South on the Turquoise Trail
This day trip from Santa Fe heading south takes you along the Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway on NM 14 through old mining towns, scenic landscapes of wide-open prairies, to the mountaintops of the Sandia Mountains and Albuquerque.
Santa Fe and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains
Allan Houser Sculpture Garden
Located just twenty-five minutes South of Santa Fe off Highway 14 is the Allan Houser Sculpture Garden. Originally designed as a family compound, the Gardens are where Allan worked daily for the last twelve years of his life. An Apache artist, Allan Houser is considered the most influential Native American artist of the 20th century The Allan Houser Sculpture Gardens offer you the opportunity to experience the monumental works of American Master, Allan Houser, in the place where most of his works were inspired and created amidst stunning panoramic mountain vistas and our beautiful New Mexico skies. Tours are by appointment only. Call 505 471 1528.
Continue South on the Turquoise Trail for a brief visit to the village of Cerrillos. Once the land of the Keres and Tano Indians, the rich Cerrillos Hills became known for the mining of turquoise and galena (an important source of lead & silver). Founded in 1880, this mining town once boasted several hotels and dozens of saloons and still has the air of an Old West frontier town. The Cerrillos Turquoise Mining Museum contains hundreds of artifacts from the American Old West and the Cerrillos Mining District. The Cerrillos Hills State Park has approximately 5 miles of hiking trails, guided tours and fall tarantula migration tour.
Continuing South on NM 14, you’ll come to the lively town of Madrid (pronounced MAD-rid, not Ma-DRID) in the mineral rich Ortiz Mountains. Home to the oldest coal mining region in New Mexico, Madrid thrived until the closing of the mines in the early 1950s. The entire town was once listed for sale for $250,000….but there were no takers. Today, this colorful and unique town, has a counterculture feel and is home to numerous artists, galleries, gift shops, antique stores and cafes making it a worthy lunch destination. Inside the Mineshaft Tavern, a popular stop for motorcycle riders is the historic pine and oak bar from the original saloon and is still known as the “longest bar in New Mexico.” The Mine Shaft Tavern has great burgers and features live music daily. The ending of the 2007 film Wild Hogs was filmed in Madrid where the middle-aged shirt and tie bikers make their final stand against the Del Fuego biker gang at the Madrid Chili Festival. There’s always something to do in Madrid, check out all the activities.
Golden was inhabited by Native Americans and Spaniards long before American settlers came to the area. However, it began to boom when gold was discovered in 1825. Years before the California and Colorado gold rushes, the site of Golden became the first gold rush west of the Mississippi. Golden’s most notable landmark is the San Francisco Catholic Church. Across the highway, west of the church, are the ruins of another large stone schoolhouse, as well as mining remnants. Be sure to visit Henderson General Store which sells reasonably priced Native American jewelry and pottery.
Tinkertown Folk Art Museum
About 1 mile West of NM 14 on NM 536 (Sandia Crest Road) you’ll find the Tinkertown Museum. This four-room summer cabin was transformed into a 22-room mansion by Ross Ward showcasing the genius of his life’s work: thousands of hand carved figurines displayed in dioramas. The museum utilizes over 50,000 glass bottles & other recycled materials to display animated miniature western towns, circus, saddle shows & more. Tinkertown is open seasonally from April 1 to November 1.
Travelling back to Santa Fe
You can then backtrack north on NM 14 to Santa Fe or continue south on NM 14 to Interstate 40 to Albuquerque, Sandia Crest and back to Santa Fe via Interstate 25.
Sandia Crest Aerial Tramway
Continue south on NM 14 to I40 into Albuquerque. Take NM 556 (Tramway Blvd) to Tramway Road to the bottom tram terminal. The aerial tramway stretches from the northeast edge of Albuquerque to the crest of the Sandia Mountains and has the world’s third longest single aerial span. It is North America’s longest aerial tram. The tramway ascends the steep western side of the highest portion of the Sandia Mountains, passing close to dramatic cliffs and pinnacles, from a base elevation of 6,559 feet to a top elevation of 10,378 feet. A trip up the mountain takes about fifteen minutes to ascend 3,819 ft. At the top of Sandia Peak there are many year-round recreational activities. The High Finance Restaurant is directly adjacent to the top tram terminal and offers scenic views. Many Forest Service trails offer recreational hiking, backpacking and nature hikes to visitors. Additionally, the tram terminal is located at the top of Sandia Peak near Sandia Peak Ski Area which is on the opposite side of the mountain from the tramway and the city.