A Taste of New Mexico- Past and Present
Allow 8-9 hours for entire tour.
J&R Vintage Auto MuseumAfter overnighting and enjoying breakfast in Rio Rancho, cruise over to J&R Vintage Auto Museum, which houses about 65 restored cars and trucks. Auto buffs will drool over the 1928 Model A Special Coupe, a 1918 Model T, and nine classic automobiles that have competed in the Great American Race. Packard, Hupmobile, Marmon - it's all here along with books and die cast toys. J&R Vintage Auto Museum is 15 minutes from Rio Rancho hotels; allow an hour for tour. Call toll-free (888) 298-1885 for details.
Coronado Historic SiteStep even further back into history at Coronado Historic Site. In 1540, Spanish conquistador Coronado encountered the Kuaua Pueblo people at this site along the Rio Grande River. The monument contains ruins of the ancient village. An interpretive tour allows you to try on Spanish armor, grind corn, and descend into a circular underground kiva just like those used today by New Mexico's pueblos for ceremonial purposes. Enjoy a spectacular view of the Rio Grande River and Sandia Mountains. Coronado Historic Site is 10 minutes from J&R and is closed on Tuesdays. Allow an hour for the tour. A discount is available for 10 or more seniors. Call (505) 867-5351.
Travel northwest on Highway 550 toward the Jemez Mountains. On the right you'll see Santa Ana Pueblo, a progressive business-oriented pueblo that runs a Las Vegas-style casino, restaurants, and a resort. Leaving civilization behind, pass dramatic high mesas and deep arroyos that lead to the Rio Grande River. Pass Zia Pueblo, population 646 and birthplace of the familiar ancient sun symbol, which can be seen on New Mexico's state flag. At the village of San Ysidro, you'll begin following the Jemez River upstream to the towering cliffs of Canyon de San Diego, and the Jemez Pueblo. The Pueblo is 30 minutes from Coronado.
Jemez Pueblo operates the Walatowa Visitor Center, where a Native American guide will interpret the cultural exhibits, and show you a replica ancestral field house, photo exhibit, and nature walk. A gift shop showcases Jemez-made pottery. Walatowa Visitors Center is open daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Allow 45 minutes for the tour. Call (505) 834-7235 for more info.
Leaving the pueblo, you will begin traveling the Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway. In the town of Jemez Springs (known for therapeutic hot springs), enjoy lunch at Los Ojos Restaurant and Saloon. A few blocks north, the ruins of a 500-year-old Indian village and 17th century Catholic mission comprise Jemez State Monument. You'll tour the heritage center, where the voices of the Jemez people tell the story of the site. A short interpretive trail winds past the massive stone ruins. Closed Tuesdays. Jemez Springs, and Jemez State Monument, are approximately 15 minutes from the pueblo. For admission info call (505) 829-3530.
As you head further up into the mountains, the natural wonder Soda Dam is on the right. Here, water from natural hot springs flows to the surface, and has deposited a 300-foot-wide mineral deposit dam that blocks the Jemez River. The river bursts through the deposit, creating a waterfall. Soda Dam is miles north of Jemez Springs via New Mexico Highway 4.
Ponderosa Valley Vineyard
Returning back through Jemez Springs, turn left onto State Route 290 to Ponderosa. The Ponderosa Valley Vineyard offers free tasting of their award-winning vintages in a cozy, rustic atmosphere. Rock on the porch with a resident kitty or pooch at your feet, and watch hundreds of hummingbirds in the summer and fall. The vineyard is 20 minutes from Jemez Springs at 3171 Hwy. 290. Call (800) WINE-MKR for info.
Return to Rio Rancho
Retrace your path to New Mexico Highway 4, head back to Rio Rancho for dinner and your hotel.