Posted by: sunnyharvy | April 27, 2014

Jemez Mountain Scenic Byway

During a recent stop at a visitor center I came across a brochure about this 120 mile long National Scenic & Historic Byway. That brochure proclaims, “In addition to sights and destinations along the primary route, there are several short side roads that lead to even more beauty and places to visit.” Sounded good to me, so we headed to San Ysidro, NM at the southern end of Route 4, east of Santa Fe.

After lunch at the Red Rocks picnic grounds across from the Walatowa Visitor Center, we took one of the advertised side roads (Route 485) to see Gilman’s Tunnels. These marvels were blasted through solid rock mountains in the 1920s to construct a rail line for hauling logs out of the mountains.



Nearby scenery


Back on Route 4 we set-up camp at the Linda Vista Campground.


Our first stop the next morning was this strange looking formation. The Soda Dam has been formed by water from underground hot springs that have flowed here for centuries. You can see the waterfall in the lower right hand corner, but the angle of the sun was not optimal for taking a good photo.


A bit of roadside art near the Soda Dam.

A few more miles up the road we parked and packed up some towels and lunch for a hike to Spence Hot Springs, a beautiful spot perched on the hillside. We lucked out as there was just one other couple and a single guy to share the pools with. We luxuriated in the warm spring waters and awesome view for a couple of hours free of charge.




The water was warmest inside the cave near the source of the hot spring.


After our relaxing soak, we took another side trip on Route 126. We didn’t let the “Unimproved Mountainous Road” signs deter us from reaching our intended destination at remote Fenton Lake State Park. We took a beautiful late afternoon hike along the river, around the beautiful mountain meadow, and across the dam. Meteor showers were predicted to occur that night and we had a great view of the dark sky through our roof glass, but I only saw one brilliant flash across the sky.



Once again we were grateful for our diesel heater as the morning low temperature at this high elevation was 27 degrees! Our next stop included an easy hike to view Jemez Falls. The area and nearby campground were practically deserted. We only saw one other couple on this hike through the forest of towering Ponderosa Pines.



Bandelier National Monument would be our last overnight along this remarkable scenic byway. Wait ’til you see what we got to do there!


  1. Definitely enjoying your adventure through your postings. Thank you for sharing the journey.

    • You bet Tom, thanks for saying so. I really enjoy receiving comments. As you know, it takes time to edit photos, write copy, etc. so it’s nice to know that people are viewing what I produce.

  2. Did Phil and I leave a trail many years ago………..not many people travel this route…….magic country.

  3. Love New Mexico — too bad cannot earn a good income. I think we visited Bandalier NP on our ’89 trip. Look for kivas, a village then abandonment due too much garbage. I recall a beautiful hike up a flowing creek gorge.

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