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Last Updated: . By Austin Whittall

Where Route 66 meets the Turquoise Trail

Site of Zuzax

Tijeras is a small community on Route 66 in New Mexico's Tijeras Canyon; it is flanked by the Sandia and Manzano Mountains.
It is located on an ancestral trail, on the crossroads of Route 66 and the The Turquoise Trail.

It has its share of ancient historic sites, nature and Route 66 landmarks, below we list them:

Take a side trip to drive along the Sandia Crest Scenic Byway and the ancient trails of the Salt Missions Scenic Byway to get the feel of New Mexico and its history.

Enjoy a stop in Tijeras New Mexico on your Route 66 Road Trip.

Route 66, the "Old" The Santa Fe Loop
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Edgewood ¦ Moriarty ¦ Clines Corners

Route 66 in Tijeras ⁄ Zuzax NM

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About Tijeras, New Mexico

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation: 6,322 ft (1,927 m). Population: 465 (2020).
Time zone: Mountain (MST): UTC minus 7 hours. Summer (DST) MDT (UTC-6).

Tijeras Village is located in Bernalillo County, NM, at the crossroads of Route 66's 1937 to 1985 alignment and the Turquoise Trail.

View along US 66 in Tijeras

US 66 cross roads in Tijeras: cars, signs, one reading OLD US HIGHWAY 66, traffic light
Route 66 in Tijeras. By P. Eichenblat

The remains found at the Sandia Cave and at Clovis indicate that the region has been inhabited for over 10,000 years.

In more recent times the area was home of the Pueblo people, who were farmers and lived in villages. The Tijeras Pueblo (a Historic site) was established around 1300 A.D., near the current village of Tijeras close to where the modern town is located.

The location is strategic, it is emplaced on a a geologic fault, the narrow and deep Tijeras Canyon that cuts across this section of the Southern Rocky Mountains from east to west, separating it into two ranges: the Sandia Mountains to the north and the Manzano Mountains to the south. This canyon has been used to cross the mountains for thousands of years.

The canyon continues as Tablazon Canyon eastwards until it reaches the highest part of the range, and then heads down the eastern slope as Sedillo Canyon, towards Barton and Edgewood.

This has been a natural pass through the mountains and used since prehistoric times to link the high desert in the east with the Rio Grande in the west.

The Spanish arrived and explored the region (1540s) and settled in Santa Fe. Missionaries converted many natives to Catholicism. But the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 ended with the destruction of the missions and towns and a brief period of independence from Spain. The Spaniards returned in 1692 and rebuilt their control over Nueva Mejico.

The name: Tijeras

The word "Tijeras" is Spanish, and it means scissors. The origin of the name are the two canyons that meet there, Tijeras (originally known as Carnué) and Cedro Canyons and the ancient Native trails that met there, coming together like scissors.

The first settlement was built by the Spanish in 1763 on a land grant that extended from "San Miguel de Carnue to La Tijera", but the Apache raids forced the settlers to leave it. After 1819 new settlers arrived but had to face the raids of the Comanche and Apache. After the Mexican - American War (1846-48), the U.S. incorporated the area as the Territory of New Mexico and settlers began arriving from the East. The old wagon trail from Santa Rosa passed by here. At the time of the American Civil War (1860s) there was a homesteads in the upper canyon. Contemporary maps named it as "Tegera."

By 1880 there were 15 families in the area. The historic catholic church was built in 1912.

The old native trail became a road which by 1926 was a modern highway: US 470, that linked Albuquerque with Moriarty and Willard. Later in 1937, Route 66 was shortened and the "Santa Fe cut-off" was aligned along former US 470. Traffic and travellers brought business to the gas stations and trading posts in Tijeras. The village was incorporated in 1973.

Sandia Crest Aerial Tramway

Aerial Tramway, below is the flat desert by Albuquerque, the cable car climbs the wooded Sandia Mountain in New Mexico
Aerial Tramway on Sandia Crest, close to Tijeras NM. Credits advertisement

Where to Stay: Hotels in Tijeras

Neighboring Moriarty and Albuquerque have plenty of lodging options for those travelling along Route 66, you can book a hotel or motel in town:

>> Book your Hotel in Moriarty or

More Lodging Near Tijeras along Route 66

Below is a list some of the towns along Route 66 east and west of Tijeras, click on any of the links to find your hotel in each of these towns.

