Monday, May 7, 2012

The Turquoise Trail and Sandia Crest

Sunday, we drove the Turquoise Trail. The Turquoise Trail is a National Scenic Byway for 62 miles on NM Hwy 14 between Santa Fe and Tijeras, NM, about 16 miles east of downtown Albuquerque. The  name comes from the blue-green turquoise first mined by the early Pueblo people as early as 900 A.D.

I thought this was interesting: The Trail was named in 1956 when the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce held a "Naming contest" in an effort to promote this area. A woman named Ruth Armstrong from Corrales, NM won the contest with her suggestion of "Turquoise Trail". Among the prizes donated by the local merchants was a set of luggage. I hope she was able to use it and do some traveling!


We began our drive on the north end of the trail because it's only about a mile from our RV park. The trail is a nicely paved 2 lane road these days.






We drove through the communities of San Marcos/Lone Butte and Cerrillos. They were but mere blips in the road. The next community we came to was Madrid. We were very surprised to find a big sign warning of congestion and a 20 mph speed limit as we came around a bend. Madrid is a transformed ghost town to artist community and they were doing much business Sunday!


We continued on just in awe of the beautiful scenery.


We came across several cyclists today, most seemed to be peddling uphill.


When we reached Highway 536, we turned right and followed it into Cibola National Forest


The terrain changed from desert to lush and green almost immediately.


When we made this turn, we were at 6,500 feet. For the next 13 miles we slowly gained altitude until we were seeing snow!


When we reached the top, we were on Sandia Crest and 2 miles above sea level! 10,678 feet to be exact.

On a clear day, from Sandia Crest, you can see 100 miles in all directions. Sunday was slightly hazy so our views were not that clear, but they were still magnificent! Photographs just cannot capture the splendor.

Sandia means “Watermelon”. The rosy colored granite of the western face of the mountain turns crimson when the sun is setting on it. The early Spanish settlers named the mountain for the fruit of that color.








The area is nicely set up with hiking trails throughout, including a very short 1/4 mile introductory trail to acquaint you with the local flora and fauna. I was disappointed, at first, that I hadn’t planned well. I was in flip flops and it was chilly up there at that altitude and I hadn’t brought a jacket. My disappointment subsided shortly thereafter when I realized I was not at all accustomed to being 2 miles above sea level! Just walking around the area and climbing the stairs to the gift shop had me winded. The 7000 feet in Santa Fe does not bother me, but somewhere between there and here, it turned me into a wimp :)








This trip up to Sandia Crest was the cream of the Turquoise Trail for me.

The trip down the mountain offered more incredible views, but from a different angle. Once at the bottom, we turned right onto NM 14 once again, and drove to NM 333, otherwise known as Historic Old Route 66.


Rick was very accommodating and pulled over to the side of the road so I could run back and take a picture :) I guess my age is showing but it was very cool to drive on part of that old highway. That is where we came to the end of the trail, or rather the beginning, in Tijeras. I guess it’s supposed to go from south to north. Other than a local carnival, we did not find much going on in Tijeras so turned the Jeep around and slowly drove back the way we came.

We thought to stop in Madrid and join in the camaraderie, have a bite to eat and something to drink, but when we arrived back there, it was so crowded we couldn’t even find a place to park. So we carefully extracted ourselves from the throngs and made our way home. I would highly recommend driving this trail, particularly up to Sandia Crest.


Thanks for stopping by. Turtle


  1. We drove up to Sandia Peak early one morning through the fog. When we reached the parking lot we took dozens and dozens of pictures because we were above the clouds. We had pics of the clouds below us, I have one of those pictures hanging in my RV.

  2. We love the Scenic American Byways as well. What a beautiful ride. Great Photos!!!

  3. Beautiful view from the top. I love those mountain views. America is a beautiful country.

    Elevation at Blue Ridge GA is around 2000. We were told it takes a person about 6 months to acclimate to the altitude. Since we have lived our life on the coast, 2000 feet for us can be a challenge. I cannot imagine taking a hike at 10,000 feet much less than at 7,000 feet.

  4. Beautiful pictures! We're looking forward to going out West but will be East Coasters for a bit!

  5. We are really enjoying your Santa Fe posts. We have fond memories of our trips there. We stayed at Santa Fe Skies RV Park too. Hoping one day, we'll be back as fulltimers. Personally, my favorite was the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.

  6. New Mexico has so much to offer; not sure why we never made it there, but we will surely explore it in the coming years.

  7. my bride and i just took the tram up to the crest... the view is fantastic...

  8. Great photos of your drive up to the top. We got to the top of the Sandia Crest once only we took that scary 'tram ride'. Your drive looked a lot nicer and more relaxing for sure!

  9. A few years ago I was there and went up to the Sandia Crest by cable car. It was so beautiful! I really loved that area.

    Laura Raber

  10. Those views look awesome, and your last photo in particular is gorgeous! I can only imagine how breathtaking those views must've been in person.

  11. Beautiful pictures. Thanks so much for helping me set up an itinerary of what to do in and around Santa Fe.

  12. Great Pictures, we need to take that drive next time we are in ABQ.


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