The Jemez Mountains are undoubtedly one of my favorite places to go in New Mexico. The landscape vastly differs depending on elevation, going from red rocky desert to lush pine forests and volcanic fields. The Jemez mountain range is located in Sandoval and Los Alamos Counties. It is perfect for camping, hiking, fishing, rock climbing, snowshoeing, exploring, among many more activities. Each season brings a whole new vibe to the mountains. Summer warms the pines and you can hike through the lush grass and volcanic rock. Fall changes the cottonwood trees to the most brilliant shades of yellow, orange, and red against the blue sky. Snow coats the mountains in the winter, and spring brings mountain wildflowers to life.
How to Get There
The Jemez Scenic Byway is the perfect route to follow to experience the Jemez Mountains. From Bernalillo, just north of Albuquerque, take Highway 528 to San Ysidro, where you’ll turn right onto Highway 4. This will take you through Jemez Pueblo. Jemez Springs, to Los Alamos or White Rock (where Bandalier Monument is located, then to Pojoaque, where you can loop around to Santa Fe
Pueblo of Jemez
The Pueblo of Jemez is home of the Jemez tribe. Pueblo Jemez is known as Walatowa, which means “this is the place”. They are a federally recognized tribe and sovereign nation. The Jemez people have kept their traditions alive, as well as the Towa language. Driving past the pueblo you can see Hornos, which are outdoor ovens. If you see someone selling fry bread, you should absolutely stop. The Walatowa visitor center is the perfect place to learn more about the people and their culture, and take in the beauty of the sacred red rocks, cottonwoods and aspens, and endless sky.
The Village of Jemez Springs is nestled further in the mountains along Highway 4. The village sits along the Jemez River. It is home to the Jemez hot springs where you can soak in the mineral springs, take a spiritual retreat, or enjoy the shops and restaruants along the way. Grab a bite to eat at the Hwy 4 Cafe, the pinon tarts are a must have. The Jemez Historic Site is stone ruins of a 500 year old village and the remnants of the San Jose de Jemez Mission which dates back to 1621.
Soda Dam is just past the village and is a must-see. It is formed by mineral deposits from a spring that bubbles up beneath it. The Dam is just off the road, but be sure to get out and explore. Behind the dam is a little alcove between the river and the rocks. It feels like a secret spot even though it’s easily accessible. All throughout the mountains there are beautiful rock formations and caves to explore. These mountains are a sacred space, and to be able to just sit and take in the beauty and otherworldliness of each moment should not be taken for granted.
Hot springs dot the mountains due to its history as an inactive super volcano (learn more at Valles Caldera). Geothermal Springs are some of lifes little pleasures and I highly recommend putting in the effort to seek them out. San Antonio Hot springs can be found off of Forest Road 376. The spring is incredible. The rock pools are in a waterfall that cascades down the hillside. Its a short hike from the parking lot to get to the springs.
San Antonio Hot Springs
An inactive supervolcano caldera formed around 1.25 million years ago. The 13 mile wide depression is a National Preserve, which a ranger station at the center of a lush rolling meadow surrounded by rock formations and forest. Differet seasons provide oppertunity for different activites. In the summer theres hiking, climbing, exploring, and even horseback riding (permit through NPS). During the winter you can cross ocuntry ski, snow shoe, or just play in the show. Its always a good time to take in the beauty of Valles Caldera.
Camping in the Jemez is what you make it. There are paved sites for RVs just off the main road. Sites that require reservations such as the Jemez Falls campground, or Fenton Lake. Reservation is available through www.recreation.gov/camping. Primitive camping is also an option. This means no facilities, no trash cans, no neighbors. Just enjoying nature in the realest way possible. Cooking food over an open fire and sleeping under stars. There’s nothing better.