Exploring the Turquoise Trail

Saloons, opera houses, dusty mining towns and other relics of the Wild West are all part of the history that grips our imagination along the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway. Travel the trail today, and you’ll encounter a colorful past full of gunslingers, opera singers and coal miners. A vibrant present awaits you, too, with galleries, shops, cafes, restaurants and more. Check out ancient rock art, a scenic state park, and a living history museum. After you unwind at a tranquil spa, you’ll never want to leave. Read on to discover our Top 6 Things To Do along Santa Fe County’s Turquoise Trail.

Into The Old West

Kick off your adventure in the Village of Cerrillos, where rustic buildings line dusty streets and time seems to have stood still. The landscape and the village have starred in many film and TV productions, from “Young Guns” to “Longmire.” Walk through the village to see the old opera house and other historic buildings. You can buy turquoise, mined in this area for more than a millennium, in shops such as Cerrillos Station Mercantile. Have lunch at the restored Blackbird Saloon, which dates to the 1880s, and you’ll feel like you’re back in the heyday of the Old West town, especially when you try the Black Jack Ketchum burger, spiked with gun-powder rub.

Learn more about the area’s mining history at treasured Cerrillos Hills State Park, located on the edge of town. Hike trails to abandoned mines or take a guided horseback ride. Either way, you’ll marvel at the sweeping mountain views. Locals love the Star Parties, where a sky guide reveals galaxies, star clusters, planets and constellations in the sky above you. The park also hosts birding hikes and other fun events.

The Blackbird Saloon

An Old "Company Town"

Head south to Madrid, a little town with a big history. Gold fever broke out in the mid 1800s followed by a boom in coal mining, when Madrid became a “company town.” Learn more at the Madrid Coal Town Museum. Then shop away the day in Madrid’s boutiques, galleries, antique stores and more. For an authentic taste of Madrid, head to the historic Mine Shaft Tavern and dig into a hearty green chile cheeseburger, a regional favorite. Chat up the locals at the impressively long wooden bar. Stay for the live music. Before leaving town, stock up at Shugarman’s Little Chocolate Shop on some fair trade, organic treats such green chile cashew, white chocolate lavender and Thai lemongrass bark. Heading back north on the Santa Fe Trail, an easy detour leads to El Rancho de las Golondrinas Living History Museum, celebrating New Mexico’s culture and heritage from the 17th and 18th centuries. Costumed docents, historic buildings and annual festivals showcase the region’s past and present. The November Harvest Festival, for instance, offers cider-making with a traditional apple press, tortilla making and other hands-on activities that bring New Mexico’s unique history to life.

El Rancho de Las Golondrinas

Insider Tip

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 WildWest mining towns. Yep, there’s gold in them thar’ hills...as well as silver, zinc, coal and, most famously, turquoise!

Ancient Rock Art

Journey deeper into the past at nearby La Cieneguilla Petroglyph Site, where ancient Pueblo people carved fantastical images into rocks and boulders. No one can interpret with certainty the meaning of these images made so long ago. But you’ll have fun trying as you view the many petroglyphs depicting birds, deer and Kokopelli, the infamous hump-back flute player. Bring sturdy hiking shoes to access this mysterious, majestic site.

La Cieneguilla Petroglyph Site

Spa Resort Sanctuary

There’s nothing like outdoor hot springs to restore your spirits after a day on the road, and Ojo Santa Fe Spa Resort is your ticket to pure bliss. This award-winning retreat offers secluded outdoor pools with spring-fed waters, surrounded by a lush oasis of gardens, trees and pathways. Indulge with a hot stone massage, and then work out the kinks in your body with a yoga session by a peaceful pond. Savor a farm-to-table meal at Blue Heron, which showcases seasonal ingredients grown on the resort’s farm. Goat brie in phyllo pastry is a signature starter, and the Three Sisters Tamale is a delectable blend of calabacitas, pinto bean ragout and New Mexico’s famous Chimayó red chile. You’ll feel so relaxed that you’ll want to spend the night in this serene spot, and you can, in a room with a garden view or a casita with your own courtyard.

Ojo Santa Fe Spa Resort

Insider Tip

The Madrid Christmas Parade is a wondrous sight to see. Led by a red-nosed yak, the procession includes a merry band of elves, Santas, mermaids and other motley characters, riding in vintage automobiles, hippie vans or on classic motorcycles. After all, Madrid is the town where “Wild Hogs” was filmed.