New Mexico August 02, 2016
Take This Road Trip Through New Mexico’s Most Picturesque Small Towns For An Unforgettable Experience
Small towns offer a
slower pace of life, hole-in-the-wall restaurants that’ll have you craving seconds, and some unexpectedly intriguing attractions. While it’s fun to visit one small town for the day, what if you could visit nine of them? Well, driving along this route through New Mexico allows you to do just that. The drive time is a hair under 7 hours and the journey covers 320 miles. That gives you the option to complete it in one long day or to make a weekend out of this road trip. Of course, we couldn’t include all of our state’s wonderful small towns without sending you zigzagging across New Mexico for days. So we focused on creating a loop (technically a figure eight) out of scenic small towns with populations under 10,000.
You’ll find the map for this route
Now, let’s hit the road!
1. Sandia Park
Sandia Park is home to Tinkertown, a folk art museum that houses incredible collections of miniatures, circus memorabilia, and a boat! You definitely have to see this place to believe it.
Madrid is an adorable village on the Turquoise Trail. This old mining town fell into decline and flirted with being a ghost town. Artists reclaimed it and converted it into the funky, creative gem you see today. Amble along the main street, browsing through galleries and jewelry stores. Grab a drink at the Mineshaft Tavern, dine at The Hollar or Mama Lisa's Ghost Town Kitchen, and finish your meal off with ice cream at Jezebel Soda Fountain or chocolate from Shugarman's. There's also a small but eclectic coal mining museum in Madrid.
When you walk through Cerrillos, along a dusty road lined with buildings with Western facades, you expect to see an outlaw swagger out of a saloon any moment. This town, which has 321 residents, so captures the spirit of the Wild West that Cerrillos has repeatedly been used as a filming location. The movie "Young Guns" was shot here along with the TV series "Longmire."
While you're visiting, don't miss the origami sculptures in the Turquoise Trail Sculpture Garden. Cerrillos Hills State Park is also worth investigating because it provides a glimpse back into New Mexico's mining past.
El Santuario de Chimayo is famous for its sacred earth, which many believe has healing properties. Join the many pilgrims drawn to this spiritual and beautiful site and don't skip over the vibrant Santo Nino Chapel. Afterwards, stroll over to Ortega's Weaving Shop to marvel at the handwoven goods. Nine generations from this one family have worked as talented weavers.
The small town of Penasco is in a gorgeous location. There are several galleries to explore and buildings like the Penasco Theatre (pictured) which are works of art in their own right. Be sure to grab a bite to eat at Sugar Nymphs Bistro, a Penasco restaurant dedicated to using local produce. Picuris Pueblo is in Penasco and you can take self-guided or guided tours of the village. Guests are welcome to observe the bison herd that resides at the pueblo.
6. Buena Vista
The entire county of Mora only has 4881 residents so pretty much every town is a small town. The drive between Penasco and Buena Vista is picturesque and, if you time it right, you can pick-your-own raspberries at Salman Raspberry Ranch. Otherwise you can sample the crop by picking up some of the raspberry products at the farm store.
Without a doubt, the highlight of Pecos is its national historical park, which preserves the remains of a pueblo (dating back to 1100 A.D.) and also a Spanish mission. Pecos is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts because it provides easy access to the Pecos River, wilderness areas, and forests. Peckish while in Pecos? Head to Frankie's at the Cassanova for green chile stew.
Corrales is the largest small town on this road trip, with a population of 8329. Driving through this area affords great views of the Sandia Mountains and the Rio Grande. Take time to relax with a glass of vino at one of the indie wineries in Corrales: Acequia Vineyards and Winery, Milagro Vineyards,
Corrales Winery, and
Pasando Tiempo Winery.
History buffs will also be charmed by Casa San Ysidro, an old adobe home that provides information about Spanish Colonial times.
At this point in the drive, you might welcome an opportunity to stretch your legs. Take the short steep hike up to Sandia Man Cave. This archeological site in Las Huertas Canyon is archeologically significant because, prior to excavation, it contained remains from some of the earliest humans to live in North America. (Bring a flashlight.)
10. Sandia Park
Complete the loop with a scenic drive back to Sandia Park.
Do you like the idea of a small town road trip? Are any of your
favorite small towns included? We love a good road trip and have devised several others such as our haunted Northern New Mexico road trip and our spooky Southern New Mexico route.