Jemez Mountains, Albuquerque
I love taking day trips from Albuquerque to the Jemez (pronounced 'Hay-mez' by locals).
Between Santa Fe and Albuquerque is an area called the Jemez Mountains. This place has natural hot springs what EVERYONE dunks into 'au naturale'. Of course, that's not legal ... so if you're caught, you get a ticket and fine ... but that doesn't seem to stop anyone! Well, unless you scope out the 'clothing optional' springs ahead of time that is!!!
While wandering the Jemez, you can stop at roadside native american shops, pull off and wander trails, and stop in the town of Jemez Springs.
The bar, Los Ojos, has a great reputation and is visited by locals, day trippers, and travelers in general. I like to play pool while waiting for my food to arrive :)
One set of ruins in the area is known as Bandalier National Monument. You can climb ladders to enter the areas early Native Americans used to call home. There are many rock formations w/ nooks and crannies, as well as wonderful vistas. Because of fire risks, smoking is discouraged, and open fires are prohibited, but camping is encouraged.
Even if you aren't a walker or wanderer, you can see so much just from your car. I take Hwy 4 from Hwy 528 and decide on my route from there. Every few miles are signs to help guide you. North of the area is Santa Fe, south is Albuquerque - so just follw the signs for the city you are heading towards and you'll be fine.
When living in New Mexico- access to water is few and far between, so anytime there is water nearby- it deserves a closer look. Soda dam is just off the road, on highway 4 just past Jemez Springs on the way to Los Alamos. The amount of water flowing through the rocks can vary greatly from year to year depending on the rainfall. The kids will enjoy climbing in and over the rocks- there is a little cave up top they can enjoy. It's a nice place to get out, stretch your legs, and enjoy the beautiful water.
A short hike from the battleship rock picnic area, is a small and delightful waterfall. From the parking lot cross the bridge over the river, then turn left and follow the parking lot/picnic areas up along the river. At the end of the parking lot keep hiking up along the brook. If you follow the path along the brook you will find the waterfall after about 0.5 miles. It's a lovely treat!
The village of Jemez Springs is a short 1.5 hour drive from Albuquerque. It is in a valley made by the Jemez River but high enough that you are up in the pine trees. There are many things to do and see around Jemez Springs (see below). To get there, go north out of Albuquerque on I-25 and turn west on Highway 44 at Bernalillo. When you reach San Isidro turn north on State Highway 4. Before you reach Jemez Springs you will pass through the edge of Jemez Pueblo. You will also pass the turnoff to the Ponderosa Winery and the turnoff to the Guadalupe Gorge. In Jemez Springs, there are bed and breakfast accomodations, commercialized hot springs, a small State monument and the "historic" Los Ojos Restaurant and Bar (try the "Chile Charlie"). North of the village are Soda Dam, Battleship Rock, and the Spence hot spring. All along the highway north there are turnouts with fishing access to the river.
Jemez Pueblo is a relatively large pueblo. You are not allowed into the center of the Pueblo except during festivals or by invitation. The visitors center is on the north end in the red rock area, where you can also find a convenience store and gas station. Just stay on State Highway 4 and you will pass through the red rock area. Sometimes they will be selling indian fry bread there.
Continuing north on State Highway 4 you will find a turnoff to the west. It crosses a bridge across the Jemez River just below the confluence with the Guadalupe River. Continue up the road until you come to the tunnels and gorge. The tunnels were originally built for a small logging railroad, which is long gone. If you have a license, you may fish for trout here or anywhere else in the two rivers.
Continuing north on State Highway 4 you will come to Soda Dam. The dam was built up over the centuries from the hot springs there and partially blocks the Jemez River. Normally the water is crystal clear but the picture was taken during the Spring runoff.
The next stop north (5 miles) of Jemez Springs is Battleship Rock, which is at the confluence of the north and east forks of the Jemez River. There is a developed day use area there (which requires a fee) but you can park for free in the parking lot by the highway and walk down. It is about a 1.5 mile hike up the east fork to the McCaughley warm spring.
Just north of Battleship Rock is the Spence hot spring. It is undeveloped but a very nice hot spring. You must hike down to the river, cross the river, and hike back up the hill to get there. Because it is close to the road, it tends to get crowded. Also, you should know that clothing is no longer optional at the hot spring. Bring your swimsuit or shorts and t-shirt. The spring has also been made into day-use only. Rangers will ticket any cars in the parking area after it gets dark. In the picture you can see the mist rising from the hot spring.
I used ta' didn't have much respect for these things. I ran face first into one and now keep my eyes peeled.
The wild Brown fishing in this area is great fun. Most people don't stray off the main hwy so they end up missing this place. There are camping and hiking opportunities also. Heck, you can even chop your own firewood if you want! This place has it all.
Just north of the Jemez Pueblo turn back east on a small paved highway. Go about 6 miles and the Ponderosa Winery is on the left hand side. You can do some free wine tasting. Their Rieslings are reasonably good.
Drive an hour and a half west to Jemez Springs. Great scenery. Jemez Springs is on the road the climbs up a side of the Valle Grande, the largest volcanic crater in the world. Great town, great food, great B&B's, great hot springs, a really good day trip