Heading West in NM and AZ

Heading East

The Santa Fe Route 66 segment

Find your room in neighboring Albuquerque

>> There are RV campgrounds in Tijeras, Edgewood, and Albuquerque.

The weather in Tijeras

Route 66 in Tijeras NM; location map

Location of Tijeras on Route 66

Tijeras is located in the Sandia Mountains. Although dry, the area is cooler than the lower regions to the east.

Roughly 15 in. of rain (381 mm) of rain fall every year with 55 days of precipitation. The snowfall is on average 16 inches (40.6 cm).

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

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

Tornado risk

Tijeras 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 Tijeras New Mexico

black and white vintage map of highways around Moriarty and Tijeras

1937 roadmap near Tijeras Source
Click to enlarge

The historic 1926 alignment of Route 66 following the National Old Trails ran further north following an ample curve which headed from Santa Rosa towards Las Vegas, NM and Santa Fe. From there it headed southwards, to Albuquerque.

Tijeras was located on the short lived US 470, that later became US 366 named so because it was a spur of the Santa Fe Loop US 66 (see map below, it appears as US 366).

The "Santa Fe cut-off" shortened the road with a direct alignment from Santa Rosa to Albuquerque through Moriarty, Edgewood and Tijeras. This section was completed in 1937 along a new roadway to Moriarty and then along US 366, that became US66 into Albuquerque.

The thumbnail map -click on it to enlarge it- shows Moriarty on the lower right side, with no Route 66 running right towards Santa Rosa. It shows US 366, Edgewood, and a winding highway through Barton, towards Sedillo, Tijeras and Carnuel. The 1937 alignment of Route 66 has now become NM-333, which runs on the south side of I-40.

Route 66 1927 alignment from Santa Rosa to Santa Fe, NM
Detail of a 1927 Map of Route 66 in NM. Tijeras appears on it, David Rumsey

Route 66 alingments in Tijeras Canyon

There were three alignments from Sedillo to Albuquerque along Tijeras Canyon:

1. 1937-45 alignment of Route 66

The first alignment took a longer course from the highest part of Sedillo Hill from what is now Exit 181 on I-40. Here it is now cut by the freeway, starting at Brad Ct. on the south, to Hwy. 306 on the north, as marked with a yellow line in our custom map showing "gaps" in the alighment.
Westwards it follows Hwy. 306 in a wide curve towards the north in a loop through Sedillo and then back to the south into Tijeras Canyon on the downhill side. This is the map of the driveable sgement. It is narrow, and winding.

Then it ran on the northern side of Tijeras canyon, along what is now North Zamora Rd. The first part is cut by I-40 (light blue line in our "gaps" map). It follows Zamora Rd until it is again cut by the freeway (Zamora Rd. map, 2.2 mi. long). There is a gap here as it crosses to the south side of I-40 into Tijeras village (blue line in our custom map.) Then it continues along S. Zamora Rd. as shown in this map.

2. 1945-50s dual lanes

When Route 66 became too crowded during WWII, a straighter course was planned and built in the mid 1940s and it ran along the south side of the canyon. This alignment follows the modern South Frontage Rd. as shown in this 1945-50s US 66 map from Sedillo, through Zuzax and into Tijeras.

West of Tijeras village the highway took a course that was altered by the construction of the 1950s four-lane highway, and later by I-40 that was built over it. The violet line in our custom map shows this alignment through Tijeras and westwards towards Carnuel. Then it follows the Frontage Rd. all the way (see map) to another gap at the Dead Man's Curve as it goes into Carnuel (orange line in our custom map.)

3. 1950s-70s four lanes

Growing traffic led it to be upgraded to a four lane highway in the 1950s, but this took some time, even in 1961 there were sections with 2 lanes in the Canyon.
This type of "superhighway" was divided but lacked overpasses and underpasses. It had grade crossings and unlimited access to the trading posts along it. It lies mostly where I-40 was later built in the 1970s.

Route 66 Alignment near Tijeras

With maps and full information of the old roadway.

