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A collage of a Santa Fe highway, San Francisco Catholic Church, town of Cerrillos, and Sandia Peak Tramway
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Day Trip From Santa Fe Heading South

This jam-packed day trip from Santa Fe heading south takes you along the Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway on NM 14 through artist gardens, old mining towns, scenic landscapes of wide-open prairies, and the mountaintops of the Sandia Mountains and Albuquerque via North America’s longest aerial tramway. Curated by locals, this epic 1-day road trip is not to be missed.


South On The Turquoise Trail

Allan Houser Sculpture Garden

The Allan Houser Sculpture Garden is just 25 minutes south of Santa Fe, off Highway 14. Originally designed as a family compound, the Gardens are where Allan worked daily for the last 12 years of his life. Allan Houser is An Apache artist, 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 the American Master 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)471-7409.


We’ll 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 mining turquoise and galena (an essential source of lead and 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 an autumn tarantula migration tour.


Continuing south on NM 14, you’ll arrive at 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 Mine Shaft Tavern, a popular stop for motorcycle riders is the historic pine and oak bar from the original saloon, still known as the “longest bar in New Mexico.” They have great burgers and feature 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 gold rushes of California and Colorado, 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 and 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. Ross Ward transformed this four-room summer cabin into a 22-room mansion, 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, circuses, saddle shows, and more. Tinkertown is open seasonally from April 1 to November 1.

Traveling Back To Santa Fe

You’ll 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

We’ve come to the final destination of our day trip from Santa Fe heading south, but the fun isn’t over yet! Head south on NM 14 to I40 into Albuquerque, then take NM 556 (Tramway Blvd) to Tramway Road to the bottom tram terminal. The Sandia Peak 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. Hiking, backpacking, and nature hikes abound. Additionally, the tram terminal is located at the top of Sandia Peak near Sandia Peak Ski Area, opposite the mountain from the tramway and the city.

After a day of exploring, we are here to welcome you to your comfortable room in our adobe estate. Don’t forget to indulge in our gourmet breakfast the following day.

Updated November 2023

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