Find the best getaways for under a tank of gas.
By Moriah Carty
With weather this perfect, there’s no reason to stay inside. So why not take a trip to some beautiful peaks? Namely, the Jemez Mountains.
There are enough sites in the area to keep a mind and body busy for a whole weekend – and all on a single tank of gas.
Albuquerque to Gilman Tunnels: 57 miles
Outside of the rich pueblo culture and history, the Jemez are dotted with hiking trails, climbing areas and, notably, various hot springs.
First, head up to the Gilman Tunnels off of Highway 4, also known as the Jemez Scenic Byway. Originally for logging and forest access, Forest Road 376 is now a multipurpose access road know for the stunning series of granite-carved arches.
Low- and high-clearance vehicles alike can handle this road. It’s a 24-mile scenic drive through the Jemez National Forest, where the leaves are turning from brilliant green to vibrant hues of red, yellow and orange.
Small creeks run through the meadows while cows graze lazily nearby. If you’re lucky, you may spot some deer. Take your time – this picturesque beauty shouldn’t be sped past.
A word of caution, though: Make sure to check with the local forest ranger on the road conditions and closures before making the trip. Winter weather renders this way inaccessible.
Once you reach NM 126, cross it to continue on FR 376 toward San Antonio Hot Springs, the second waypoint. Another five miles, and the trailhead parking lot comes in view.
Gilman Tunnels to San Antonio Hot Springs: 30 miles
It’s time to stretch those legs. Pack lots of snacks and extra water; the hike to the springs is short, but scenic. A quick mile later and it’s time to soak.
The San Antonio Hot Springs are a little less frequented than some of the other, more easily accessed hot springs.
The water trickles into the lower pools, giving off light steam in the brisk, fall air. The effect is complete relaxation. The pool at the top is the best, as the warm water feeds directly into it and it has the best view of the valley below.
Don’t forget your hammock: The perfectly spaced pine trees offer impeccable spots for napping.
San Antonio Hot Springs to Battleship Rock Picnic Area: 12 miles
On the way back, stop at the Battleship Rock picnic site and check out the magnificent volcanic rock formation that, in fact, resembles a Navy battleship. The ambitious hiker can follow the trail at the base of the formation and make it to the top.
As always, pay attention to maps and fee areas.
Battleship Rock Picnic Area to Soda Dam Historical Marker: 4 miles
Soda Dam Historical Marker is a funky rock formation. Years of erosion from the sulfuric water bubbling underneath have left a wave-shaped rock, ready to fall into the waterfall below it. Take some more pictures. It’s the last spot for a good photo on the way out.
Soda Dam Historical Marker to Highway 4 Coffee: 1.5 miles
One more stop before the haul home. Highway 4 Coffee is open late on the weekends, a bonus for weary travelers. A warm cup of coffee and some locally made sweet pastries are the perfect boost to make it home. A few more moments in the company of the locals and hop back into the vehicle.
Highway 4 Coffee to Albuquerque: 59 miles
After a long day, it’s time to head home. The sun is setting on the Sandias on the drive back, a reminder as to why they are called Sandia in the first place.
Stops: 5, Miles: 163.5
Moriah Carty is an Albuquerque local with a heavy sense of wanderlust.