Approximately a 150 mile loop, the Jemez Mountain Trail Scenic Byway twists and turns through a vast terrain of river valleys, mountains, and volcanic calderas. Along that trail you will travel culturally from the 13th century ancient puebloans to the birth of the Atomic age. Many recreational and outdoor opportunities of camping, hiking, back packing, hunting and fishing or simply soaking in the various hot springs abounds in this region.
Not exactly on the Jemez Mountain Trail Scenic Byway, this is a nice side trip and worth the hour (or two) detour. The largest Riesling vineyard in New Mexico, the Ponderosa Valley Vineyard and Winery is a place to take a nice stroll through the vineyards, enjoy the eclectic metal artwork, and then cool down with an opportunity to experience a relaxing wine tasting - for free.
Traveling on Highway 4 from San Ysidro, your first attraction will be Jemez Pueblo's Walatowa Visitor Center. The visitor center consists of the History and Culture Museum and gift shop which sells local Jemez artisan crafts. Across from the visitor center is Red Rocks, whereby Jemez people sell food. A great opportunity to taste the local flavors for lunch.
Jemez Springs is the central community within the Jemez Mountain Trail Scenic Byway. It is here that one can lodge, dine or soak in the local hot spring spas. Outdoor recreation of hiking in the Jemez Mountains and fishing in the Jemez River is very popular. Local music events and art happenings are frequent and small-town hospitality is abundant.
Another side adventure off of Jemez Mountain Trail Scenic Byway, this is a scenic 10 mile round trip on New Mexico Highway 485 / Forest Service Road 376 that takes you through the canyon of Rio Guadalupe and through the Gilman Tunnels. Built in the 1920s and named after William H. Gilman, the railroad company's vice president of operations, the two tunnels enabled the railroad to haul timber from Jemez Mountains through Guadalupe Box Canyon. Aside from visitors' photo opportunities, the Gilman Tunnels were used in the filming of 3:10 to Yuma (2007), The Lone Ranger (2013) and Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015).
Photo by EMKotyk
The Jemez Historic Site is one of the most beautiful prehistoric and historic sites in the Southwest. It includes the ruins of a 500 year old Giusewa village and the San Jose de los Jemez church which was initially constructed in 1621. The village of Giusewa was built by the ancestors of the present-day people of Jemez (Walatowa) Pueblo. The name Giusewa refers to the natural springs in the area.
A fantastic geologic wonder, Soda Dam is a natural dam that formed from a hot mineral water flow which deposited travertine and calcium carbonate. It is believed that the process began about 7,000 years ago.
Photo by EMKotyk
Battleship Rock is a sheer cliff that rises suddenly above the river. Adventurous hikers can face the challenge of Battleship Rock as numerous trails extend from the parking area. The region is peppered with bits of glassy smooth obsidian that was created from volcanic eruptions in the area over 5 million years ago.
Photo by EMKotyk
A few miles past Battleship Rock is the parking lot for Spence Hot Springs, a very accessible and scenic place for a long soak in hot mineral waters. However, this is a very popular location and gets filled very quickly.
Fenton Lake State Park is a quiet mountain escape. Park features and attractions include: camping, canoeing, fishing, hiking, horse-back riding in designated areas, and cross-country skiing in the winter months. The lake is stocked with German brown trout and rainbow trout from fall through spring. Winter ice fishing is allowed.
Located at an altitude of 7,880 ft, the river drops 70 feet through a spectacular series of falls. This is the area where visitors can camp and get cozy with the outdoors. Four campgrounds exist on the US Forest Service lands:
Designated as a National Preserve in 2000, this 89,000 acre preserve is located on top of a collapsed crater within the volcanic Jemez Mountain Range. Valles Caldera is open to anyone who wishes to study and learn about geology, archaeology, cultural history, botany and wildlife.
Though not on the Jemez Mountain Trail Scenic Byway, a side detour to visit Los Alamos is a must if you want to boast about visiting "Atomic City" the location where the first atomic bomb was assembled.
First established in 1954, the museum was a concept developed by Robert Krohn who was in charge of nuclear tests. Over the decades, the museum grew in the number of exhibits and moved several times to accommodate the collections. By 1970, it acquired the name of the Bradbury Science Museum, in honor of Norris E. Bradbury, the laboratory's second director (1945-1970). Approximately 60 interactive exhibits trace the history of the WWII Manhattan Project, highlight the Laboratory's current and historic research projects related to defense and technology, and focus on the Laboratory's research related to national and international economic, environmental, political, and social concerns.
Bandelier National Monument was named after Adolph F. A. Bandelier, a swiss-born American archeologist whose multi-disciplinary approach to the study of Native American cultures, included historical research, native traditions, ethnography, ethno-history, and archaeology. History in this region extends back over 10,000 years from nomadic hunters-gathers to ancestral puebloans in the 1100s. Numerous petroglyphs, dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls pay tribute to the early days of the puebloan culture.
Tsankawi Ruins was home to the Ancestral Tewa Pueblo people in the 1400s. Today their descendents live in nearby San Ildefonso Pueblo. The Ancestral Pueblo people built homes of volcanic rock and adobe (mud), cultivating fields in the open canyons below.