Turquoise Trail: Legends and Landscapes
A drive along the Turquoise Trail isn't just a gorgeous day out, it's a journey back in time through the colorful histories of old Wild West mining towns. Yep, there's gold in them thar’ hills… as well as silver, zinc, coal and, most famously, turquoise!
The 62-mile Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway runs south from Santa Fe along Highway 14 and it's the perfect mini road trip, an easy drive with stunning 360 views of several mountain ranges from the Sangre de Cristos to "the greener side" of the Sandia mountains.
THE MAGIC OF MADRID
The liveliest town on the Turquoise Trail is Madrid. (Approximately 27 miles south of Santa Fe Plaza, Madrid is pronounced with a New Mexican twist. The emphasis is on the first syllable: MAH-drid.) The road meanders through this charming town, where former miners' cabins have been brightly painted and prettied up into art galleries, boutiques and cafes. From the 1800s through the peak years of the Santa Fe Railroad, Madrid was a busy coal mining town. After the mines closed in the 1950s, it became a ghost town until artists reclaimed it as an arts colony.
Ghost hunters still visit the Mine Shaft Tavern, renowned for spooky phenomena, its 40-foot lodgepole pine bar (the longest stand-up bar in New Mexico), its murals and live music. Sitting on the deck of this rugged old saloon on a sunny day with a cool drink, munching one of their famous green chili cheeseburgers and watching passers-by, you might imagine that if any ghosts are still here, they're probably just hanging out to enjoy the views too!
A mosey around the Old Coal Mine Museum (entry off the Mine Shaft Tavern deck) reveals Madrid’s mining history. Relics include a 1900 Richmond steam locomotive. Stroll down the boardwalk to shop for handcrafted New Mexican treasures, from art, glass and home decor to jewelry and vintage cowboy boots.
If you think the town looks familiar, maybe you saw the movie Wild Hogs with stars including John Travolta and Tim Allen – much of it was filmed in Madrid. The Mine Shaft Tavern also took its turn in the spotlight, standing in as the Red Pony Saloon in the Netflix series Longmire.
THE CHARM OF CERRILLOS
Turquoise has been mined here for at least a thousand years, first by ancestral Indians and later by the Spanish – Cerrillos turquoise traveled across the world to adorn the Spanish crown jewels! Later, Cerrillos supplied turquoise to swanky jewelers Tiffany & Co. Cerrillos (less than 4 miles north of Madrid) was once such a booming frontier town that visitors included Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Edison. Now, it's a quieter place although its rustic old buildings hint at past glories. You'll see why Cerrillos was chosen as the location for the Wild West movie Young Guns, starring Emilio Estevez as Billy the Kid!
The Casa Grande Trading Post, Cerrillos Turquoise Mining Museum, and Petting Zoo has something for everyone. You'll recognize the Trading Post's rambling adobe hacienda packed with collectibles by the hundreds of vintage glass bottles lined up in the windows. Kids will love feeding llamas and goats at the petting zoo after you browse for turquoise gifts to take home.
A circa 1893 building served this once booming mining town as a mercantile and saloon, is now home to Cerrillos Station, offering unique gifts, and arts & crafts.
The Blackbird Saloon offers another taste of Cerrillos' storied history, serving food and drinks in a restored 1880s saloon. Or picnic in Cerrillos Hills State Park, where you can hike or bike along five miles of scenic trails to see abandoned turquoise mines and expansive vistas of the Galisteo basin.
To explore Cerrillos and nearby landscapes, rent an "electric assist" bike from Cerrillos E-Bikes or take a guided bike tour – the e-bikes are easy to ride, without breaking a sweat.
Wannabe cowboys and gals saddle up at the Broken Saddle Stables for horseback rides to Devil's Canyon or the Grand Central Silver Mine. Sunset rides add to the photo opportunities. What a great way to end a perfect day on the Turquoise Trail!
Blackbird Saloon: 28 Main Street, Cerrillos, NM 87010, 505.438.1821
Broken Saddle Stables: 26 Vicksville Rd, Cerrillos, NM 87010, 505.424.7774
Casa Grande Trading Post, Turquoise Mining Museum, Petting Zoo: 17 Waldo St, Cerrillos, NM 87010, 505.438.3008
Cerrillos E-Bikes: 20 Yerba Buena, Cerrillos, NM, 87010, 505.473.8560
Cerrillos Hills State Park Visitor Center: 37 Main St., Cerrillos, NM 87010, 505.474.0196
Cerrillos Station: 15B 1st St., Cerrillos, NM 87010, 505.474.9326
Mine Shaft Tavern: 2846 NM-14, Madrid, NM 87010, 505.473.0743
Old Coal Mine Museum: entrance at the Mine Shaft Tavern, 505.473.0743
Town of Madrid: visitmadrid.com
Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway: turquoisetrail.org
Explore Day Trips:
The Miracle of Chimayo: Tastes and Traditions - Whether you want to feed your body, your soul or your apetite for history, charming Chimayo, 28 miles north of Santa Fe, offers the kind of nourishment you won't find anywhere else!
Native American Culture: Walking Ancient Paths - Step into the sacred legacy of ancestral Pueblo people by exploring the earliest cliff dewllings and ceremonial sites in Santa Fe County.
Outdoor Adventures: Escape on the Trails - Santa Fe enjoys 325 days of sunshine a year, crystal clean air, stunning mountains, forest and high desert landscapes, and vistas that call people back time and again.