A 65 mile trip between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, the Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway along New Mexico Highway 14 takes a journey through an old historic route. The Trail begins to the south in Tijeras and the Cibola National Forest, then heads north through Cedar Crest, Sandia Park, Golden, Madrid, and Cerrillos, before ending in the San Marcos/Lone Butte Area south of Santa Fe. The route is now alive with art, crafts, theater, music, museums and restaurants.
Village of Tijeras
In 1819, the Village of Tijeras was established. Situated at the intersection of historic Route 66 and State Highway 14, it is the southern gateway to the Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway. The word Tijeras is Spanish for "scissors," as it is where the Manzano and Sandia mountain ranges meet.
Sandia Ranger Station and Visitor Center The Sandia Mountains are the most visited mountains in New Mexico. More than half these visitors ride the Sandia Peak Tram or drive the Sandia Crest National Scenic Byway to take in spectacular panoramic views of Central New Mexico and to enjoy many other recreational opportunities. The Four Seasons Visitor Center offers year round interpretive exhibits and seasonal programs.
Tijeras Pueblo Archaeological Site Located directly behind the Sandia Ranger Station, the Tijeras Pueblo Archaeological Site offers a self-guided tour of the pueblo and a museum (open on weekends, May through October) which provides exhibits and information about the Ancestral Puebloans who occupied Tijeras Pueblo.
The second town along the Scenic Byway, Cedar Crest offers several opportunities for BnB lodging, dining, and entertainment. If you are seeking a tranquil overnight stay, Elaine's Bed & Breakfast is highly recommended. (➠ www.elainesbnb.com)
Sandia Crest Scenic Byway (NM 536)
Sandia Park is the third community along the Scenic Byway and turn off onto Sandia Crest National Scenic Byway (NM 536). This road will take one by Tinkertown Museum (~ 4 miles) and to Sandia Crest (~13 miles) and to some awesome trails and views in the Cibola National Forest.
A collection of Ross Ward's life work of 40 years carving, collecting, and constructing what is now Tinkertown Museum. His miniature wood-carved figures were first part of a traveling exhibit for county fairs and carnivals in the 1960s and 70s. Today over 50,000 glass bottles form rambling walls that surround a 22-room museum. Wagon wheels, old fashioned store fronts, and wacky western memorabilia make Tinkertown's exterior as much as a museum as the wonders within. Inside, the magic of animation takes over with inhabitants of a raucous western town animate to hilarious life and under the big top with diminutive circus performers.
While traveling to the crest, one will pass through five different life zones of the Cibola National Forest and then reach the summit to look over the Rio Grande Valley and Albuquerque. At the crest one has the opportunity to visit the Sandia Crest House for dining and gift shop as well as various hiking or mountain biking trails. If short on time, at least hike the South Crest Trail (130) to the Kiwanis Cabin, a relatively easy 1.0 mile round-trip with awesome views. The cabin was planned by the Kiwanis group and was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) around 1930 out of local limestone.
Photo by EMKotyk
In 1825, Golden was the site of the first gold rush west of the Mississippi, before the California and Colorado gold rushes. Originally called Real de San Francisco, around 1880 several large mining companies moved in and changed the name to Golden. The yield was disappointing and the population dwindled. Mining is all but gone from the area, but Golden survives.
Family owned and operated since 1918, the Henderson Store is one of the oldest trading stores along the Turquoise Trail. The store specializes in high quality Southwestern American Indian jewelry, rugs, and pottery.
Madrid's rich history, dating from the early 1800's, has taken it from the discovery of coal, to a mining town, to today's distinctive artist's community. Because of the unique geology of the area, a phenomenon found in only two other mines in the world, hard and soft coal were mined here with shafts as deep as 2500'. The area was booming in its heyday supplying coal for the Santa Fe Railroad, local consumers, and the US Government. When coal use declined the town fell silent and became a ghost town.
In the early 1970's, artists and craftspeople arrived and began converting the old company stores and houses into quality shops and galleries.
Weasel & Fitz: One of the many art stores in Madrid.
Photo by EMKotyk
The area turquoise and lead deposits were critical to the jewelry and pottery making of the prehistoric native Indians and these mines influenced Spanish settlement. The Cerrillos mining district is one of the oldest and most marked of the Old Spanish mineral developments in the Southwest. In fact, turquoise is still being mined here on several private claims. Cerrillos was full of hearty miners who extracted gold, silver, lead, zinc and turquoise from area mines. At its peak in the 1880's, the miners supported the town's 21 saloons and four hotels. While it was once seriously considered as the capitol of New Mexico, today Cerrillos, is a picturesque reminder of the Old West. The town has been the setting for several motion pictures including Shootout, Young Guns (1988), Outrageous Fortune and the Nine Lives of Elfego Baca.
Cerrillos Hills, New Mexico's 35th State Park, is a year-round, day-use park. One will cross paths with over 1,100 years of mining history along the five miles of trails and enjoy spectacular views of the Sandia, Ortiz, Jemez, and Sangre de Cristo mountain ranges.
This 28 room adobe building houses a gift shop with many unique items that include handmade sterling silver jewelry with rare Cerrillos turquoise, rocks & minerals, antique bottles, insulators and barbwire. The Cerrillos Turquoise Mining Museum has local history displays, dioramas, a large mineral collection and mining antiques of the area. The Petting Zoo contains several goats, a friendly llama, fancy chickens, and pigeons, perfect for the kids to enjoy.
The Turquoise Trail Sculpture Garden (aka Origami in the Garden) is the private residence and studio of artists Jennifer and Kevin Box. With towering rock formations encompassing the three acre sculpture garden, visitors meander through a distinct southwest landscape discovering sculptures along the way. The sculptures are inspired by paper and captured in museum quality metals by Kevin Box in collaboration with his wife Jennifer Box and origami artists Tim Armijo, Te Jui Fu, Beth Johnson, Michael G. LaFosse and Robert J. Lang.