Most scenic route from Albuquerque to Santa Fe

The picturesque road from Albuquerque to Santa Fe allows you to experience both cities. The route passes through the magnificent Sandia Crest, old mining villages like Golden and Cerillo, and the artist enclave of Madrid . Add the Turquoise Trail to your itinerary if you want a more enjoyable route from the airport or a nice day trip from Santa Fe. The Turquoise Trail in New Mexico is a picturesque highway that connects Albuquerque and Santa Fe via rolling hills, mountain views, and tiny historic mining villages. 

BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR - so much MORE ...
BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR - so much MORE than just Los Cabos

The trail begins in Tijeras and the Cibola National Forest to the south, then travels north via Cedar Crest, Sandia Park, Edgewood, Golden, Madrid, and Cerrillos until terminating in the San Marcos/Lone Butte area. Many visitors start their journey along the Turquoise Trail outside Santa Fe. Take exit 278A off I-25 south of Santa Fe and follow the Turquoise Trail south. Here’s how to arrange your trip:

 Albuquerque, NM to Sandia Crest National Scenic Byway

Explore the Cibola National Forest by trail, including the popular half-mile loop Peak Nature Trail. The area gives a wide range of outdoor activities. Climbing many switchbacks through five life zones to the 10,678-foot Sandia Crest will reward you with breathtaking views of Albuquerque, the Rio Grande, Mount Taylor, the Jemez and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Consider taking a detour up the gravel Country Road 165 about halfway up the Sandia Crest National Scenic Byway to the Sandia Cave trailhead, where excavations showed evidence of humans in this area 12,000 years ago. A short walk leads to the cave route and the entrance through a metal spiral staircase. Visitors should carry the standard caving equipment, including head protection, flashlights, and proper clothing and footwear. If you continue, you will return to I-25, or you can turn around and continue on the Turquoise Trail.

Sandia Crest National Scenic Byway to Turquoise Trail

The Turquoise Trail connects Albuquerque and Santa Fe and is a beautiful picturesque path. This drive, named for the area’s rich turquoise deposits, fully reflects the core of our mission: to get off the roadway and discover spectacular views of desert, canyons, mountains, tiny towns, recreation, and history. This lovely trip begins at Tijeras, which you may reach via I-40 exit 175, about 22 minutes from downtown Albuquerque. Stop at the Sandia Ranger District for hiking information and a visit to the Tijeras Pueblo Archaeological Site before leaving town. In 1313 AD, a 200-room adobe tower originated to house 400 people. Today, the pueblo is a grassy mound steeped with history.

The route takes NM-14 north through a ponderosa pine forest alongside the Sandia Mountains, formed by the same forces that built the Rio Grande. Explore the history of the region and its inhabitants at the Museum of Archaeology and Material Culture. Consider taking a detour up the Sandia Crest National Scenic Byway on NM-536 after Cedar Crest. Climbing many switchbacks and five life zones to the 10,678-foot Sandia Crest rewards you with breathtaking views of Albuquerque, the Rio Grande, Mount Taylor, the Jemez and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. 

Explore the Cibola National Forest by trail, including the popular half-mile loop Peak Nature Trail. The area permits a wide range of outdoor activities. Before you begin, don’t forget to visit the Tinkertown Museum. The adventure includes old-fashioned stores, weird western relics, and eccentric collections. Ross Ward’s bizarre collection of hand-carved moving wooden miniatures delights visitors, situated in a 22-room museum surrounded by a wall composed of over 50,000 glass bottles.

Consider taking a detour up the gravel Country Road 165 about halfway up the Sandia Crest National Scenic Byway to the Sandia Cave trailhead, where excavations showed evidence of humans in this area 12,000 years ago. A short walk leads to the cave route and the entrance through a metal spiral staircase. Visitors should carry the standard caving equipment, including head protection, flashlights, and proper clothing and footwear.

Back on NM-14, the road winds into the desert, where juniper and pinyon pine trees battle to live. In 1825, the town of Golden was the site of the first gold rush. Water scarcity made mining difficult, and the gold finally ran out, as did the town’s population.

Madrid, a coal-mining town, is 11 miles to the north. More than 250,000 tons of coal were removed yearly at its peak in the 1800s. Golden became a ghost town when coal use waned. Artists and craftspeople revitalized the city in the 1970s, and there are now several art galleries, summer theaters, and boutiques. The Old Coal Mine Museum teaches visitors about the history of coal mining. The museum, open from April to October 15, exhibits an antique steam engine, vintage mining equipment, and other items.

You arrive shortly after Madrid in Los Cerrillos, New Mexico’s and arguably the United States’ oldest mining town. Native Americans excavated a 130-foot-deep tunnel in the 1400s to collect turquoise from Mount Chalchihuitl for jewelry and pottery production. Many diamonds were returned to Spain when Cortez invaded in the 1500s. Few of these mines are still operating, and others have served as the backdrop for Hollywood films. Visit the Cerrillos Turquoise Mining Museum and Petting Zoo and the Cerrillos Hills State Park, which includes 5.2 miles of hiking and biking paths. The picturesque route climbs through the sandstone hills and meadows until it reaches Santa Fe. Consider taking I-25 north to the High Road to Taos.

Turquoise Trail to Santa Fe, NM

Santa Fe includes some of the state’s most breathtaking natural beauty. A trip down the Santa Fe Scenic Byway is a must if you want to explore and admire the landscape from the luxury of your vehicle. Its charming alleyways and lanes, low adobe dwellings, stunning Spanish colonial churches, and abundance of Native American arts have long drawn tourists. 

Visitors can uncover a variety of outstanding Native American pueblos still occupied in the forest-covered mountain terrain surrounding the town. Excellent winter sports facilities have been created in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Santa Fe over the last 20 years, in addition to the area’s list of things to do.

Don’t miss out on seeing the Santa Fe Opera House. The Santa Fe Opera House is the state’s premier performing arts institution, producing a wide range of operatic works, from old favorites such as Madame Butterfly to modern works such as Doctor Atomic. In addition to seasonal activities, the opera house offers apprenticeship programs in all phases of production and backstage tours year-round. Tailgating is one of Santa Fe’s most endearing traditions, a distinctive sight as hundreds of theatergoers in formal attire interact in the parking lot while snacking on fancy finger food.

FAQs

Turquoise trail from Albuquerque to Santa Fe

The turquoise trail from Albuquerque to Santa Fe is a historic route that Native Americans have used for centuries.

Where does the turquoise trail start

The trail starts in Albuquerque and winds through the desert to Santa Fe. The trail is lined with historical sites and beautiful scenery.

How long does it take to drive the turquoise trail

It takes about 2 hours to drive the turquoise trail from Albuquerque to Santa Fe.

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