About Bernalillo, New Mexico
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation: 5,052 ft (1,540 m). Population: 6,611 (2000).
Time zone: Mountain (MST): UTC minus 7 hours. Summer (DST) MDT (UTC-6).
Bernalillo is the county seat of Sandoval County, and it was located on the alignment of Route 66 from 1926 to 1937. See its Location map.
View of trees and Sandia Mountains from Kuaua Ruins, Bernalillo
The Valley of the Rio Grande and Jeméz Rivers has been inhabited for over 10,000 years. The Native American people have farmed in the fertile topsoil since 1200 AD. They built their pueblos along the river valleys and used the water to irrigate their crops. The Santa Ana, Sandia and Kuaua pueblos were close to this spot.
Francisco Vásquez de Coronado was the first European to explore the area in the 1540s. He named it the province of Tiguex and wintered at Kuaua near to what is now Bernalillo.
In 1598 Juan de Oñate settled the region and reported several Pueblo villages along the native trade route that bordered the Rio Grande River. But the population had dwindled. The Spanish settled on the eastern side of the Rio Grande.
Origin of the name Bernalillo
The Spanish settled here after Oñate's expedition of 1598. One member of his expedition was Juan Griego who was accompanied by his wife Pascuala Bernal. It was common in those days to adopt the maternal surname and one of his sons did so.
The place where his descendants the González - Bernal family settled was known as "Bernalillo", a familiar diminutive (Little Bernal) maybe referring to the younger or "smaller" member of the family.
They lived there before the 1680 Pueblo Revolt and were the owners of a Royal Grant, "Real de Bernalillo".
The Spanish "Camino Real" (or Royal Highway) followed the Rio Grande on its eastern bank and linked the area with Santa Fe in the north and Mexico City in the south. A great rebellion (Pueblo Revolt) took place in 1680 and the natives expelled the opressive Spanish. But freedom would be short lived. The Spaniards returned in 1692 and resettled the area.
The González - Bernal resettled the area. Giving it its name (1695) The district to the north of the town was known as "La Angostura de Bernalillo", meaning "the Bernalillo Narrows", a place where the Rio Grande could be crossed easily. It became a stopping place along the Camino Real, and was smaller than neighboring Algodones.
After its independence from Spain, Nueva Mexico passed on to Mexico, but lost it after the Mexican - American War (1846-48), ceding it to the United States. During this war, Bernalillo was described as follows "...the prettiest village in the Territory... green meadows, good square houses, and a church, cotton-woods, vineyards, orchards...".
In those days Algodones the largest town in the region and a post office opened there in 1855, but it moved to Bernalillo in 1881.
The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad reached the area in the 1880s and built a stop. Later, in 1926 Route 66 was aligned through Bernalillo between Santa Fe and Albuquerque bringing tourists and prosperity. But it would not last for long. in 1937 the Mother Road was realigned along a shorter alignment, the "Santa Fe Cut-off" left Bernalillo relegated. It was however at a good spot, tourists travelled by to visit the Coronado Site and Jemez Pueblo.
Where to Stay
There is lodging along Route 66 near Bernalillo in Santa Fe and Albuquerque:
Lodging Near Bernalillo along Route 66
Heading West on the Main alignment..
- 17 miles. Motels and Hotels in Albuquerque.
- 79 miles. Motels and Hotels in Acoma Pueblo.
- 92 miles. Motels and Hotels in Grants.
- 152 miles. Motels and Hotels in Gallup.
Heading East main Route 66....
- 53 miles.Motels and Hotels in Moriarty
- 130 miles. Motels and Hotels in Santa Rosa.
- 188 miles. Motels and Hotels in Tucumcari.
The Santa Fe Route 66 segment
>> There are RV campgrounds near Bernalillo (Albuquerque and Santa Fe).
Weather in Bernalillo
The climate in Bernalillo is dry with plenty of sunny days (almost 280 per year), cold winters and hot summers. The relative humidity is low. Altitude and the dry air cause large the daily temperature swings of around 25°F (14°C).
