Plan the Road Trip of your Life

Home | Blog

Route 66


New Mexico Flag

History: Route 66 meets the Turquoise Trail

Last Updated:

Carnuel has these Route 66 landmarks: the Holy Child Church, the Dead Man's Curve and the singing or Musical Highway and the Elephant Rock. The now razed Old Mountain Lodge and the option of short day trips along the Turquoise Trail and the Spanish Salt Missions Scenic Byway.

Carnuel NM

< Head West
Mesita ¦ Suwanee ¦ Albuquerque

Head East >
Tijeras ¦ Edgewood ¦ Moriarty



Rent your car advertisement

About Carnuel, New Mexico

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation: 5,860 ft (1,786 m). Population: 1,232 (2010).
Time zone: Mountain (MST): UTC minus 7 hours. Summer (DST) MDT (UTC-6).

Carnuel Village is located in Bernalillo County, NM, on the western slope of the Sandia Mountains in the Tijeras Canyon, on Route 66's 1937 alignment. Map of Carnuel

The sign of the old Mountain Lodge Hotel

Old Mountain Lodge Hotel sign, Carnuel, New Mexico
Sign of the old Mountain Lodge, Carnuel NM. A. Whittall


The canyon where the town is located has been a strategic route linking the Rio Grande River with the Sandia and Manzano Mountains to the east. The Arroyo Tijeras (dry most of the time) runs down the canyon from east to west, ending as a wash in the flat area south of Albuquerque.

To the east, the canyon links with the high desert area and was a route towards the Pecos River. Route 66 was aligned along this ancient trail.

People have lived here for more than 10,000 years (the site at Sandia Cave is proof of this). More recently, the Pueblo people settled in the Tijeras Canyon; the ruins of Tijeras Pueblo ("pueblo" is the Spanish word for "village") can still be visited. This small town was built around 1300 AD.

The Spanish explored New Mexico in the mid-1500s and settled in Santa Fe in the early-1600s. Catholic Missionaries converted the natives, but they rose in rebellion in 1680 and evicted the Spaniards, razing towns and missions. Twelve years later, the Spanish returned and regained control over parts of their former colony in Nueva Mejico.

The name: Carnuel

"Carnuel" is probably a corruption of the native Tiwa name for this place: "Carna-aye" which means "badger place".

The American badger (Taxidea taxus) is a short-legged omnivore mammal which are part of the family Mustelidae which also includes otters and weasels.

The settlement of Tijeras Canyon was slow. Following the resettlement of Santa Fe in 1692, Albuquerque was founded in 1706. The village of San Miguel de Laredo de Carnué was founded in 1763 to sontrol of the strategic canyon and to act as a buffer for Albuquerque and shield it from the native raids. However it would be short lived. The aggresive natives forced the retreat of the Spanish. On May 27, 1771, Alcalde Navarro gave the order to abandon the town.

In the meantime the name "Carnué" became "Carnuel", a name which was applied to the canyon known today as Tijeras. (due to the scissors-like meeting point of the Carnuel and Cedros Canyons).

After 1819 settlers moved back up the Canyon, establishing Tijeras and 24 families resettled in what is now Carnuel. But the Apache Indians raided the town, and lack of water was a serious issue. Many families moved back to Albuquerque or to San Antonio (north of Carnuel). By 1880 only 10 families remained, and they were the basis of modern Carnuel. They faced the attacks of the Comanche and Apache. The area was ceded by Mexico after its defeat in the Mexican - American War (1846-48) and it became the U.S Territory of New Mexico. More European settlers began arriving to the area.

The old native and colonial trail became a highway when the U.S. government implemented the National Highway System in 1926, it was named US 470 and linked Albuquerque with Moriarty and Willard. But in 1937, Route 66 was shortened and realigned through the Canyon and Carnuel. The "Santa Fe cut-off" incorporated former US 470. Later, when Route 66 became too crowded and unsafe (see below the Dead Man's Curve), it was upgraded to a four lane highway in the 1950s. Later, in 1965, I-40 was built alongside it, crossing the mountains through the Canyon.

Where to Stay

There is lodging along Route 66 close to Carnuel:

> > Book your Hotel in Albuquerque
just next to Carnuel.