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.

Tijeras: Landmarks, Route 66 sights & Attractions

Route 66 Road Trip through Tijeras

Historic Context: 1946

In his 1946 Guidebook to US Highway 66, Jack Rittenhouse mentions Tijeras and the canyon, we begin at Exit 181, where the 1937-49 Route 66 forks to the north along Hwy 306. Three years after Rittenhouse drove by here, the new alignment was built, now it is the Hwy. 333, on the south side of where the Freeway now runs.

To follow the original 1937-49 alignment of Route 66, cross I-40 at its Exit 181 and immediately take a left along Sedillo Hill Road (NM-306). Rittenhouse mentions that 7 miles west of Edgewood at his mile-post 281 west of Amarillo and 23 mi. east of Albuquerque, there was a "Gas station, with cafe and grocery." It is long gone, but this map marks the spot that can be seen in this 1951 aerial photo on the north side of the highway, as it curves north at Kimberly Ln. This is the second highest spot of all Route 66:

Highest Point of Route 66 east of the Continental Divide

Exactly at Kimberly lane and NM-306 (Sedillo Hill Road). See this map marking the Exact Spot.

Altitude: 7,102 feet (2.166 m)

The old 1937 alignment of Route 66 curved around Woodland Hills and reaching the highest altitude east of the Continental Divide, and the second highest point of its whole alignment.

Passing this point Rittenhouse adds:

Now the fairly straight road ends , and you start on a winding road for the next 15 miles, as you drop down through TIJERAS CANYON to Albuquerque... From here you drop rather swiftly for the next mile. Another gas station at 282 mi. ( 22 mi.) Rittenhouse (1946)

From the exit, the road will climb to the highest point of Route 66 east of the Continental Divide, here is another spot mentioned by Rittenhouse in 1946:

A second gas station along Sedillo Rd that was located on the south side of the crossroads of Sedillo Hill Rd. and Meadow Dr. (map), it can be seen in the 1951 aerial photo. Rittenhouse continues:

Now US 66 winds downward through the narrowing canyon, with towering mountains on both sides.... you will find gas stations... two miles apart... at 289 mi.... you pass the village of TIJERAS, nestled in a valley off US66 to your left a half-mile.

He considers Tijeras as the village located on the south side of the Tijeras river, or along the alignment that winded through the village.


Elevation 6,955 ft (2.120 m). Population: 625 (2020). See Map of Sedillo.

Sedillo is a small town located in Bernalillo County, New Mexico, it is a census-designated place.

The place got its name from Pedro de Cedillo (with a "C"), who was the first person with that name in New Mexico, and who settled here before the 1680 Pueblo Revolt as a captain. After the uprising was defeated in 1692 the family returned to their homestead in Sedillo. The hamlet is located on Sedillo Canyon at the foot of Sedillo Hill.

Later, in the 1949, a newer alignment was built in Tijeras Canyon, but it demanded a lot of blasting and earth moving. Route 66 was moved to this lower, straighter and safer alignment.

The original alignment road curves back south, crosses I-40 and meets NM-333 again. Take a right at the Junction and follow the higway west passing by Zuzax:

View along the Sedillo Hill Road at its highest point

Original US66 winds among trees, mountains in the distance
The 1937 Route 66 in Tijeras: Sedillo Hill Road in the Mountains, New Mexico. Click for St. view

This alignment meets the later one further west.

The 1949 alignment runs on the south side of the freeway. Head west from exit 181 along NM-333, pass by Comer's Coffee shop and descend into Tijeras Canyon.


This "town" is definitively the last word on Route 66!

It began as a trading post in Tijeras Canyon that was ran and owned by Herman Ardans and his wife Helen (1). He was a native Arizonan from Encino, of Basque family; his father was born in the town of Les Aldudes, in the French Basque region 2) .

Zuzax, the name

The name is made up. Being of Basque origin, Ardans didn't have to look far: "Zuzaz" is the second person possesive pronoun in Basque language, akin to English languiage's "yours."
Ardans said it was the name of an Indian tribe. Some versions state that it would be the last word in a telephone directory and therefore more easily found in a list of stores.

Ardans surname comes from "ard(a)o" meaning "wine."