The average High ⁄ Low Temperatures in summer (Jul.) are around 92 ⁄ and 65 °F (33 ⁄ 18 °C) respectively. The average in winter (Jan), are: 47 ⁄ and 24 °F (8 ⁄ -4 °C)
Rain tends to fall during the summer monsoon season (July through September): about 11 in. per year (279 mm).
Up to 23 inches of snow may fall (58 cm) yearly, between October and March.
The tornado risk in Bernalillo is nil, there are no Tornado watches in Sandoval county.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
Getting to Bernalillo
To the west is Gallup and Arizona.
Map of Bernalillo and Route66
Map of Bernalillo and Route 66 in New Mexico.
Pale Blue: Historic 1926 Route 66 alignment; Red line:US 84 & I-25 where they overlap the old alignment.
Black: the rest of Route 66.
See Route 66's alignment in Texas
Remove or restore State shading
Route 66 itinerary through Bernalillo
Route 66 in New Mexico
Click to read the Full description of Route 66 across New Mexico.
The Santa Fe Loop (1926 - 1937)
Our Santa Fe Loop pages describes the complete 1926 to 1937 alignment of Route 66 from Santa Rosa to Albuquerque through Pecos, Santa Fe and Bernalillo.
Below is full information on Route 66's 1926 alignment in Bernalillo.
Bernalillo, New Mexico: Attractions & Sights
Things to Do and See
Bernalillo its Attractions
Bernalillo is a small community with some interesting historic places, on the Camino Real and 1926 to 1937 alignment of Route 66. Visit its Our Lady of Sorrows Church with the Saint Lawrence Sanctuary, see the Matachines Dance and visit Sandia Pueblo and Santa Ana Pueblo. Travel up the Jeméz River along the Jemez Mountain Trail and also visit the Coronado Historic Site and the Kuaua Ruins.
Our Lady of Sorrows Church
Santuario de San Lorenzo
Our Lady of Sorrows and Saint Lawrence SanctuaryJohn Phelan
301 S. Camino Del Pueblo, Bernalillo, NM.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
Adobe church from 1857, built in French style with local materials, famous for its Matachines dance in honor of Saint Lawrence.
Built in adobe in 1857 as "Nuestra Señora de los Dolores" (Our Lady of Sorrows) in a French style with local materials (4 foot thick walls, earthen floor and wood beams). It was refurbished in 1892.
The church safeguards the image of San Lorenzo (St. Lawrence) and is therefore its "Sanctuary", the Santuario de San Lorenzo. The saint's feast is celebrated every year as it is the town's patron saint. The festivity includes a procession with the saint's image and the Matachines dance (Aug. 9 to 11).
It originally celebrated the victory of Christianity over the Moors in Spain (Dance of Moors and Christians) and was introduced by the missionaries in America to symbolize the victory over the heathen. The natives adopted it, using masks and dances which vary from village to village.
The 1680 Pueblo revolt took place on Saint Lawrence's day, Aug. 10, and that saved countless Spaniards who were out of their haciendas during the revolt. After the reconquest, the new Governor Diego de Vargas (1693) reinstated the St. Lawrence celebrations to thank the Saint for his help in their fight.
The Matachines Dance in Bernalillo is the largest and most complex in the Southwest.
Head north to US 550 and take a left along it, cross the Rio Grande and visit the Historic Site:
Coronado Historic Site
301 S. Camino Del Pueblo, Bernalillo, NM.
485 Kuaua Rd, Bernalillo; see Map and directions.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places and a New Mexico State Monument
A 14th century Pueblo where Spanish first encountered the Pueblo Indians in 1540.
Francisco Vásquez de Coronado was the first Spaniard to explore what is now New Mexico. He set forth with a company of 400 soldiers and 1,000 native auxiliaries, horses, cattle, priests and sheep. His aim was to find gold, riches and to convert the heathen to Christianity.
He reached the province he named Tiguex and called the natives "Pueblo", after the Spanish word for "village". He did not find gold, but wrote that the valley was farmland with plenty of corn, beans, melons and cottonwood groves.
