The Best Scenic Route Between
Albuquerque and Santa Fe
Author of "New Mexico's
"Take the Turquoise Trail (NM Highway
14) between Albuquerque and Santa Fe," advises Ty Allison,
a professional photographer whose work takes him all through the
Land of Enchantment. "The drive north will take a few minutes
longer than I-25, but will give you a much better feel for the
incredible geographical and cultural diversity of New Mexico."
Begin by following I-40 east from
Albuquerque for 15 miles, and pass through Tijeras ("scissors")
Canyon, for centuries the gateway to the Rio Grande Valley for
Plains Indians. There's even an unrestored 80-room, 600-year-old
Indian pueblo behind the Tijeras Ranger Station, open daily for
From the village of Tijeras, follow
NM 14 (Exit 175) north along the ridgelines of three mountainous
groupings: the Sandia, San Pedro and Ortiz ranges. After passing
the bedroom communities of Cedar Crest and Sandia Park, you'll
come to the tiny village of Golden (gold, from one of the
first strikes in the United States, was once mined here, but now
garnets are sought). Worth visiting are the tiny old chapel and
nearby general store.
A few miles later you'll encounter
the resurrected coal-mining town of Madrid (locally pronounced
MAD-rid), an arts-and-crafts center with an interesting mining
museum (kids love it). A virtual ghost town after the mines shut
down in the 1940s, Madrid hums with activity today.
Check out the old-fashioned soda fountain,
boutiques, galleries and restaurants-you'll find everything from
Guatemalan textiles to buffalo burgers. During warm weather jazz
and bluegrass concerts are held in the baseball field at the north
end of town. In fall there's an art tour, and during December
the whole place is lit up like a Christmas tree.
Several miles past Madrid is Cerrillos
("the little hills"), which once boasted 21 saloons to quench
the thirst of hardy miners seeking gold, sliver, lead, zinc and
turquoise. This sleepy village is now used by movie companies
wanting that authentic "Western" look. Shops and other attractions
make a visit to Cerrillos an interesting, unusual stop.
Past Cerrillos the Turquoise Trail
passes the Garden of the Gods-a tall cluster of oddly shaped,
70-million-year-old rocks-before crossing a sprawling arid plain
that slowly is filling with the homes of Santa Fe commuters. A
favorite eatery along this stretch is the San Marcos Café,
which serves up fine bluegrass and folk music along with country-style
breakfast, lunch and dinner. Recommended are the San Marcos burrito,
green chile lasagna and bourbon apple pie a la mode.
Back on the road, you'll pass the
state penitentiary and reconnect to I-25 for the short trip into
Santa Fe proper.
If you go: The Old Coal
Mine Museum (505-473-0743) is on NM 14 in downtown Madrid,
adjacent to the colorful Mine Shaft Tavern. A slight admission
fee is charged. The San Marcos Café (505-471-9298) is a
few hundred yards north of the NM 42 turnoff, near the Lone
Butte General Store.
For a full listing of Richard Mahler's
books, and to place orders for them, visit Amazon.com.
"The Best" Listings