He promote his trading post as you can see in this still from a video taken in 1958, notice the word "ZUZAX" written with white boulders on the hill to the right of the higway.

color still from a video taken in 1958: four lane highway, car ahead, hilly terrain, word ZUZAX written in white stones on the right. Tree to the left
1958 still from a video showing Zuzax sign and 4-lane US66 in Tijeras. Credits

Same spot nowadays

-----: four lane highway, car ahead, hilly terrain, word ZUZAX written in white stones on the right. Tree to the left
1958 still from a video showing Zuzax sign and 4-lane US66 in Tijeras. Click for street view

The same curve, the same mountains in the distance, the same junction on the left with Sedillo Road (map marking the spot)

The curio store and trading post was decorated with antlers on its roof, signs promoting curios and indian goods, a real eye catcher. They also included a chairlift behind the store that climbed the hill on the north side of the property, it wasn't used for skiing, it gave the tourists a great view of the canyon.

The exact spot where Zuzax once stood is marked on this map marking the spot, on the north side (right) of the highway. Below is a 1950s picture of the post compare it with the current view of the same spot:

color picture c.1950s of a gable roof store, antlers on roof, advertising on roof, signs of rugs, jackets, rocks. Station wagon and hill behind
1950s picture Zuzax trading post on Route 66 in Tijeras. Credits
bushes and trees, wooded hills beyond, seen from Route 66 red dashed box marks location of old trading post

Zuzax site nowadays. Click for st. view

The post is long gone, but Zuzax as a name, has survived as an unincorporated community, and the freeway signs at Exit 178 bear its name.

Drive west for 1.8 miles, to the modern Zuzax gas station and the Hidden Valley RV park. They don't appear in the 1951 aerial photo of the area.


Elevation 6,540 ft (2.120 m).

Along the north side of the freeway is North Zamora Rd. this is the 1938-49 alignment of Route 66, and it is named after the community that was located here at the point where Gutierrez and Tijeras Canyons converge. Opposite Hidden Valley. It predated Zuzax. Its post office opened in 1938 and was named after a local family with Hispanic roots: Zamora. One of the Zamoras was the postmaster. The post office was later moved to Tijeras.

It now forms part of the Village of Tijeras (see Map of Zamora).

Molly's Bar

Drive west for 2.2 mi., to your left, at 546 State Hwy 333
Amalia "Molly" Simballa nee Valente (1908-2000) opened it in the early 1950s. Her family migrated from Italy to the US in 1911. She opened her first saloon, the "Monterrey Gardens" in the early 1930s after marrying Romeo DiLallo. Razed by a fire, and with Romero ill with "black lung" from his coal miner days, Molly opened Romeo's Bar in South Valley of Albuquerque. Romeo died in 1946.
Molly remarried in 1947 with Tonny Simballa and moved to Tijeras in 1951 where she opened "Molly's Bar." 3). She was the local Justice of Peace and performed over 2,000 weddings.

The original Mollies was torn down in 1974 to build the freeway's offramp. The new building is still standing, alive and kickin'

a neon sign reading MOLLY - package bar & lounge, topped with a white beer mug in a red circle
Molly's Bar neon sign on Route 66 in Tijeras. Credits. Click for street view

The Village of Tijeras

Historic Tijeras Canyon marker

To your right, 0.3 mi. west of Molly's just before you reach NM-337 (Street view). The inscription reads:

Tijeras Canyon
The pass between the Sandia and Manzano Mountains has been a natural route of travel between eastern New Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley since pre-historic times. Known as Cañón de Carnué in the Spanish colonial period it takes its present name from the village of Tijeras, Spanish for "scissors".

Ahead is the historic church, to your right. 200 yars after NM-337:

Santo Niño Church

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

At I-40s Exit 175, the old alignments of Route 66 have been modified considerably. The original highway (red line in our custom map), ran roughly where the eastbound lanes of the freeway now run. It is from this alignment that the following picture was taken in 1937. Notice the church to the left, and the flat area beyond, where Tijeras river runs. The image looks south.

black and white picture, US 66 runs across the image. Behind, fields, trees, a building facing highway and, left, church with steeple
1937 view of "Village of La Tijera". Source
church to the left (red arrow marks it), car, on highway, trees, wooded hills and cement factory in the distance

Santo Nino Church and Tijeras nowadays. Click for street view

The 1937 picture is captioned "Village of La Tijera."

