When our family traveled Route 66 last June, about the last thing I expected were all the different alignments that made up this iconic road. In New Mexico for example, Route 66 passed through Santa Fe until 1937 when a new highway was built connecting Santa Rosa to Albuquerque, bypassing Santa Fe altogether.
Today’s motorists traveling “old Route 66” have the option of taking this older alignment or skipping Santa Fe in favor of the newer alignment. Since our family had never seen Santa Fe before, we opted to take the pre 1937 alignment which took us through the Glorietta Pass and directly into Santa Fe. While we could have left Santa Fe via Highway 25 (which sorta follows Old Route 66), on the advice of one of our fellow “roadies” we opted to take State Road 14 instead. Are we glad we did!
What to see on State Road 14 in New Mexico
Know as the “Turquoise Trail”, State Road 14 is a designated scenic byway which stretches 54 miles long through the center of New Mexico. While there’s no denying that the scenery is absolutely breathtaking, it’s the old mining towns along this stretch that capture the imagination.
There’s Los Cerrillos which, although founded in 1879, has a history that stretches back 1500 years. Los Cerrillos is technically a “ghost town” although many residents continue to live there. The shady streets, dirt roads, and old buildings give visitors the sense of stepping back into time 150 years or so.
Madrid was also once was a bustling mining town that in the 1970s has found new life as an artists colony. In the small town of Golden is the picturesque San Francisco de Assis church that still holds a Saturday afternoon mass.
Closer to Albuquerque is the Sandia Crest which is the high point of the Turquoise Road with a summit of 10,678 feet. On the road to this peak can be found the Tinkertown Museum, a folk art collection representing one man’s life work. Children will especially love this whimsical museum with its bottle walls, miniature western village, three ring circus, and mechanized musical displays.
Our family spend nearly 5 hours meandering along State Road 14 but could have easily spent a full day in enjoying some of the other gems that the area has to offer such as the Tijeras Pueblo Archeaological Site and the Cerrillos Hills State Park with its access to dozens of 19th century mines.
Where to get information
We didn’t plan our excursion on State Road 14 very well only because we didn’t realize how much there was to see. You can avoid making the same mistake we did by visiting the website of the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway at Turquoise Trail.org to download a free visitor’s guide and road map. You’ll discover like our family did that this is a Route 66 detour worth taking.