A Taste of New Mexico - Past and Present
Allow 12 hours for this tour.
Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway
After passing Soda Dam, continue up the Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway. A few miles north, Battleship Rock looms dramatically up from the trees.
Valles Caldera National Preserve
At La Cueva, head east to the Valles Caldera National Preserve. In private hands for 140 years, it is now public domain. It is one of the largest volcanic calderas in the world, 14 miles across, with 11,254-foot Redondo Peak dominating the center. Bring binoculars; the chances of seeing elk here are excellent! The Preserve is approximately halfway between Jemez Springs and Los Alamos. Allow an hour for the drive and a stop for a chance to spot elk and other wildlife. For more information, call (505) 661-3333.
City of Los Alamos
After the highway skirts the southern lip of the great volcanic bowl, the road enters the pine forests again and passes the once-secret City of Los Alamos. The remote mesa-top city was the site Robert Oppenheimer selected for the Manhattan Project, the development of the world's first atomic bomb. Although the city is no longer off-limits, notice the concrete guard shacks and remains of barricades that once blocked the road into town.
Bandelier National Monument
At Bandelier National Monument south of Los Alamos, sheer, dramatic cliffs of volcanic tuff shelter ancestral Pueblo dwellings scratched into the surface, and scattered about the tree-lined valley. Allow one to one and a half hours if your group chooses to do the moderately-difficult, paved trail through the ruins. Admission varies, call the park for details at (505) 672-3861. Guided interpretation is available.
Enjoy dinner in the Santa Fe area, or in Rio Rancho. Return to Rio Rancho via Interstate 25 South. Allow one and a half hours for the scenic drive back, and an additional hour for dinner.