The Jemez Mountain Trail – A Delightful New Mexico Road Trip!

The Jemez Mountain Trail: Your road to some of the most diverse mountain landscapes in all of New Mexico.

The Jemez Mountain Trail, Jemez, New Mexico

Jemez Springs, NM
The view just behind Soda Dam in Jemez Springs, NM

On one of my recent photography sojourns along the Jemez Mountain Trail, I stopped at 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 Mountains interest me too!

Jemez Mountains
Part of the exhibit at the Walatowa Visitors Center in the Jemez Pueblo (along the Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway).

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, 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.

Jemez Mountain Trail

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.

Jemez Red Rock, New Mexico

On a scenic mountain road loop that covers roughly 132 miles, you can see a staggering range of landscape diversity and meaningful historic remnants.

Jemez Red Rock, New Mexico
Jemez Red Rock. Jemez Pueblo, Walatowa Visitors Center

The Jemez Mountain trail is an intersection of roads that includes Highway 550 and Highway 4. It starts at the Coronado Monument in Bernalillo 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

Jemez Mountain Trail, New Mexico
A view from the Jemez Mountain Trail, New Mexico
Jemez, New Mexico
The Red Clay of Jemez, New Mexico

The red clay of Jemez is the secret to the deep red color of colorful pottery made by Native Americans in the Jemez Pueblo.

Jemez Pottery
Clay Pottery, Jemez Pueblo
Jemez Mountain Trail
A View from the Jemez Mountain Trail

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.

A Truck and Chama Honey Stand at the Walatowa Visitors Center, Jemez Pueblo
A Truck and Chama Honey Stand at the Walatowa Visitors Center, Jemez Pueblo

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.

Jemez Mountain Trail
Jemez Mountain Trail, Near the Valles Caldera

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 never disappoints.

Jemez, New Mexico Red Rock in Winter
Jemez, New Mexico Red Rock in Winter
Jemez Red Rock, Jemez, New Mexico
A sampling of the red rock landscapes in Jemez, New Mexico

Jemez, New Mexico

All photos by [email protected]

Official Jemez Mountain Trail Website