The Santo Nino Church or Holt Child Parish Church was built as a Roman Catholic place of worship back in 1912, in adobe. At that time it was the Immaculate Conception Church. It was listed in the State Register of Cultural Properties (1977), and the National Register of Historic Places. After reverting to the Keleher family, ownership passed to Tijeras ca. 1935, who renamed it Santo Niño (Holy Child). A new church was completed in 1971 and the old one is no longer in use.
The other image was taken iun the same spot of the 1937 picture. The red arrow marks the church.

Luis Garcia Park and Veteran's Monument

NM 333 (Old Route 66), Tijeras.
Named after a local resident slain in Sandia Park in 1999, behind the old church as shown in this map.

Walton's General Merchandise Store (Gone)

Oscar "Judge" Walton, born in Oklahoma, had been a Justice of Peace in Alamogordo; with his wife Edna Mae opened their store here in the late 1930s (the 1940 Census recorded them here, with their daughter Sandra Kay). Shortly after, Edna is listed as postmaster of the Zamora Post Office in 1942. The post office changed to Tijeras on February 1, 1947 and Edna continued as postmaster until 1958 when she married Bryant Davis.

It was located on the eastern side of Hwy 337, with a dry gully behind it (St. view), and you can see it in this aerial photo taken iun 1951 (right).

black and white postcard from 1948, US 66 runs across the image. Behind a building, sign reads Walton’s Store, hills with trees, and 1940s car
1948 postcard of Walton's General Merchandise in Tijeras. Source

The Ideal Cement Company built its plant in Tijeras in 1959. And it is linked to Walton's store because it was st struck by a Tijeras cement factory truck and razed c.1970.

The Oasis site (gone)

Drive west for 0.8 mi to the site of a classic gas station- Raymond Curtis' opened it in 1932. It was a box-shaped stone building with groceries and gas. When I-40 was built in the 1970s, the place was torn down. Below is a "Then and Now" sequence, the building stood on the left (south) side of the highway, which now places it on the embankment of the freeways eastbound lanes; the new frontage road is not exactly aligned with the old '66 as it was rebuilt during I-40 construction. See the old building in this 1951 aerial photo. This map marks the spot.

black and white postcard from 1940s, US 66 to the right, curves left in the distance. Hills with trees.  Box shaped stone building, with black car to the left
1940s postcard of The Oasis, Tijeras. Source
Freeway, vehicles, hills with trees, red arrow marking a spot on the left
Site of The Oasis nowadays, Tijeras. Click for street view

Old Roadbed and Curve

map with red arrows marking features and dashed line showing US66 alignment west of Tijeras

Curve west of Tijeras on Old US 66 Satellite view
Click to enlarge

Continue west. Just before the curve ahead on NM-333 the original 1938-45 Route 66 alignment avoided a cutting and descended to the left from what is now a parking spot on the south shoulder. It skirted the hill that was later cut by I-40. Click on the image to see a large view. This aerial photo from 1951 shows the curve in use, our custom map marks the spot with a violet line.

Site of the Western Marker

There was a marker on the western side of Tijeras. It has been removed. Its inscription read: "This pass between the Sandia and Manzano (Manzanita portion) Mountains was used for centuries by Indians, Spanish explorers, traders, 49'ers. Both mountain ranges top 10,600 feet. Canyons crossing at Tijeras resemble opened scissors which gave village (further along) its name". Below is a "Then and Now" set of images:

Looking east towards Tijeras, hills surround highway. Log framed marker sign painted yellow to the right

Old marker at Tijeras Canyon. Source

Looking east towards Tijeras, hills surround freeway highway, truck ahead

Site of old marker, Tijeras Canyon nowadays. Click for street view

Continue your Road Trip

Your Route 66 itinerary across Tijeras ends here. But there are some interesting sights in the area, close to the highway. We describe them below.

You can continue your Route 66 road trip by heading west into the next town, Carnuel NM.

