About Bernal, New Mexico
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation: Elevation: 6,220 ft (1,897 m). Population: n⁄a.
Time zone: Mountain (MST): UTC minus 7 hours. Summer (DST) MDT (UTC-6).
Bernal is a small village in San Miguel County, on the west bank of Bernal Creek and south of US-85 & I-25. The historic Santa Fe Trail linked it with Santa Fe. See map with the location of the town.
This area has been inhabited for at least 10,000 years; and the rivers that flow south of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains like Bernal Creek and the Pecos River were important trade routes for the Native American People.
Santa Rita Chapel and Starvation Point in Bernal, NM
The initial Spanish settlement of New Mexico beginning in 1598 to the mid 1700s never advanced beyond Pecos Pueblo, and Bernal Creek was further east closer to the dangerous Comanche and Apache Indians.
But in 1794 the San Miguel del Vado Land Grant was petitioned by Lorenzo Marquez and 51 individuals, and was approved by the Governor. This was the origin of San Miguel County and several towns sprung up along the Pecos River. They faced the attacks of the Comanche and Apache but survived.
New Mexico became part of Mexico when that country became independent from Spain in 1821. But was ceded to the U.S. after the Mexican - American War (1846-8).
A stage coach stop on the Santa Fe Trail was built at Bernal Creek (a regular source of water that meets Pecos River to the south, near Anton Chico). The place was named after the Bernal family, as "Old Bernal", and as such appears in the 1894 USGS map.
The name: Bernal
The surname Bernal has a Sepharadic origin and means "strong as a bear". In 1492 the Spanish Jews were forced to convert to Catholicism or migrate. Many came to America and settled in Mexico, and later, when the Inquisition became active there, they moved on into New Mexico.
Juan Griego was part of the Juan de Oñate expedition that occupied and settled New Mexico in 1598. Griego's wife was Pascuala Bernal. And her surname was adopted by one of their sons, starting the Bernal lineage in the territory.
Some settled along the Rio Grande River in Bernalillo (a diminutive of Bernal), others would settle at Bernal.
The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad built laid its tracks through the region in the early 1880s and built a station 1.5 miles east of Bernal. It was first named "Bernal" but later renamed it "Chapelle" after the Louis Chapelle who was the Archbishop of Santa Fe from 1894 to 1897.
As there were some springs close to the town it was also known as Bernal Springs.
This mountain (See map) was a natural landmark for those riding along the Santa Fe Trail. It is just south of Bernal (7,031 ft - 2.143 m) and its name evokes the legend of a group of 120 Spanish men, women and children driven up the hill by the natives during the 1680 Pueblo Revolg. Under siege, they starved to death.
More prosaically, the USGS map of 1884 calls it "Bernal Hill". It is topped by Glorieta Sandstone
Bernal is located where the railway meets the Santa Fe Trail and takes an westerly course towards San Jose.
In 1926, Route 66 was aligned along the Santa Fe Trail from Romeroville to Santa Fe, passing through Bernal. The small village would be part of US 66 until 1937, when the Santa Fe Cut-Off shortened the highway by linking Santa Rosa with Albuquerque via Moriarty through the Tijeras Canyon and therefore bypassing this longer alignment through Santa Fe.
Accommodation near Bernal
There are lodging options for those travelling along Route 66 in some nearby towns
> > Book your Hotels nearby: Las Vegas NM
Lodging Near Bernal along Route 66
Heading East ...
- 50 mi. Santa Fe
West along the later Route 66 alignment
>> There are RV campgrounds near Bernal
The weather in Bernal
This is a dry region with warm summers and cold winters.
The average summer high (Jul) is 83°F (28.3°C) and the low average is 52°F (11.1°C). In winter (Jan) the average low and high are: 22°F (-5.5°C) and 46°F (7.8°C) respectively.
Rainfall is higher during the period between May and Nov. (13 in. - 330 mm). The average rainfall is 16.5 in. per year (419 mm).
There are around 272 sunny days and about 62 precipitation days per year. Snowfall is around 27 in. per year, and falls between Nov. and March.
Bernal is located in an area with virtually no tornado risk: San Miguel county only has two (2) Tornado watches per year and mostly in the eastern fringe of the county.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
Getting to Bernal
The village is located 70 mi. northwest of Santa Rosa along the 1926 alignment of Route 66.
On the crossing of the old and new alignments of Route 66 is the city of Albuquerque (112 mi.)
