About Los Lunas, New Mexico
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation: 4,856 ft (1,480 m). Population: 24,877 (2014).
Time zone: Mountain (MST): UTC minus 7 hours. Summer (DST) MDT (UTC-6).
Los Lunas is a village in Valencia County NM on the Rio Grande.
People have lived in this area for at least 10,000 years (the site at Sandia Cave is proof of this). Later the Pueblo people settled in the valleys of the rivers that flowed into the Rio Grande.
Seeking the "Cities of Gold", the Spanish explored the area, and in 1540 Francisco Vásquez de Coronado named the native people "Pueblo", after the Spanish word for "village".
The Spanish settled in Santa Fe in the early 1600s and converted the natives to Catholicism but opression led to an Indian uprising that razed the colony in 1680. The missions and towns were destroyed.
The Spaniards returned in 1692, subdued the rebels and resettled the area, founding Albuquerque in 1706 as a key stopover on the Camino Real (Royal Road) that ran south into Mexico.
What is now Los Lunas was granted to Felix Candelaria in 1716 as part of the San Clemente Land Grant. Later the Luna family claimed and obtained possession of the grant. A community formed around their estate.
Origin of the name Los Lunas
The original settlers here were the Luna family (Luna is Moon in Spanish), who were known as or "Los Luna" (The Luna") somewhere along the road, the surname was pluralized, adding the final "s", to "Los Lunas".
After its independence from Spain, Nueva Mexico passed on to Mexico but it was ceded to the U.S. who won the Mexican - American War (1846-48).
Fort Los Lunas was established in 1852 by Capt. Richard S. Ewell of the First Dragoons following orders from Col. Edmond Vose Sumner. His order were to establish a post here (or in Sabinal) with "good winter quarters". Ewell rented quarters, land and farmed the forage for his horses. It became a post -not a fort- until it was abandoned in 1860.
Valencia county was created in 1852 and its county seat moved to Los Lunas in 1876. The Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad arrived in 1882 and built a depot.
In 1926 Route 66 was aligned through the village following the National Old Trails Road and in 1928 the village incorporated. In 1937 US 66 was realigned westwards from Albuquerque to Laguna. This "Laguna cut-off" shortened the road towards Gallup bypassing Los Lunas.
Where to Stay in town
There is lodging in Los Lunas:
>> Book your Hotels in Los Lunas
Lodging close to Los Lunas along Route 66
- 9 miles Isleta
- 25 miles Albuquerque
- 64 miles Moriarty
- 141 miles Santa Rosa motels
- 201 miles Tucumcari
The Santa Fe Route 66 segment
Accommodation Search box:
>> There are RV campgrounds in Los Lunas.
Weather in Los Lunas
The climate in Los Lunas is sunny (278 sunny days per year) and very dry (very low relative humidity).
The high elevation and the dry air provoke large swings between day and night temperatures, even in summer.
Average High ⁄ Low Temperatures during summer (Jul.) are: 92 ⁄ and 65 °F (33 ⁄ 18 °C). The average during winter (Jan) are: 47 ⁄ and 24 °F (8 ⁄ -4 °C)
Summers are hot and winters are relatively cold. Rainfall tends to fall during the summer monsoon season (July through September), and adds up to about 11 in. per year (279 mm). Shielded by mountains to the east, snowfall is quite low: about 10 inches (25 cm) per year.
The tornado risk in Los Lunas is nil: Bernalillo County has no Tornado watches.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
Getting to Los Lunas
Use the 1930s US 66 which now is NM-314 and NM-6, from the Interstate I-25 (with US 85), take Exit 203 into Los Lunas. To the north is the later US-66 and I-40.
Map of Route 66 through Los Lunas
Pale Blue: Historic Route 66 alignment after 1937 from Mesita to ABQ and west to present US84.
Red line: I-40 & where it overlaps the old alignment.
Green: The 1926 - 1937 alignment through Los Lunas (click button to see it).
Display Los Lunas Route 66 MapClick for Map to appear below
Route 66 drive through Los Lunas
Route 66 in New Mexico
Click to read the Full description of Route 66 across New Mexico.
The Santa Fe Loop (1926 - 1937)
Visit our Santa Fe Loop page which describes the complete 1926 to 1937 alignment of Route 66 from Santa Rosa to Los Lunas through Pecos, Santa Fe and Bernalillo.
Los Lunas is also on this alignment, south of Albuquerque, which was also replaced in 1937 by the "Laguna Cutoff" which moved US66 north between Albuquerque and Mesita, bypassing Los Lunas and Isleta.
Below is full information on Route 66's 1926 alignment in Los Lunas.
Los Lunas, New Mexico: Attractions & Sights
Los Lunas Landmarks
Reach the town along the original alignment of Route 66 either from Isleta (NM-314) or Peralta (NM-47). At its main intersection are two sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places: a gas station and a mansion:
Historic Phillips Gas Station
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
Main St. and NM-314, Los Lunas
Located on the NW corner of this busy junction, this former Phillips Service Station dates back to the late 1920s. It is still standing -without its pumps or their concrete bases, although their outline can still be seen in front of the building.
Historic Phillips Gas Station in Los Lunas, NM
Main Street was the U.S. 66 alignment from 1926 to 1937, and what is now NM-314 became part of US 66 when it was realigned to bypass Peralta in 1931.