Tours & Itineraries plus outdoor Fun

Some Amazing Side Trips near Tijeras

Tijeras Pueblo archeological site

11776 Highway 337, Tijeras, NM. Map marking the spot.

sign of the interpretative trail, showing how the Pueblo looked during its second occupation, sepia color drawing

Tijeras pueblo sign on the self-guided trail.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The remains of a 14th century Pueblo. (not much to see, but an interesting walk to learn history.)
Head south along NM-337 and after 1⁄2 mile is the Ranger Station on the left side of the highway. The Site is behind the Station.
There is an interpretative Center and a self-guided trail (1⁄3 of a mile - 500 m) which has signs and models of the pueblo, inhabited by the Pueblo Natives. None of the adobe buildings have survived weathering.
The pueblo had adobe homes and had around 400 residents. It was built in the 1300s and was located on the crossroads of two trade routes: one east to west linking the Great Plains with California (now Route 66 - I-40) and another north to south from Santa Fe to Mexico The Turquoise Trail and the Salt Mission Trail.

Radiocarbon dating has placed the period that it was inhabited between 1313 and 1425. The site had a "U" shape and comprised 200 rooms built in adobe. The center of the village had a "Kiva" (underground ceremonial room). Around 1360 it was partially abandoned, but it was repopulated again in 1390. Later the climate became drier and the pueblo definitively was abandoned.

Secnic Tours

The Turquoise Trail Tour

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


Turquoise is a gem and ornamental stone with an opaque blue to green color. It is a hydrous phosphate of aluminium and copper and has been used in jewelery since prehistoric times.

The name comes from the French words "pierre tourques" for "Turkish stone." Not because there were found there, but because the Turkish traders sold these gems.

Start at Tijeras and head north along New Mexico State Highway 14 (NM-14) which follows a scenic route passing through several towns (Cedar Crest, Sandia Crest, Madrid) and reaches Santa Fe. There are many intersting sights along the way.

Turquoise Trail road sign next to highway

Turquoise Trail scenic byway road sign. Santa Fe, NM. Austin Whittall

Cedar Crest

The town was founded by Carl Webb in 1925, and is just north of Tijeras. It was named after the "cedars" (juniper) in the area.

Visit its Museum of Archaeology and Material Culture spanning 12,000 years of American prehistory. Shops and lodging.

Head north and reach Sandia Park, from where you can take two intesting side trips into the Sandia Mountains

Sandia Crest Scenic Byway

With a 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.

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.

See the Map and Directions to Sandia Crest.

View along the Sandia Crest Scenic Byway

highway surrounded by pine tree forest
The road that leads to Sandia Crest, Sandia Mountains, New Mexico. Click for Street View

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

Sandia Cave

SR 165, Sandia Park, NM.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

sheer rock cliff, railings and staircase lead to cave. Trees and blue sky above

Sandia Cave. Source

Drive west from Sandia Park Center along NM-536W and at the junction that leads to Sandia Crest Scenic Byway, follow SR-165 North along the valley it is a very rough road. At 12.8 miles is the parking area and sign. 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 with railings that leads to the cave's entrance (pictured)

Vandals have painted graffiti on the stairs, cave and its access cage. It has been cleaned several times. 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.

Eco-system along the Turquoise Trail

The high desert area has pygmy forest species like juniper, Apache plume, wafer ash, pinion and mountain mahogany. Higher up, in the mountains are ponderosa pines and white firs.

There are bears (look out for bears and be careful if you see one), coyote, puma (mountain lion) and birds such as owls, hummingbirds and eagles.

Continuing north from Sandia Peak is the town of Golden


Close to Golden are the remains of two pueblos built in AD 1300. The town owes its name to an 1880s gold rush. Visit the San Francisco Catholic Church, built in adobe in 1830.


Mail boxes lined up in Madrid

mail boxes lined up nexto to street in Madrid New Mexico
Madrid mail boxes,

Named after the descendants of Francisco de Madrid who settled here in 1603. Madrid is halfway down the Turquoise Trail, and it was a coal mining town that even had a Santa Fe railroad spur built to it. The price of coal dropped and by 1950 it became a ghost town. It has resurged with after the mid 1960s and now boasts artists, craftsmen, gallery owners, and Santa Fe commuters as residents. Charming and artsy with nice shops.


