Jemez Mountain Trail: Your road to some of the most diverse mountain landscapes in all of New Mexico.
On one of my recent photography sojourns along the Jemez Mountain Trail, I stopped into the Walatowa Visitors Center on the Jemez Pueblo. I overheard a guide at the Visitors Center offering a guest some suggestions for interesting local attractions to visit. “I’m from Kansas,” the guest replied, “it’s all interesting to me.” Well, I’m not from Kansas but I couldn’t agree more. All of the features of the Jemez Mountain Trail interests me too!
The Jemez Mountains are 55 miles north of Albuquerque and 35 miles west-northwest of Santa Fe. The scenic drive along the Jemez Mountain Trail is a great way to connect between these two cities. There are no large population centers in the heart of the Jemez Mountain range, most of which is either National Forest land, part of the Valles Caldera National Preserve, or part of Bandelier National Monument or Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. Much of the land that does not belong to the federal government belongs to Native American tribes, and most tribal lands are not open to the public.
Your Day Trip on the Jemez Mountain Trail
As you travel along the Jemez Mountain Trail, you will see charming small towns, a thriving Native American Pueblo, natural hot springs, stunning red rock vistas, verdant valleys with herds of elk, and thickly forested mountain trails.
On a scenic mountain road loop that covers roughly 132 miles, you can see a staggering range of landscape diversity and meaningful historic remnants.
The Jemez Mountain trail is an intersection of roads that includes Highway 550 and Highway 4. It starts at the Coronado Monument in Bernallilo and encompasses the Jemez State Monument, Valles Caldera Preserve and finishes at Bandelier National Monument. It is filled with many opportunities for hiking, fishing, camping, cross-country skiing, or visiting a natural hot spring
The red clay of Jemez is the secret to the deep red color of colorful pottery made by Native Americans in the Jemez Pueblo.
Sample as much or as little of what the Jemez offers as you like. If you have a couple of hours, stop at the Walatowa Visitors Center on the Jemez Pueblo to sample the red rock vistas. While there, be sure to sample an Indian Fry Bread Taco, a local Native American specialty.
Drive about 15 minutes down the road into Jemez Springs. You can stop for lunch, check out the local saloon or indulge in a rejuvenating hot spring and spa.
You can then follow the Jemez Mountain Trail straight into Santa Fe through the verdant Valles Caldera or trace your steps back to Albuquerque. Whatever you decide, the diverse scenery of this quietly beautiful drive nevers disappoints.
All photos by Don Peterson.