In August 1540 he reached the Tiwa Village of Kuaua (which in Tiwa language meant "Evergreen") at the Coronado Historic Site which had been built in 1300 AD. It was a large Pueblo and the valley had about 20,000 residents at that time.
The pueblo covered 6 acres and had 1,200 homes, six ceremonial kivas and 3 plazas.
Coronado spent the following winter (1540-41) there but left the region in 1542 seeking better luck further east in Texas and Kansas.
Spanish settlment after 1598 and war in 1680 led to it being abandoned, in a relatively untouched state, west of the main throughfare on the eastern side of the Rio Grande.
The site was exavated and reconstructed in the 1930s and a very interesting sight is the Kiva 3, or Painted Kiva, with its reproductions of the original painted murals in its reconstructed interiotr.
Visit the Spanish-Pueblo sytle visitor center and museum, walk the interpretative trail and get some great views of the pueblo and the Rio Grande and Sandia Mountains.
From Wed. through Mon. 8:30 AM - 5 PM. Admission fee charged. More details: www.nmmonuments.org/coronado
Return to US 550 and head west, to visit a vintage car museum:
J&R Vintage Auto Museum
3650-A Hwy. 528 Rio Rancho, NM (Map).
Over 60 fully restored antique cars and trucks on display. Books, die-cast toys. Admission fee. www.jrvintageautos.com.
Vintage car at the J&R Museum
On the way you can visit Santa Ana Pueblo, with their casino:
Santa Ana Pueblo
Their traditional name in Keresan dialect is "Tamya". For full details check out their website: www.santaana.org.
The original site of the pueblo is unknown because the natives fled or died during the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. Later they were resettled at the current location of Santa Ana Pueblo to the northwest of Bernalillo.
There are two parts to the community, one along the Rio Grande between Bernalillo and Algodones and the other near the old Pueblo north of the Jeméz River.
They are well known for their handicrafts, textiles and pottery. You can buy them at the Ta-Ma-Ya Cooperative Association.
The Corn Dance is a must-see and takes place on the date of its patron Saint, Santa Ana (Saint Ann) which takes place on July 26.
There are other ceremonial dances, one on June 24 (St. John) another on St. Peter's day (June 29).
You can head west on a Day Trip, the Jemez Mountain Trail or go back to Bernalillo and head south to visit Sandia Pueblo:
Important rules of etiquette during your visit to a Pueblo
Pueblos are on tribal lands and the local customs, religion and traditions must be respected.
- Check that access is allowed (leaders may restrict access for private ceremonies) and be prepared to pay an access fee.
- Photography. Taking photos may be totally prohibited or a permit may be required. Check with the Tribal Office. Even if you have a permit, always request permission before taking a photo of a tribal member. Leave your cell phone out of sight and silence it, as it could be confiscated.
- Don't litter. Don't carry or use alcohol or drugs.
- "Off Limits" signs must be respected. Don't remove artifacts or pottery shards.
- Don't speed. Respect traffic signs.
- Respect the local people. Dances are not a show, they are a ceremony. Show respect and remain silent at all ceremonies.
- Cemeteries, Kivas, ceremonial rooms are sacred places and entry is not allowed for non-Pueblo people.
3 mi. south of Bernalillo along NM 313 (Old Route 66). See map.
Their traditional name is "Na-Fiat", and it is located 3 miles south of Bernalillo. Full details at their website: www.sandiapueblo.nsn.us
Francisco Vasquez de Coronado visited it during his expedition in 1539. Juan de Oñate who occupied the area in 1598 called them "Napeya" (a deformation of their traditional name). Theirs was the largest pueblo in the Tiguex Province, and had been built in 1300 A.D. The Spanish settled there in 1617 and built the San Francisco Mission. It was razed during the uprising that expelled the Spaniards in 1680. When the territory was reconquered in 1692, the town was left in ruins despite repeated petitions for resettlement by the natives.
In 1762 the pueblo was rebuilt and the natives allowed back. They were to serve as a buffer against the raids of Navajos and Comanche.