Famous for its "Cerrillos" variety of blue-green turqouise which has been mined here since AD 900.
It is the oldest mining site in the US.
The Spaniards mined silver and lead in the area after the 1600s founding El Real de los Cerrillos (Cerrillos means "small hills") razed during the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. It was rebuilt in the late 1800s.

Visit the Cerrillos Turquoise Mining Museum, the "hanging tree", Saint Joseph's Church, and the Cerrillos State Park as well as the Ortiz Mountains Educational Preserve; which is a botanical garden protecting the high desert flora; nice for hiking.

Approaching the end of the trail are two more stops:

Lone Butte & San Marcos

With good vistas of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the black rock formations of the "Garden of the Gods". The byway ends at Route 66 in Santa Fe.

At this point you can turn around and go back towards Tijeras along the same route, of continue north towards Santa Fe and return via Albuquerque along the old 1926-1937 alignment of Route 66, and from there, head eastwards to Tijeras.

Salt Missions Scenic Byway

This is a circuit of 116 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 Tijeras in the mountains, to the plains in the east.

From Tijeras head west along Old Route 66 (NM-333), which is aligned along the trail used by Apaches to raid the Spanish settlements on the Rio Grande. Go by Edgewood and head east until reaching Moriarty where you must take a right and head south along NM-41. Go through the town of McIntosh and reach Estancia, which was an ancient Native American campsite with a spring and abundant water, ideal in a desert setting.

The next town is Mountainair, founded in 1902; visit the Shaffer Hotel or Rancho Bonito. From here you can take some side trips to visit ancient "pueblos" belonging to the Salinas Pueblos Missions National Monument:

The Abo ruins (9 mi. along US-60, west), Quarai (8 mi. north alog NM-55) and Gran Quivira (25 mi. south on NM-55). Full information at the visitors' center in Mountainair.

These pueblos traded salt (from the salt flats of Lake Estancia), squash, cotton and corn. You can also visit the remains of Spanish Mission churches in these pueblos, which were built in the 1600s.

From Mountainair the road heads north (NM-55 and later NM-337) passing through the towns of Manzano (Visit the "Manzano Mountains State Park"), Tajique, Chilili, Escobosa, and Yrisarri. Make a point of stopping to see their catholic churches.

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 legend 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.

four pictures clockwise: sign reading MANZANO MOUNTAINS STATE PARK, pine trees in the snow with sun behind, a campground with pine trees, aerial view of a forest
Manzano Mountains State Park NM. Source

The park is 46 miles southwest of Tijeras (Map with directions).

Contact: Official website.

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

The road then enters Cibola National Forest (link leads to our Moriarty webpage) south of Tijeras: it is a great spot for hiking, camping, or a picnic, Head north to return back to Tijeras; the end of the circuit.

Municipal Parks

John A. Milne - Gutierrez Canyon Open Space

5 mi. northeast of Tijeras, see the Map with directions

These are a combined surface of 720-acres in two contiguous parks that belong to the City of Albuquerque, and were set aside for preservation of nature.

Great spot for hiking, bike riding and scenic views in the pinion-juniper forests.

Carlito Springs

cabins on a wooded hill in a 1912 postcard

Whitcomb Springs in 1912. Source

Located on the slopes of Sandia Mountains that face Tijeras, on the north side of I-40 and US66 (map showing where it is)
They were originally known as Whitcomb Springs, after H.G. Whitcomb, a Civil War veteran who fought for the Union, who settled here. In 1930 Carlton Cole Magee purchased the site and renamed it Carlito Springs after his son Carl Magee Jr. who had died in a plane crash in 1925. Magee owned the Albuquerque Tribune and in 1932 invented the "coin controlled parking meter." (3)

It was a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients and had 26 cabins. After Carlton's death in 1946 his daughter Gertrude Trudy and her husband Tony Grenko took over the resort and ran it until 1958. In the year 2000 Bernalillo County purchases the 177.28 acre Carlito Springs property for open space preservation program. advertisement

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Banner image: Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona by Perla Eichenblat
Town Website
Turquoise Trail website,
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.

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