The cottage style building has a "domestic" appearance, designed to blend in with its urban surroundings. It was the "last chance" to fill up before leaving the Rio Grande Valley and head out into the badlands.
The Luna Otero Mansion
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
110 W. Main St, Los Lunas
Located across the street from the old gas station, the Luna-Otero Mansion was built back in 1881 as a gift from the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad to the Luna-Otero family in exchange for them having granted the right of way for the railroad tracks. It is pictured below
It has been preserved and now is a fine restaurant. Built in Victorial Southern Colonial style in adobe.
The Luna Otero Mansion in Los Lunas, NM
Take a side trip along the Rio Grande towards the south to visit a "sacred" hill, which is also a historic site. It is about 7 miles SE of Main St. and NM-314 ("downtown" Los Lunas), on the eastern side of the Rio Grande:
El Cerro Tomé Hill
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
Sand Hill Rd. (see this Map with directions).
Strategic hill served as religious site, lookout and refuge from floods and invaders, its volcanic summit stands 400 ft. above the valley's floor.
Next to the parking area at the foot of the hill is the "La Puerta del Sol" (Gateway to the Sun) a steel sculpture by Armando Alvarez that celebrates the different cultures that blend in the Rio Grande Valley. Here is the 10-acre park including the hill, picnic tables and also a self-guided tour to the prehistoric petroglyphs.
El Cerro Tomé Hill in Los Lunas, NM
There are over 1,800 petroglyphs (symbols and inscriptions engraved in stone) up to 2,000 years old. The hill's summit offers a great panoramic view and is studded with crosses, the destination of many pilgrims. There is also a masonry shrine atop the hill. It is open year round.
Named for the neighboring village of Tomé foundd in 1739 (after Tomé Domínguez de Mendoza who settled there in 1659).
The Church of the Inmaculate Conception at Tomé Village has a museum with hand-carved wood saints.
Head back to the downtown area and drive west along NM-6 towards Suwanee, Laguna and I-40 to visit the famous and controversial Los Los Lunas Decalogue Stone:
Los Lunas Decalogue Stone
Off NM-16, Los Lunas see maps below
Also known as the Los Lunas Mystery Stone or Commandment Rock it is supposed to be a version of the Ten Commandments written in "Paleo-Hebrew" which is close to Phoenician.
First reported in 1933 by Frank Hibben (1910-2002) an archaeologist from the University of New Mexico who said he was guided to the site by a person who had discovered the stone in 1880, when he was a child.
Los Lunas Decalogue Stone in Los Lunas, NM
The boulder said to weigh 80 tons, had nine lines (now eight after the first line was defaced in 2006) of inscriptions chiseled into its flat face.
Some support the version that it is pre-Hispanic and therefore the work of Semites who reached America in the distant past.
However its location on an insignificant hill, distant from farmland, villages and reliable water sources does not support the likelyhood of it being a ceremonial site. Furthermore, the symbols inscribed on the stone are confusing:
The text combines Phoenician forms from 1,100 B.C. with Samaritan forms from 600 AD and it also includes Greek letters.
The clean surface lacking the patina of age and lichens gives it a modern appearance.
It certainly a hoax, a forgery which was probably done by Hibben or by the "Mormon Battalion" which took part of the Mexican - American War and was in the area at that time.
The stone is located on New Mexico state trust land so as indicated here, in their website: www.nmstatelands.org: To access State Trust Lands you must purchase a recreational access permit from the New Mexico State Land Office. Permits cost $35, are good for up to 10 people, and are valid for one year.
West to Suwanee and Laguna
Route 66 in Los Lunas
From Isleta to Los Lunas
It is a 7.7 mile drive from Isleta to Los Lunas (Map with directions).
The 1926 aligment of Route 66 through Los Lunas, NM.
The first alignment of Route 66 in New Mexico passed through Los Lunas following the Spanish "Royal Road" or "Camino Real". It crossed the Rio Grande River three times: once at Albuquerque, again at Isleta and a third time south of Peralta to reach Los Lunas.
From here it headed west following the railroad tracks as they climbed out of the Rio Grande Valley towards Suwanee, Mesita and Laguna Mission.
The 1927 map pictured below shows the original US 66 alignment and Los Lunas:
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.
The 1928 realignment
Route 66 was paved in this area in 1928 and in 1931 it was moved to the western side of the Rio Grande, and shared with US-85. This bypassed Peralta and avoided two of the three bridge crossings. It made the highway safer and shorter.
The road to Suwanee from Albuquerque through Isleta and Los Lunas was now 53.4 miles long (See map)
1937 Laguna Cut Off
Then in 1937 the whole highway was moved north, it climbed out of Albuquerque west and took a straight course towards Suwanee and Laguna. Both Isleta and Los Lunas had been cutoff.
Route 66 from Los Lunas to Mesita through Suwanee became NM-6. This is a map of this alignment west of Los Lunas, a distance of 32.4 miles.
The road west of Los Lunas to Suwanee has some "original" segments of roadbed still visible, which were bypassed by later realignments fo NM-6 highway:
NM-6 Los Lunas to Suwanee
The images below show: a satellite view in which the red arrows mark the "relict" road. And a street view from the modern highway. The arrow marks the original road surface.
original roadbed satellite view in Los Lunas, NM. Click image to enlarge
> > See the previous segment (1926 US 66) Isleta to Peralta.
> > See the next segment (1926 US 66) Suwnaee to Laguna.
Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.