Also on the Sandia Pueblo reservation, two interesting sights:
Bien Mur Indian Market
10 mi. south of Bernalillo, 100 Bien Mur Dr NE, Albuquerque. (Map and directions)
Visit the largest retail arts and crafts store in the Southwest which is owned by the Pueblo of Sandia.
Sandia Buffalo Herd
A 107-acre preserve right next to Albuquerque. Experience a real live American Bison while visiting the Pueblo.
The main link between Mexico in the South and the New Mexico villages was the Royal Highway (Camino Real), built by the Spanish as a trade and military road in the 1700s. It followed the ancient native trails and was later incorporated into the modern highways built during the 1900s.
Route 66 was aligned along it between 1926 and 1937, and after Route 66 was realigned to the south, through Moriarty, U.S. highway 85 remained on the original roadbed.
US.85 in the 1930s and 40s
The highway U.S. 85 was promoted as "America's Oldest Road" as it ran along the historic El Camino Real and Santa Fe Trail.
Traffic along this highway that linked Albuquerque to Santa Fe was good for local business, but when the road was realigned further east (now I-25) in 1955, the town was bypassed.
Tours & Itineraries
Nearby Route 66 Towns
Day Trips and more Tours
We detail all the Day Trips that can be done in the area in our pages on Santa Fe attractions and Albuquerque attractions. These tours include the Pueblos to the north and west, outdoor activities, National Monuments, parks and historic sites.
Jemez Mountain Trail
This is a full day round trip with different variants
The route goes through the Jémez Mountains with cliffs, forests and a gushing river take you back to the past.
You will visit San Ysidro, Jémez Pueblo and Zia pueblo.
The Zia Sun symbol appears on the New Mexico State flag. The ancient pueblo was occupied by the Spanish in 1583 and razed in 1689. It was rebuilt later. Visit it on the north side of the river (see Map).
Full details here: Jémez Mountain Trail
Trip to Sandia Crest and Tijeras
A 46 mi. drive to Tijeras including the climb to the summit of Sandia Crest. And from there you can return via I-40 (Or Route 66 to Albuquerque) and I-25 to Bernalillo (another 30 miles).
See the Bernalillo to Tijeras Map and directions.
Sandia Park and Sandia Mountains
"Sandía" is the Spanish word for watermelon. Maybe the local sqash or watermelons grown by the natives gave it its name.
Head east along NM-165 and reach the northen tip of Sandia Park, the road heads south into the Sandia Mountains, the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains, and reaches a historic spot (15 mi east of I-25):
SR 165, Sandia Park, NM.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
There is a parking area and sign. Location map. Follow the trail from the parking lot to the cave.
See the Map and Directions to Sandia Cave.
An archaeological site where prehistoric stone tools and extinct animals' bones have been found.
It is a natural clave in a limestone cliff located above the Las Huertas Creek in a forested area of the Sandia Mountains. It is open to the public who can reach it by a trail and a staircase which leads to the cave's entrance.
Vandals have painted graffiti on the stairs, cave and its access cage. The ceiling still conserves soot from the prehistoric fires lit by the cave dwellers.
It is one of America's oldest sites and stone tools (Folsom and Sandia points) have been recovered as well as remains of extinct animals such as mammoth, camels, horses and sloth.
Click on the link for a View from the entrance to Sandia Cave.
Head south and reach the junction with NM-536, turn right and head up to the summit of Sandia Crest:
Sandia Crest Scenic Byway
> Breathtaking view from the summit: forest, mountains and Albuquerque to the west.
Follow NM 536W from Sandia Peak on NM14, head west. The road will take you from 6,870 ft to 10,652 ft. at the summit of Sandia Crest (3.249 m). The distance is 17.8 miles one way along a winding road that climbs to the top of Sandia Mountains crossing the Cibola National Forest.
See the Map and Directions to Sandia Crest.
View along the Sandia Crest Scenic Byway
There is an observation deck at the top. During winter the Sandia Peak Ski area is ideal for snowboarding or skiing. In summer you can take the chairlift up to the top and then ride a mountain bike down the slopes along scenic trails.
