A magical trek through central New Mexico combines sacred sites, ancient ruins, and scenic hikes, all while you experience traditional folk art, New Mexican cuisine, and (mostly) modern accommodations. From Albuquerque, head south and east, with stops in Belén, Mountainair, and the mountain towns of Tijeras and Cedar Crest. On the second leg, follow the Sandia Crest Scenic Byway, pause for some pampering, and slow to a charming halt in Corrales.
Cruise south from Albuquerque to Bosque Farms for huevos rancheros at neighborhood gem Sopa’s Restaurant. You’ll need sustenance before tackling nearby Tomé Hill, a cross-adorned peak considered sacred by the devout Christians who make a pilgrimage to the top on Good Friday. Tough out the short (but steep) trail for a sweeping view of the agricultural valley below.
A bit farther south lies Belén, where you can freshen up with a cool drink at Hub City Brewing Company or a snack at Pete’s Cafe. Step 100 years into the past at the trackside Belén Harvey House Museum, which evokes the experience of 1920s-era passengers disembarking for a refined dining experience at the legendary eating houses of Fred Harvey.
The nearby Bugg Lights Christmas Museum, a permanent indoor exhibit of lights and restored moving figures from a beloved Albuquerque home display, will conjure visions of sugarplums for kids of all ages.
Turn east on NM 60. When you hit Mountainair, drop into the funky B Street Market, an old-fashioned grocery with creaky wood floors and high-speed Wi-Fi where village residents gather—dogs included. Peep the quirky 1923-built Shaffer Hotel, adorned with original owner Clem “Pop” Shaffer’s folk art.
Drive north on NM 55 and NM 337 through the Cibola National Forest and the sleepy land-grant villages of Tajique and Chilili. You’ll soon reach the East Mountain towns of Tijeras and Cedar Crest, where you can saddle up to a specialty pie at Trail Rider Pizza or tap your boots to live music at Molly’s Bar.
Explore the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument sites, which include Abó, Quarai, and Gran Quivira. The Abó site is near Mountainair, but the others take some driving. Make the effort for a glimpse of Pueblo life before and after the Spanish arrived. The ancient remains include kivas, living compounds, churches, stables, and other structures.
Start at the log-cabin-like Roots Farm Café, in Tijeras, for local arts and crafts and a chile-infused breakfast. (Try the house-made sausage.)
Steer up the zigzagging Sandía Crest Road to Tinkertown Museum, a whimsical collection of animated figurines set in comical Old West scenarios. Kids will love the surprises hidden within the winding hallways.
At Sandía Crest, marvel at the view and consider hiking the easy, half-mile Crest House Nature Trail. Or plan a longer trek incorporating a trip on the Sandia Peak Tramway.
Feeling adventurous? Own a 4x4? Brave the bumpy, unimproved stretch of NM 165 to Sandia Man Cave, perched on a cliff wall in Las Huertas Canyon. The short, steep trail ends with a spiral staircase that leads into the cave—part of a dubious 1937–41 archaeological dig—for a breathtaking view of the Sandías all around.
Stay on NM 165 through Placitas and keep your eyes peeled for bands of wild horses that roam the rural village.
Treat yourself to lunch on the patio at Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa, on Santa Ana Pueblo. Want more? Rent a rescue horse from the stables, walk the trails in the Río Grande Bosque, or indulge in a Tamaya signature massage.
If you can pry yourself away, continue to Corrales, where the pace leaves time to breathe. Remember that as you inch along the main arts-and-shopping district, featuring folk art at Pachamama and vivid contemporary works at the Corrales Bosque Gallery.
For history, explore Casa San Ysidro, a restored 1875 plazuela-style rancho filled with traditional New Mexican furnishings, pottery, and more. Steps away is Historic Old San Ysidro Church, a lovingly maintained 1868 structure with three-foot-thick adobe walls that shelter concerts and summer tours on the first Saturday of every month.
For dinner, consider foraging among the food trucks at Ex Novo Brewing Company, which includes a huge, fenced lawn for kids to burn off steam. It’s worth lingering—as we overheard during a recent visit: “Don’t come to Corrales if you’re in a hurry.”
Corrales is famous for having more horses than people. Book a horseback ride along the acequia roads with Red Horse Riding Company. In the fall, Wagner’s Farmland Experience dazzles with corn mazes, a pumpkin patch, and hayrides. The village turns out September 24–25 at the Corrales Harvest Festival.
Where to Stay
In Tijeras, consider Sunny Mellow Eco Villa, a rustic eight-acre, five-room compound with vineyards and fruit trees, a redwood yoga deck, firepits, and a giant swing set. Accommodations include a yurt room and a treehouse room, each with its own charming outdoor bathroom and shower. “It’s for people who like camping, but nicer,” says Robbie Brinkley, who runs the operation with her husband, Greg.
The four-room adobe Morning Star Bed & Breakfast of Corrales holds a pool, library, and treehouse (for viewing only) on an elegant, leafy-green compound. “We’ve designed these rooms for maximum comfort,” says Carrol Casburn, who owns the B&B with her husband, John. “People can just walk in and feel taken care of and loved.”