Western Trips

Western Trips

Monday, June 18, 2012

Jemez Springs

jemez springs new mexico
Jemez Springs NM

Jemez Springs New Mexico is a very scenic small settlement in the Jemez Mountains within the Santa Fe National Forest. Jemez Springs and the surrounding area are home to natural mineral hot springs. The hot springs are found on both public and private land. Several of those on private land are open to visitors for a fee. Bathing suits are required at all hot springs. Hot springs are found in many places in the United States. These springs arise from geothermally heated ground water coming from the earth's crust. In the Jemez Springs area the water temperature can be in the range of 140 to 180 degrees. The range of flow can be anything from a trickle to a flowing river and in some cases as geysers such as in Yellowstone National Park and in Calistoga California. 

A Scenic New Mexico Drive

The drive to Jemez Springs is as scenic as the town itself. Jemez Springs is surrounded by some of the most beautiful red rocks found anywhere in the country. When the Spaniards explored this area in 1540, the Jemez Valley had been occupied by pueblo Indians for thousands of years prior. As a result of later Spanish colonization of Nuevo Mexico, the Franciscans established a mission, San Jose de los Jemez. The mission was built in 1621 but was abandoned in the 1640's. An interesting historical note is that the massive stonewalls of the mission were constructed about the same time the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. Today, the original mission ruins which are located just on the north side of Jemez Springs are now the Jemez State Monument visited by thousands of people annually. Visitors to the ruins can take an interesting 1,400 foot walking tour with interpretive signs along the way.

jemez mountains
Jemez Mountains
The town of Jemez Springs is located in Sandoval County New Mexico and is 39 miles west of Los Alamos and a 70 mile drive northeast of Santa Fe. The two routes to reach Jemez Springs on NM Rte 4 are from either Los Alamos or from the south at Bernalillo, just north of Albuquerque. The drive from Santa Fe takes about one and one-half hours. An interesting historic side note is that Jemez Springs was one of the sites considered for the 1940's Manhatten Project which ended up being established in Los Alamos. Visitors enjoy the hot springs, the local art galleries and the restaurants. This is one of the best weekend getaways you'll find and is a perfect addition to your Santa Fe western road trip planner.

NM Rte 4 is also the Jemez Trail Scenic Byway which travels through Bandelier National Monument and the Valles Caldera crater on it's way from Los Alamos to Jemez Springs.

Special Photographic Tours Scheduled for 2013

Two three day photographic excursions of Valles Caldera crater will be offered during 2013. 
Visitors for these events will be chosen by lottery. Camping will be allowed at a designated location. Officials say the lottery closes April 24 for the first photography event, which is scheduled for May 24-26. The second events is scheduled for Sept. 20-22, and the lottery closes on Aug. 21. Anyone can apply by calling the preserve at 1-866-382-5537.

New Mexico Hikes and Scenery

jemez springs church
Jemez Springs Parish
Hikers may be interested in the trail to McCauley Warm Springs and Jemez Falls. The round trip takes about three hours and is 5.6 miles in length. It's about a one and one-half mile hike to the McCauley Hot Springs from the battleship Rock Trail head and another one and one-half mile hike to the falls. Battleship Rock is a formation that resembles a bow of a battleship. Battleship Rock is about six miles north of Jemez Springs on NM Rte 4.

The Jemez Canyon winds about 20 miles through multi-colored sandstone and volcanic layers. The canyon's 1,200 foot high walls are thick sandstone carved from wind and water action during the Permian times. Two additional articles we've written that you'll find interesting are Sanctuario de Chimayo and a Santa Fe to Taos Scenic Road Trip.

Public Hot Springs

Public hot springs in the Jemez Valley can be found at Soda Dam, McCauley Warm Springs, Spence Hot Springs and San Antonio Hot Springs. These are day use facilities and are not open for camping. All four of these public springs are located from one to nine miles north of the town. A large variety of lodging is available in and around Jemez Springs including some very good B & B's. Check road conditions for winter visits since some roads may be closed. Jemez Springs location in New Mexico is shown on the map below.

(Photos are from author's private collection)

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