Turquoise Trail and MadridA round trip of about 150 miles
From Santa Fe, drive south on NM 14, known as the Turquoise Trail. A National Scenic Byway, this trail takes its name from the gemstone that Indians, then Spaniards, Mexicans and Americans mined in this region for centuries.
Along the Turquoise Trail, you can explore unique towns, offering restaurants, shops, lodging, artists' studios, galleries and museums. Prehistoric peoples made their homes here. Spanish missionaries explored the area and battles were fought over this land. Outlaws and Confederate soldiers camped in the area. And Kit Carson marched Navajo people along the Trail in their "Long Walk"? to incarceration at Fort Sumner. Mines were dug in the mining districts for native copper, lead, iron, gold and turquoise.
Scenic views, diverse cultures, extensive history and great outdoor opportunities continue to entice visitors to journey down the beautiful Turquoise Trail today.*
Stop first at Cerrillos, once a central part of the Old Spanish Mineral Developments in the Southwest. Turquoise plucked from mines here ended up in Spain's crown jewels. By the 1880s, Cerrillos was a major mining town, producing gold, silver, lead and zinc and enough money to keep 21 saloons and four hotels in business. Today, the small town's dirt streets are lined with historic adobe and western buildings that have served as settings for numerous Western movies. Down the road lies Madrid, once a booming coal-mining town famous for its Christmas light displays and minor league baseball games held in the first lighted stadium in the West. After coal use declined, Madrid became a ghost town until the 1970s, when artists revived it with galleries, studios, restaurants, music concerts and even the annual holiday light display.
Continue south on NM 14 to the tiny town of Golden, established in 1825 during the first gold rush west of the Mississippi. Start your ascent into the Sandia Mountains at San Antonito, where NM 536 takes you up Sandia Crest. At an elevation of 10,678 feet, you'll get some jaw-dropping views of Albuquerque and the Rio Grande Valley. Drive back down and visit Tinkertown Museum, filled with hand-carved miniature figures and wacky Western memorabilia. Then follow NM 14 south to I-40 and drive east to NM 41. Head north on NM 41 to Galisteo, an historic adobe town populated largely by artists. Follow NM 41 to 285 near Lamy. Take 285 north to I-25 south to return to Santa Fe.