Turquoise has been mined along the route of NM 14 for centuries, first by Indians and later by Spaniards, Mexicans, and Americans. Today you can follow the Turquoise Trail, a National Scenic Byway, through the remnants of 19th-century mining districts where this gemstone—along with gold, coal, and lead—was once extracted.
Head south from Santa Fe on NM 14 to Cerrillos, a sleepy village where many Westerns have been filmed. Next is Madrid, a coal-producing boomtown that would have died out in the 1970s if artists hadn’t come to the rescue. Check out the galleries, studios, shops, and summer entertainment, which includes outdoor concerts and a weekend melodrama. The Old Coal Mine Museum documents a lost era, although one Madrid tradition lingers on: During Christmas season, thousands of outdoor lights are hung throughout the community.
Golden, the next mining town on the trail, is now its tiniest. It was founded in 1825 amid the first gold rush west of the Mississippi. At San Antonito, follow NM 536 through the Sandia Mountains to 10,678-foot-high Sandia Crest for an awesome view of Albuquerque and the Rio Grande Valley. Retracing your route, stop at the Tinkertown Museum, which displays a private collector’s amazing assortment of wedding-cake ornaments, miniature toys, bottles, and other oddities.
Next take NM 14 south to I-40 and head east to NM 41, where you’ll go north through wide-open rangeland to the emerging art colony of Galisteo. Join US 285 near Lamy for the short trip back to town, following I-25 the last several miles. This is about a 150-mile round trip.
Map of North Central New Mexico
#1: West on the Jemez Mountain Trail
#2: Northwest to Georgia O’Keeffe Country
#3: North to Taos
#4: East to Las Vegas
Five Santa Fe Trips
Santa Fe, New Mexico