mexico residents, with access to the site’s visitor center, historic buildings, trails and picnic areas. Pack a meal and come for the day, or any part of it! The early morning and late evening are ideal for bird watching at Los Luceros, which boasts a large diversity of species. You might see bald eagles, hummingbirds and migratory waterfowl, as well as one of the largest concentrations of flicker woodpeckers in New Mexico. Also, the edge of the Rio Grande on the property at sunset is an ideal location to view bats beginning their nightly feast! New Mexico Outdoor Pass booklets will be available at the monthly events, as well as at the Los Alamos Nature Center, Los Luceros and public locations throughout the Española Valley.

Visit the NMOP website to learn more about how you can participate in the NMOP program. If you can’t attend an event, don’t worry — there are plenty of other activity options available in your booklet. Wherever you go in our amazing state, we hope to see you outside this summer!


Katherine Bruell is the former executive director of the Pajarito Environmental Education Center. Drawings are by Carlyn Stewart, the instructional coordinator/archaeologist and interim regional manager for Los Luceros Historic Site.


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