Lodging Near Carnuel along Route 66

Heading West...

Heading East....

The Santa Fe Route 66 segment

Book your room in neighboring Albuquerque:

>> There are RV campgrounds near Carnuel in Tijeras and Albuquerque.

Weather in Carnuel

Carnuel is located on the western slope of the Sandia Mountains, and the weather is dry but wetter than in the City of Albuquerque.

The climate is dry and sunny. The relative humidity is low. Albuquerque has an arid desert climate with hot summers and cold winters. There are on average 278 sunny days per year. Spring is warm and windy with some rain, but otherwise it is the driest season. In May the temperature increases. Summer is dry, which makes the heat bearable. But most rain falls during the summer monsoon season from July to September. Fall is warm with cool nights and little rain.

Shielded by mountains, snowfall is quite low and total precipitation is arount 11 inches per year (279 mm). Snow is around 10 inches (25 cm) per year.

The average summer high temperature (Jul) is 88°F (31.1°C) with a low of around 54.5°F (12.5°C).

The winter average low temperature (Jan) is around 15°F (-9.4°C), the high averages 44°F (6.7°C)

Weather widget for the town nearest Carnuel:

Latest weather in Carnuel, NM
Carnuel, New Mexico its location map on Route 66
Location of Carnuel on Route 66

Tornado risk

Carnuel is located in an area with virtually no tornado risk: Bernalillo County has no Tornado watches.

Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.

Map U.S. 66 in Carnuel New Mexico

Check out Carnuel on our New Mexico Route 66 Map, with the complete alignment and all the towns along it.

Carnuel Map

The color key for this town's map is:
(for the other towns, check their maps - color keys may change)

Pale Blue: Historic Route 66 alignment.
Red line: I-40 & where it overlaps the old alignment.
Green: The 1926 - 1937 alignment through Santa Fe (click button to see it).

Route 66's alignment in New Mexico: the Historic Route 66 through Carnuel

Route 66 logo

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.

Carnuel: its Attractions

Landmarks, Route 66 sights

Getting to Carnuel

The Arizona State Line is 173 mi. west of Carnuel. Just 12 miles west of Carnuel along route 66 is the City of Albuquerque, closer to the Arizona state line is Gallup (151 mi.)

To the north of Carnuel, on the Santa Fe loop of Route 66 is Santa Fe (56 mi.)

To the east is Tijeras (4.4 mi.), Edgewood (17 mi.), Moriarty (27 mi)., Clines Corners (48 mi.), Santa Rosa (104 mi.), and further east, Tucumcari (164 mi), San Jon (188 mi.) and Glenrio (206 mi.) on the Texas ⁄ New Mexico state line.

Carnuel its Attractions

Ancient Trail along Tijeras Canyon

Carnuel is the western access to the Sandia Mountains, the Turquoise Trail and the Salt MissionsTrail. It is located on the western fringe of the Cibola National Forest, between the Sandia and Manzano Mountains. Visit the Dead Mans Curve, Elephant Rock and its historic chapel.

The Village

The village itself is tiny and spread along I-40 and Route 66 (NM-333) in Tijeras Canyon. The area is dry, with a "savannah-like" vegetation: with trees, shrubs and plenty of rocks and ridges. Visit the historic Santo Niño - "Holy Child Parish Church".

Holy Child Church, Carnuel, NM

Santo Niño - Holy Child Church. The Diocese of Santa Fe

Santo Niño Mission Church

Herrera Dr., Carnuel, Map

After its resettlement in the 1880s, two chapels were built in the village in the 1890s. One of them was the family chapel built by Domingo García, it housed the village's patron saint, San Miguel - Saint Michael. This church was demolished in the 1960s.

The second church was erected in 1898 and was built on land donated by Petra and Roman Herrera on the southwestern part of the village. It was also torn down in 1960 and the original stone and adobe building was replaced by a larger one.

On the Saint's day, the town celebrates the San Miguel Fiesta (September 29).

There is a large white cross on the hill that is on the northern side of I-40 in front of the church, and there is a "Triumph of the Cross" fiesta on May 3, held together with the Santo Niño festivity.

