Jemez Mountain National Scenic Byway

Road Journals Blog—I joined a two other journalists one day and traveled about 50 minutes north of Albuquerque to explore a beautiful stretch of road that winds between mesas and red rock country. You can make this an all-day drive, stopping in at hot springs, eateries, galleries, and historic sites, or just take in the dramatic landscapes from the window of the car.

Jemez National Scenic Byway, Red Rock, image

A landscape of red rock entices photographers along the scenic byway. | Leslie Endicott

Walatowa Visitor Center The center is next to the Pueblo of Jemez (pronounced both as Hay-mess and He-mish), which is closed to nontribal members. Photos and displays of ancient ceramics tell the history of the Jemez people. This is a good place to pick up maps and to sign up for a guided hike on the Red Rock Canyon Trail across the road. Also look for local artisans exhibiting their wares outside the center and trucks selling roasted piñon nuts by the side of the road.

Jemez Springs In search of hot springs? Don a swimsuit at Giggling Springs and dip into their outdoor pool or stay inside at Jemez Springs Bath House, over 130 years old, and sink into one of their private tubs. At Los Ojos Saloon—surrounded by elk antlers, rifles, and other Western paraphernalia on the walls—you can enjoy chili rellenos with red and green salsa or a green chili cheeseburger. Afterward, stretch your legs and peruse the local galleries.

Jemez State Monument The site is the remains of a prehistoric settlement called Gisewa (or Giusewa), a village lived in by the Jemez people starting around the 1300s. You can descend a ladder into a cool kiva, a sacred underground place. A gravel path takes you past crumbling walls up to the large mission church, built with Pueblo labor in the 1620s. (575) 829-3530, nmmonuments.org.

Valles Caldera National Preserve, super volcano, image

The quiet meadow at Valles Caldera National Preserve gives a peaceful appearance to this super volcano. | Leslie Endicott

Valles Caldera National Preserve What looks like a bowl-shaped grassy meadow, rimmed with pines, is one of only three super volcanoes in the United States. No steam and bubbling pots, but it’s alive, nonetheless, and, for the time being, unthreatening. You can stargaze, hike, and mountain bike; bring a fishing rod for snagging trout; and carry binoculars for spotting birds, elk, turkeys, and other creatures. Note that public access is controlled, so call ahead to view this New Mexico wonder. (505) 661-3333, www.vallescaldera.gov.

What's the most scenic drive you've taken?

This blog post was first published in August 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.