New Mexico Scenic Drive: Turquoise Trail

Highlights of the Turquoise Trail

A highlight of the Turquoise Trail is the tram ride up to Sandia Peak where you can get a bird's eye view of the magnificent landscape below.
A highlight of the Turquoise Trail is the tram ride up to Sandia Peak where you can get a bird's eye view of the magnificent landscape below.

The Turquoise Trail offers many miles of unspoiled natural beauty. Mesas, deserts, and grasslands teem with wildlife and provide a home for horses, cattle, and even an occasional llama or ostrich.

A unique quality of the Turquoise Trail is the weather. The arid desert climate makes the scenic drive possible in all four seasons. During the summer months on the byway, you see fast-moving clouds and hundreds of lightning bolts electrifying the sky. In contrast to these wild storms, you may be inspired by the multicolored sunsets in a calm evening sky.

Some of the most enjoyable scenery found along the byway was created by humans. You can view tailings from historic coal mines, representing the only location in the nation where both anthracite and bituminous coal were found.

The best way to experience the nature of the Turquoise Trail is to stop at the small towns along the byway and speak with the folks who live there. Here's a sampling of places you may want to stop.

Tijeras Pueblo: Between 1948 and 1976, excavations in this area helped scientists learn about the Tijeras Pueblo, a large nation believed to have been in existence between A.D. 1300 and 1600. Many remains are on display at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. The pueblo itself includes 200 rooms, a dozen small buildings, and a kiva. After excavation was done, the area was covered again with soil to preserve it.

Sandia Ranger Station: The first stop along the trail is at the Sandia Ranger Station on NM 337. This is a nice way to learn the early history of the area. Inquire about road conditions here as well as special activities that may be planned.

Sandia Peak Tramway: Continue north on 14 out of Tijeras, and turn left on Highway 536 heading toward Sandia Peak. While at Sandia Peak, be sure to stop at the Museum of Archaeology and Material Culture and the Tinkertown Museum. Continue on to the Sandia Peak Tramway. After the tram, continue to the highpoint of the road and take a quick tour of the Sandia Cave -- with your flashlight!

Madrid: Head back down Highway 536, turn left, and continue north on Highway 14. Drive toward Madrid. Expect to spend some time here enjoying the Old Coal Mine Museum and the Engine House Theatre. This town, after being deserted due to a mine shutdown, was listed for sale in the Wall Street Journal in 1954 for 250,000 dollars. No one bought it, but the town has been revived since the 1970s by artisans.

Cerrillos: Just north of Madrid and before Cerrillos, be on the lookout for a unique art display. Animal bones and glass are the tools of artist Tammy Jean Lange. A few miles up the road is Cerrillos. Thomas Edison is reported to have stayed here briefly while conducting studies with the area's minerals. The Cerrillos Turquoise Mining Museum is a special feature of the town. Don't leave Cerrillos without a stop at the What Not Shop.

Shona Sol Sculpture Garden and J.W. Eaves Movie Ranch: Five miles past Cerrillos, look for the Shona Sol Sculpture Garden, a gallery of African sculpture. Finally, make a stop at the J.W. Eaves Movie Ranch, home to many famous movies, including Silverado.

From stunning views high atop Sandia Peak to quaint towns offering an array of unique artwork, the Turquoise Trail has it all.

Find more useful information related to New Mexico's Turquoise Trail:

  • New Mexico Scenic Drives: The Turquoise Trail is just one of the scenic byways in New Mexico. Check out the others.
  • Cerillos, Madrid, Sandia Crest, Santa Fe: Find out what there is to do in these cities along the Turquoise Trail.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond New Mexico? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.