Dead Man's Curve

Route 66 between Tijeras and Carnuel, 2.5 mi. west of Tijeras where Route 66 (NM-333) passes under I-40, to its north side.

When Route 66 was first aligned through Carnuel Canyon in 1937, it had a very sharp blind turn at a hill west of Carnuel. The curve, like many others along Route 66 was known as the "Dead Man's Curve, unaware drivers going too fast would not be able to take the curve and would head straight on, causing an accident.

Other Dead Man's Curves on Route 66

There was one Deadly Curve at Bushland, TX., another one in New Mexico, the Dead Mans Curve near Laguna, and one in Towanda, Illinois.

The extensive improvement of Route 66 built in 1952, which upgraded it to a four lane highway almost eliminated the risk. When I-40 was built in 1965, it erased the hill.

View along Route 66, heading west after the former "Dead Man's Curve" at Carnuel

Past the Dead Man’s Curve at Carnuel on Route 66 in New Mexico
The Mother Road passing the "Dead Man's Curve" in Carnuel, New Mexico. P. Eichenblat

Musical Highway

The Singing Road

Along Route 66 west of Tijeras. Visit the Website for more details.

This is a special section of highway, it is a 1,300 foot segment where rumble strips have been placed in the pavement that "play" the song "America the Beautiful" when a car is driven over them at exactly 45 miles per hour (by the way, that it is the speed limit in this part of the road).

The musical highway was created by fixing metal plates into the road, paving them over with asphalt and finally, installing the rumble strips.

The social experiment behind the rumble strips aims at enticing drivers to respect the speed limit by rewarding them with a song.

It is only on the eastbound lane. A sign reading "Musical Highway" lets the drivers know that the music is nearby and the sign "Reduce Speed to 45 mph" indicates the musical zone and arrows painted on the rumble strip indicate where the tires should be placed.

It is East of the point shown in this Map

See it and hear it in this Youtube video "singing highway".

Elephant Rock

Heading west, out of Carnuel towards Albuquerque, the canyon widens and you have a beautiful view of the Rio Grande Valley and Albuquerque. But just before this point once stood a strange rock formation known as Elephant Rock.

The exact location is shown here Street view of the Elephant Rock.

The "rock" was a boulder set upon another flat rock on the south side of Route 66. The upper rock seemed to balance on the base. It received various names: "Balanced Rock", "Teapot Rock" and "Elephant Rock".

It was the most famous natural landmark of Carnuel Canyon, and people stopped to take photos beside it.

When Route 66 was widened in the 1950s, the "Rock" was considered a nuisance, so it was toppled over even though it did not interfere with the new wider roadbed. It lies next to its pedestal, tumbled on the south side of the road, beside the shoulder.


Old Mountain Lodge

See what the old motel's sign looked like

The historic Old Mountain Lodge on the old Route 66 in Carnuel was burned to the ground by a fire on December 18, 2014.

See the Street View prior to its destruction.

It was opened by C. B. Saunders in the 1950s, as a motel on Route 66. A contemporary post card described it as follows:

In the foothills of the beautiful Sandias on Highway 66 in Tijeras Canyon, 12 miles east of Albuquerque, New Mexico AAA Recommended
On scenic Highway 66 - in a quiet secluded mountain environment.
Eight centrally steam heated, fully carpeted units. Closed warm garages. Elevation 6200 feet. Close to ski area and timber line.
Mr. and Mrs. C.B. Saunders Owners - Managers Telephone Albuquerque - Linda Vista 2

Tours & Itineraries plus outdoor Fun

Nearby Route 66 Towns

Drive up the Canyon towards Tijeras and you can get some great vistas of the forests on the Rocky Mountains (Sandia and Manzano Mountains) along the edge of New Mexico's high desert.

Apart from the side trips mentioned further down, you can visit, to the east, the towns of Tijeras, Edgewood and Moriarty.

To the west is the City of Albuquerque.

You can drive the original 1926 alignment of Route 66 which lies to the northwest and north of Carnuel, and visit the City of Santa Fe.

Some Amazing Side Trips

The Turquoise Trail

This circuit is a full day trip, almost 100 miles (round trip) to the north of Carnuel. See the Map and Directions

We describe the trip here: Turquoise Trail, in our Tijeras Village page.

