Traveling the Turquoise Trail

After leaving our WorkAway hosts, we decided to travel to Santa Fe for a few days. For most folks, the path from Albuquerque to Santa Fe is a fast trip up I-25, but that isn’t how we roll here at 160K. We like scenic drives through little towns and along US highways or even dirt roads with a variety of landscapes along the way. So we opted to add an extra 40 minutes to our drive and take New Mexico State Road 14.

NM 14 along with NM 536 – the Sandia Crest Scenic Byway we drove on Valentine’s Day – compose the Turquoise Trail, a national scenic byway. It winds through the mountains and the small towns of Golden, Madrid, and Cerillos before cruising into Santa Fe.

Being a scenic byway, there are a number of “scenic pullouts” along the road. They offer breathtaking views of the mountains rising up above the desert and scrubby terrain next to the pavement. Unfortunately, a lot of the pullouts don’t offer the best vantage point for taking photos. We still took plenty of pictures though!

Since Golden was pretty much a ghost town, we drove straight through and made a few quick stops in Madrid & Cerillos before getting to Santa Fe.


Madrid, New Mexico, isn’t exactly a booming metropolis. An 1800s coal mining company town, it is now a small artist community. There are dozens of galleries along the main road through town with funky sculptures sitting on the lawn or brightly painted signs and walls adorning the buildings. If you want some unique art for less than what you’ll pay in Santa Fe, a trip to Madrid is worth it.

One of Madrid’s big claims to fame is that some of the final scenes of Wild Hogs were filmed in town. Neither that nor the art were as interesting to us as another unique trait of the town – the town dogs.

Our WorkAway hosts had told us what a pretty drive NM 14 was, but they also enlightened us about the town dogs. Apparently there are a number of random dogs who live in Madrid, with no apparent owner. But clearly, the folks in town take care of the pups. The ones we saw seemed well fed, and there were plenty of signs warning passers-by to watch out for Madrid’s furry friends.


Much like Madrid, Cerillos (or Los Cerillos) is a tiny New Mexican town that boomed during the height of nearby mining but has dwindled to near ghost town status during the last century. Again, like Madrid, it has found small economic successes with small art galleries and the film industry (keep reading…).

One of the quirky, must-see spots in town is the Casa Grande Trading Post, Petting Zoo and Turquoise Mining Museum. The amount of historic artifacts they have amassed from New Mexico turquoise mining and just Cerillos in general is unbelievable. It is absolutely worth the $2 museum admission price just to see it all (come on, it’s two bucks!).

Edie’s personal favorite? The life-size cutout of Kiefer Sutherland since Young Guns was filmed in Cerillos. The museum includes a fair amount of information on a variety of films that were filmed in the surrounding area (who knew New Mexico was such a hot spot for the film industry?).

The petting zoo is tiny, but it’s a fun diversion along your route to Santa Fe. The goats are particularly friendly, and the llama will definitely check out your camera.

Santa Fe

The final stop along the Turquoise Trail and NM 14 is Santa Fe. This city is definitely an art lover’s dream. There are galleries everywhere, mostly tending toward higher prices but more reasonable pieces are available too. There are also art museums, including the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

The historic Santa Fe Plaza also has plenty to keep you busy for a few hours, with restaurants, galleries, the New Mexico Museum of Art and the Loretto Chapel all in walking distance from the main portion of the Plaza.

On our first full day in Santa Fe, we wandered around the Plaza area and had some breakfast before jumping back in the truck to check out more of Santa Fe. Even the retaining walls and overpasses were turned into artwork! Brightly colored animals were depicted all along US Highway 285 as it stretched from downtown Santa Fe out to Opera Drive – our next destination.

Our faithful, remote tour guide, Turney, told us that we had to check out the Santa Fe Opera, at least for a drive-by. Since this incredible theater is an open-air facility, a drive-by was our only option at this time of year – the opera season is during the warmer summer months. But what a view!!! For the lucky folks who get to attend a performance, not only do you get to watch an opera in the great outdoors (but with a roof overhead for any rainy weather) but you also get New Mexico mountains as your backdrop.

Since we were also celebrating Edie’s birthday during our stay in Santa Fe, we also made time for multiple desserts and a trip to the dog park for our furry friend. For those of you with four-legged companions who find yourself in Santa Fe, it is worth a trip to the enormous dog parks located outside the Santa Fe Animal Shelter. There are multiple fenced-in areas – one for small dogs, a few for poorly socialized or unfriendly dogs and a huge one (probably 5 acres) for dogs that love to romp with their fellow canines. Yet again, the view surrounding the dog park was breathtaking, a trend here in New Mexico.

At A Glance

From: Sandia Park, NM
To: Santa Fe, NM
States: NM
Length: 51 miles
Nearby Cities: Albuquerque, NM; Santa Fe, NM

And Of Course, More Pictures!

Here is a gallery of the pictures we took along the Turquoise Trail and during our stay in Santa Fe.