An increasing number of affordable connecting flights make the journey to Santa Fe by air much easier than it used to be, but many visitors still fly into Albuquerque International Sunport and rent a car to take the hour-long drive north. While the ride up CanAm Highway 25 is quick, it can be pretty boring with very little to look at or experience on the way. If you’re searching to get a healthy dose of New Mexico’s heritage, history, and raw beauty, we highly recommend driving on the Turquoise Trail to Santa Fe. Whether you experience it going to or from Albuquerque, you won’t want to miss the three small towns that dot this historic road, taking you back to the days of the Gold Rush and Wild West. In between stops, plan all of the things you’re going to see and do with our free Vacation Guide! It’s full of local tips and insider information so you can spend less time planning and more time having fun in the Land of Enchantment!
Take the Turquoise Trail to Santa Fe
While you’re traveling from Albuquerque to Santa Fe or vice versa, you can always take the shorter direct route on I-25, but we recommend taking a scenic drive on NM-14. This 50-mile journey takes you through the old mining towns of Golden, Madrid, and Los Cerrillos, where you’ll find saloons, hip art communities, and the first baseball stadium in the west to use lights.
The first stop on before hopping on the Turquoise Trail to Santa Fe is Sandia Peak. This mountain stands 10,000 feet over Albuquerque in the northeast corner of the city. You can drive up from the base of the mountain for stunning views of the town and surrounding mountains.
Now it’s time to hit the road and get on the Turquoise Trail. Golden was the site of the first Gold Rush west of the Mississippi. Although it ultimately failed with very little yield, the highlight of this “town” is the fiesta at San Francisco de Asis in October, celebrating a medieval Spanish ritual.
Out of your three stops along the Turquoise Trail to Santa Fe, Madrid is the most lively. A small burgeoning art scene now inhabits this once booming coal mining village. This was a major stop along the Santa Fe Railroad in the 1800s, and it is also home to the old AA Minor League Baseball team, the Madrid Miners. They played in Oscar Huber Stadium which was the first lighted ballpark west of the Mississippi. This is a good spot to stop and grab a bite to eat or shop at one of the unique stores.
If you want to know what a real frontier town looked like in the 1800s, a stop in Los Cerrillos is a must. The six dirt streets of this Wild West town feature saloons and shops that look like they are right out of a Western movie. There isn’t much to do here other than stop by the Black Bird Saloon for a drink or see St. Joseph Catholic Church. Even if you only spend 10 minutes in Los Cerrillos, it’s a fascinating step back in time.
We included a map of the full Turquoise Trail drive itinerary here so you can see the mileage and time it takes to enjoy this scenic route!
It’s only a 30-minute drive from Los Cerrillos to Four Kachinas Inn, where you can relax in one of our comfy and cozy Santa Fe accommodations. After a restful night of sleep, you can savor our complimentary gourmet breakfast before exploring the Santa Fe’s popular sights and attractions or taking an exciting tour of the city. Whether you want to dive into the thriving art scene, taste local flavors, or learn about all of the history packed into the second oldest city in the country, Santa Fe has something for everyone!
What are you waiting for? Book room today and start planning your Santa Fe getaway! We look forward to meeting you!