The Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway (also known as NM 14) takes you south from Santa Fe through old mining towns, scenic landscapes of wide-open prairies, to the mountaintops of the Sandia Mountains. You can take NM 14 south to the Sandia Mountains, take a side trip up to Sandia Crest on NM 536 and return through Albuquerque via I-40 and I-25 to Santa Fe. An alternate return route takes you from I-40 east to Moriarty, north on NM 41 onto the Great Plains through the Galisteo Basin to the village of Galisteo and back to Santa Fe via NM 41, US 285 and I-25.
Allan Houser Compound: Follow NM 14 south from Santa Fe to NM 42, turn left and proceed 1.4 miles to Haozous Road, turn left and look for the sign on the left to the Compound. Here you’ll see about 85 sculptures created by renowned Apache artist Allan Houser, considered the most influential Native American artist of the 20th century. The sculptures in this 12-acre garden are only a fraction of the 450 limited edition bronzes and over 500 unique works in wood, stone and fabricated metal he produced. The hilltop site yields a spectacular view of the Galisteo Basin and the surrounding mountains. Call 505-471-1528 for an appointment.
Cerrillos: Continue on NM 14 south to County Road 57 (right turn) into the village of Cerrillos. Founded during a lead boom in the late 1800’s, this town once boasted several hotels and several dozen saloons. Some of the buildings still stand today, accurately reflecting the look of an Old West frontier town. There are a few galleries and antique shops scattered throughout the village.
Madrid: As you proceed south on NM 14, you’ll come to the lively town of Madrid (pronounced “MAD-rid”). This former coal mining town, larger than Albuquerque in 1890, thrived until the closing of the mines in 1954 when the entire town was listed for sale for $250,000. Today, the town, kept alive by committed members of the 60’s counterculture and numerous artists, offers galleries and crafts shops, antique and import stores, and a local jazz festival.
The Mine Shaft Tavern and Museum in Madrid: Live music happens daily, a seasonal melodrama is performed, and the cold beer tastes great in this way station between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Next door is the coal-mining museum featuring mining and railroad relics, including a fully restored 1900 Baldwin Steam Locomotive. Call 505-473-0743 for more information.
Golden: The remains of the mining town of Golden lie in a quiet valley 15 miles south of Madrid. See the picturesque San Francisco Church, the ruins of the stone schoolhouse, and visit the Golden General Merchandise built in 1918 and stocked with reasonably priced pueblo pottery and jewelry.
Tinkertown Museum: Continue south for another 11 miles to the Village of San Antonito and turn right on NM 536. One mile on the left you will find the Tinkertown Museum, an amazing 22 room mansion filled with tens of thousands of hand carved figures assembled into automated dioramas. The collection is housed in a structure made up of 51,000 glass bottles and western artifacts assembled over 40 years by the museum’s creator, Ross Ward.
Sandia Crest: NM 536 will take you to the top of Sandia Peak via a 14-mile winding drive through the Cibola National Forest. The peak is nearly 11,000 feet above sea level and more than a mile above downtown Albuquerque. The crest, the highest point in the Sandias, offers a panoramic view in all directions. The snack bar and gift shop on the crest is open daily from May through October. Miles of hiking and cross country ski trails allow you to explore the many natural wonders of Sandia Crest year round.