Map of Route 66 through Bernal New Mexico
See the alignment of US 66 in this location, on our New Mexico Route 66 Map, it has the complete alignment across the state with all the towns along it.
Accommodation Search box:
Route 66's alignment in New Mexico: the Historic Route 66 through Bernal
Route 66 across New Mexico
Click to read the Full description of Route 66 across New Mexico.
The Santa Fe Loop (1926 - 1937)
Our Santa Fe Loop page 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 this town.
Bernal: its Attractions
Landmarks, Route 66 sights
Bernal, its Attractions
The Santa Fe Trail
This was a very important trail opened in the 1792 across the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Great Plains that linked Santa Fe with the French Louisiana settlements on the Missouri River (now St. Joseph and Independence MO). It was known as the "Santa Fe Trail".
It was an key route for the wagon trains that moved goods into New Mexico and many settlers used it to reach California and the Southwest of the U.S.A.
The south fork of the Trail passed through Las Vegas and Bernal, crossing Glorieta Pass and reaching Santa Fe from the south.
The Santa Fe trail was added to the US highway system in 1926 when two new highways (Route 66 and US 85) were aligned along it.
Where Route 66 overlaps the "Old Santa Fe Trail"
The village of Bernal is located on the "Santa Fe Trail" and the 1926 alignment of Route 66. Visit its historic Santa Rita de Cascia church.
Bernal is a tiny hamlet which is enclosed by I-25 & US 85 on the north (CanAm highway), Bernal Creek on the east and the railroad on the south.
This "highway" has a total length of 1,975 mi (3,179 km) and is an international highway linking El Paso,Texas, USA with La Ronge in Saskatchewan, Canada. Hence its name "CanAm".
US Route 85 & I-25 are part of the CanAm highway, and both cross New Mexico, overlapping the old 1926 - 1937 alignment of Route 66 between Santa Fe and Romeroville, passing by Bernal.
Capilla de Santa Rita de Cascia
B26A and B28A, Bernal
The small Chapel of Santa Rita de Cascia was built in 1916 in stone. Its name honors an Italian nun (1381 - 1457), who died in Cascia, Italy and is the Patron saint of the impossible and helps those in need.
The chuch has three belfries on its gabled roof, but only one bell.
Head west along County Road B26A and reach "Serafina":
Elevation: 6,204 ft (1,891 m) Population: n⁄a.
The post office opened in Bernal in 1923 but as there already was a post office named Bernal in New Mexico so it had to adopt another name. The local postmaster, Basilio Griego chose his daughter's name: "Serafina". It became a small non-incorporated village just west of Bernal.
Serafina is femenine for Seraphim (a biblical name that means glowing, burning. Celestial being like an angel).
Tours & Itineraries
Nearby Route 66 Towns
The 1926 to 1937 alignment of Route 66 near Bernal
From Bernal to San Jose
Head out of Bernal along County Road B26A, and drive along it all the way to San Jose.
This Map shows the alignment of the 1926 Route 66 between Bernal and San Jose.
The old segment by the Pecos River
Just east of the Pecos River, on the Frontage Rd., and one mile NE of San Jose, you can still see on the left (south) side of the road, the original alignment that headed SW into San Jose across a steel bridge which is still standing. Nowadays I-25 lies between bridge and old US-66 (the point is shown on the Map linked below).
The Santa Fe Cut-Off
NM 6 which linked Santa Rosa with Albuquerque via Moriarty was finished in 1927 but only later was it paved. In 1937 it was incorporated into the new alignment of Route 66 that "cut-off" Santa Fe, shortening the road and providing a quicker paved route to Albuquerque and the Pacific Coast. This alignment also cut off Bernal.
Route 66 on the main post 1937 alignment
Route 66 east of Bernal
> > Bernal to Romeroville via Tecolote
Route 66 west of San Jose
> > San Jose to Pecos through Ilfeld and Rowe.
The map is from the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection, under Fair usage and its BY-NC-SA 3.0, License. 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.
National and State Parks
Dorothy Audrey Simpson, Audrey of the Mountains: The Story of a Twentieth Century Pioneer Woman). Sunstone Press, 2008. pp. 155
Robert Julyan. 1996, The Place Names of New Mexico, UNM Press.
Guidebook of the Western United States: Part C - The Santa Fe Route, With a Side Trip to Grand Canyon of the Colorado, bulletin 613. Nelson Horatio Darton.
Banner image: Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona by Perla Eichenblat.