You will be able to drive up the Sandia Crest Scenic Byway to the summit at 10,652 ft. (3.249 m).

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 mi.

It links Albuquerque with the crest of Sandia Mountains. More details at: The tramway station is at 30 Tramway Rd. NE Albuquerque.

It is an 11.6 mile drive from Carnuel (See Map).

Salt Missions Scenic Byway

This is a circuit of 120 miles (roughly 2.5 hours of driving). See the Map of the Circuit.

The Salt Missions Scenic Byway follows ancient native trails and trade routes that run from the mountains, to the plains in the east. Read full details here.

The Old alignment of Route 66 near Carnuel

route 66 shield New Mexico

Tijeras via Carnuel to eastern Albuquerque along Old Route 66

Route 66 from Tijeras through Carnuel to the eastern tip of Albuquerque, NM.

See the Map and Directions from Tijeras, through Carnuel to eastern Albuquerque.

The historic 1926 alignment of Route 66 is located to the northwest and north of Carnuel linking Albuquerque with Santa Rosa through Las Vegas, NM and Santa Fe.

The "Santa Fe cut-off" which was completed in 1937 shortened Route 66 with a direct alignment from Santa Rosa to Albuquerque passing through Carnuel.

From Tijeras head west along Old Route 66 (NM-333) after 4.4 miles it will reach Carnuel after passing by the "Musical highway" and the "Dead Man's Curve".

As the road heads west next to I-40, passing the former "Elephant Rock" and dropping into the flat area of the Rio Grande Valley, and at the start of Albuquerque's urban sprawl, next to I-40's Exit 167, it starts to head away from I-40 becoming Central Avenue which it will follow all the way into Albuquerque.

> > See the previous segment Edgewood to Tijeras (to the east)

> > See the next one Into Albuquerqe via Central (to the west)

National and State Parks

Cibola National Forest

11776 Highway 337, Tijeras NM. (505) 281-3304. Official Website

The Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands spans several locations covering 1.6 million acres in New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma.

The areas nearest Carnuel (which is located on the western tip of the Forest) are the Sandia (described here), and the Mountainair Ranger Districts. Further west, between Albuquerque and Gallup is the Mt. Taylor Ranger District.

Manzano Mountains State Park

Manzano Mountains: Apple Mountains

The range gets its name from the Spanish word "Manzano" or "apple tree", due to the old apple orchards in the town of Manzano.

Though ledgend has them planted by the Spanish missionaries in the 1600s, the trees date back to the 1800s, but nevertheless, they are perhaps the oldest apple trees in the U.S.

The park is 50 miles southwest of Carnuel (Map with directions).

Contact: Website.

A great place for hiking, birding, wildlife viewing and camping in the forests at the foothills of the Manzanos. There is a campground and RV Park.

Municipal Parks

There are two open areas which belong to the City of Albuquerque just to the west of Carnuel:

Sandia Foothills Open Space

Next to Exit 170 of I-40 on Route 66. See the Park website

With 2,650 acres of hills with shrubs, juniper, piñon trees and cacti. Puma, rattlesnakes and coyote live in these hills. Ideal for hiking and spotting wildlife. See the Map.

Singing Arrow Park

Only 2.3 miles west of Carnuel, it is just to the south of Central Ave. and Tramway Blvd. at I-40's exit 167 (See Map).

The park is on the north side of Tijeras Arroyo and is a Historical area:

Historic Rancho Carnué Site

There are numerous archaeological sites along the Tijeras Arroyo, one of them is the site of Rancho de Carnué donated to the City of Albuquerque and located next to the Singing Arrow Park. It was excavated in 1975 by Albert Ward. Another site excavated in the 1930s by Cal Burroughs, it was of Spanish origin and was built upon a prehistoric pueblo close to the Santo Niño church in western Carnuel.


See the Side Trips described further up.

Accommodation Search box:


Rentalcars advertisement


Banner image: The Dead Man's Curve, Laguna, NM by Perla S. Eichenblat.

History of the San Miguel de Laredo - Carnuel Land Grant of 1763 by Jackie Luna

Singing Arrow Park, archaeological site. City of Albuquerque

Robert Julyan. 1996, The Place Names of New Mexico, UNM Press.