Travel File: Los Alamos & Valles Caldera, New Mexico

Late Summer.  The mountains called.  One more camping trip wanted to happen before Autumn, cold weather and holidays set in. So we went.

New Mexico road travel

Up into the New Mexico mountains we climbed.  Jemez had been trying to contact us for quite a while, and this time we decided to pick up the line.  It was a dusty trek above Santa Fe, a windy road past the Bandelier turn-off and an upward slope to the rocky canyon that laid East of our destination.

New Mexico Bandelier

Jemez Area drives

Hwy 502 New Mexico Mountains

Hwy 502 New Mexico

As dusk threatened that Sunday afternoon, we traveled through a strangely sleepy town.  We meandered past laboratories and government buildings tucked into pine groves.  An overhang of dismal clouds and listless streets added to the mysterious atmosphere.  The outdated buildings brought an unfamiliarity akin to another country or a different era.  Tiny homes quietly sat like small children at a parade; bored with anticipation. The main street sent us in circles and finally through a secure gate where a man requested our I.D.’s, instructed us not to take photographs, then scooted us on our way.  If we hadn’t known the history behind the ho-hum community, I’m sure I would have claimed it as a typical small town.  But in truth, when you pass though an area that is well-known for being the home of the Manhattan Project, you can’t help but feel the residual eeriness that resides in the birthplace of the atomic bomb.

Los Alamos Valle Caldera New Mexico

After exiting the government land, we ascended into the mountains along a small and WINDY road.  The bare trees and cloudy sky remained a clinging slap that echoed the haunting town and history we left behind an hour before.

jemez_Santa Fe_ area map

Santa Fe and Los Alamos were behind us, and Jemez Springs was right around the corner.

West Jemez Road New Mexico Los Alamos

As we rounded the corner out of the trees…

jemez hwy 4 road

…we stopped at the scenic viewpoint of Valles Caldera:

Valle Caldera new mexico scenic overlook

valle caldera New mexico 1

We were able to drive into the preserve right before they closed.  Although we didn’t get to hike or check out the visitor’s center, we witnessed some classic New Mexico beauty!


Valles Caldera New Mexico

valles caldera New Mexico 3

Valles Caldera New Mexico 2

In my next posts I will be sharing more about the surrounding area, including the best camp spots and hot springs!  Here’s a map with a closer look at the Jemez mountains:

jemez area campground map

I posted another photo of the 13-mile wide crater-shaped landscape (Valles Caldera) here.  For more info about this natural preserve, visit this website.


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