Aerial Tramway to Sandia Crest
Don't want to drive there? Take the tramway and reach Sandia Crest easily.... On the western slope of Sandia Crest is the world's third longest single span aerial tramway with a stretch of 2.7 miles.
It links Albuquerque with the crest of Sandia Mountains. More details at: www.sandiapeak.com. The tramway station is at 30 Tramway Rd. NE Albuquerque.
Drive back to the junction of NM-165 and take a right, head down to New Mexico State Highway 14 (NM-14) which is part of the The Turquoise Trail linking old towns all the way from Tijeras to Santa Fe.
Head right, to Cedar Crest and then to Tijeras, on the 1937 alignment of Route 66. Return to Bernalillo along Route 66 or I-40 through Carnuel and Albuquerque and head north along I-25 back to your starting point.
The Old alignment of Route 66 near Bernalillo
Route 66 was originally aligned through Bernalillo between 1926 and 1937, when the "Santa Fe Cut-off" shortened the Mother Road by linking Santa Rosa with Albuquerque via Moriarty and bypassing Santa Fe, Las Vegas and Bernalillo.
Las Vegas to Santa Fe 1926 -1937 Route 66 alignment
See the description of this segment here: Las Vegas to Santa Fe along Route 66.
The original 1926 alignment South of Santa Fe
The road is cut in parts so it no longer exists. We will describe and show a map of each of the segments that can still be driven between Santa Fe and Bernalillo.
1. From the Historic Santa Fe Plaza to Country Road 56C (by airport). Map of this segment.
2. From the Country Road 56C to north of Santa Fe River. Map of this segment.
Cañada de Santa Fe and the climb out of Santa Fe River Canyon: you can hike it. See its Satellite view and Map
3. From the Santa Fe River to NM-16. Map of this Segment.
4. From NM16 south to Domingo. Map of this segment.
3. From Domingo, to modern NM22. Map of this segment.
South of this point the road no longer exists, it cut across through Budaghers and on the south side of I-25 kept on towards Algodones, north of which it became NM-313 or Camino Real and kept along it until reaching Bernalillo. Map of this segment.
The map's is from the David Rumsey Collection. Metadata: Author and Publisher: Rand McNally and Company, Chicago. Date: 1927. Full Title: Rand McNally junior auto road map Arizona, New Mexico. Copyright by Rand McNally & Co., Chicago, Ill. (1927). List No: 5755.032 Page No: 66-67 Series No: 36.
The 1932 - 1937 alignment
In the early 1930s the road between Domingo and Santa Fe was straighened out and the horrible hairpin climb out of Santa Fe River Canyon was bypassed. The road followed the current alignment of U.S. 85 (I-25) from Cerrillos Road to Algodones.
Leave the central part of Santa Fe along Alameda St., Sandoval St. and then Cerrillos Rd. Cross US 84, keep SW, the road becomes NM-14. Get on I-25 at Exit 278.
At Exit 259 you can take a side trip to visit Santo Domingo..
The 1926- 1937 alignment
Leave I-25 at Exit 248 and take a right and then a left along Camino Real Pan American Central Hwy or NM-313, and follow it south all the way into Albuquerque.
At Sandia Pueblo the highway merges with NM-556 at a roundabout. Head west along NM556, it becomes 4th St. NW. At Lomas Blvd., 4th St. changes direction so follow 5th until meeting the other alignment of US 66 on Central Ave.
To the south of Albuquerque and west, there were two alignments of Route 66: West and south of Albuquerque.
National and State Parks
There are many natural parks in the area, and we describe them with full details in our Albuquerque and Santa Fe pages. Just click the links below:
Lake Fenton State Park, near Albuquerque, NM
Town's website: www.townofbernalillo.org
New Mexico Historic Monuments, Coronado Monument
William E. Connelley, War with Mexico, 1846-1847: Doniphan's Expedition and the Conquest of New Mexico and California. Heritage Books
Image Used as per Google Street View Image Api Updated Dec. 31, 2014.
Robert Julyan. 1996, The Place Names of New Mexico, UNM Press.