A Jemez New Mexico Kind of Day

The following post is by a friend of ours at Elk Mountain Lodge, NM.  His name is Chris Parker and he recently came up to the Jemez Mountains for a day of fishing.  He has a great writing style and he has allowed us to share it with you.


I’ve been driving around with my fishing gear in the back of the car for a couple of weeks. I was ready to jump, I had been just too busy to go. Then my son asked why are you driving around with your fishing stuff Dad, why indeed?

I woke up at 5:20am, 2 hours later than usual. Why indeed? Friday the 13th? Let’s go fishing. I found my fishing water bottle, filled it with ice and water and I was out the door by 7:30 am. I stopped by Taco Cabana and got an egg and chorizo soft taco and a barbacoa soft taco and 2 tortillas, hot off the grill. Got my salsas, napkins, etc. and headed for Jemez Springs.

All that traffic heading into Albuquerque to go to work and me going the opposite way, with no traffic, to go fishing, this felt good. With Rio Rancho disappearing in the rear view mirror you could just feel the city and the past week, beginning to melt away.

Following the route of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, Zia Pueblo on the horizon. As I turned off the highway to Cuba, I spied a hitchhiker at the side of the road as I entered San Isidro. He was going to Jemez Pueblo (Walatowa) to work on his field. Someone was going to disc it about 4 inches today. He was going to plant mostly chili and some corn, squash and melons. He asked me where my favorite holes were to be found and after I told him he asked, “ have you ever tried the river behind Hummingbird Music Camp?” No, well you go to the office and sign in, you should try at the bridge, there’s some good holes there.” So I pulled into HMC.

I saw an older woman walking to the mess hall, I stopped her and asked if I could fish on their river? After some banter she revealed that she was the widow of the man that founded the place, Wanda Higgins, 91 years old. “You came just in time, I just sent off 120 kids that were here.” I had the whole place to my self… She directed me to a beaver pond that had been stocked on Tuesday. Between 9:00am and 10:30am I caught 19 trout!!!  I released all but 5 and gave those to Mrs. Higgins. We reminisced for a while about people we knew from the past, George Fishbeck, Patti Pierson, Terry Stright, etc. 91 years old, with a bounce in her step and a mind sharp as a tack.

So, I went to the Elk Mountain Lodge B&B to have lunch with my buddy Terry Stright. Not being hungry yet, we went to fish the river across the street from the lodge. I caught 6 more fish! I kept 3 for dinner.

I bought some piñons that were roasted and salted just right. I love these kinds of days!

Jemez NM Hot Springs – Soothing, Rejuvenating and Relaxing

There are as many reasons to visit the natural beauty of the hot springs in the New Mexico Jemez Mountains as there are locations!  Generally made up of dissolved minerals, these waters are said to have a variety of healthful results for the body.  Depending upon whom you ask, you will get many different answers as to their therapeutic  reasons to “go soak”.  Some will swear that it eases the pain of arthritis while others claim that it purifies their bodies in a religious experience. Whatever the reason, a trip to one of the many area rejuvenating mineral hot springs can be adventurous, relaxing and fun.

Jemez Springs, New Mexico a great getaway destination, is named for its famous natural mineral hot springs, which bubble up to the surface of the earth through fissures.  The area has historically been known for underground geothermal characteristics or volcanic activity associated with the Valles Caldera.  Formerly know as the Baca Ranch, the Valles (locally pronounced “VI-ya)” is one of the known super volcanoes that exists on the planet.  Our area hot springs are proof that deep within the earth, the Valles Caldera is still active.

Depending upon your level of adventure, there is a sulfur hot spring for everyone.  Access can be as simple as parking your car and walking a few steps to a small spring or as difficult as an hour or two hike over serious terrain for a large group soaking spot/pool.  There are typically no costs involved with visiting the natural outdoor springs (except possibly parking).  However, if you prefer a secluded and private dip, you can go to the Jemez Springs Bath House to get your own concrete tub for a very modest cost.

In an effort to help you plan your own hot springs adventure, here is a breakdown of a few springs you may wish to visit.  They are listed from easiest (non-strenuous access) to more difficult (walking and hiking involved).

  • Jemez Springs Bath House
  • Soda Dam
  • Spence Springs
  • San Antonio Hot Springs
  • McCauley Warm Springs

The Jemez Springs Bath House is by far the easiest way to experience a rejuvenating mineral bath.  It’s located right in the middle of town at the park.  As you enter the Jemez Springs Plaza, the Bath House will be towards the back near the Jemez River.  As you park in front of the Bath House, you will notice a large gazebo looking structure to the right of the building.  This natural spring is from the same fissure that feeds the Bath House.  Go inside the main entrance and see Talty, the manager, for information on their services!

Further up highway 4 – about 2 miles- is Soda Dam.  This structure is a unique geologic feature formed by the geo-thermal system and a very deep fault that crosses the canyon at river level. Approximately 100 feel wide this dam has forced the Jemez River to exit through a hole at the East side of the structure.  Ironically, the dam is both being built and carved away at the same time by the geothermal activity and the river erosion.  The hot springs at Soda Dam can be found in the small cave above and to the left of the river.  They are small but if you can climb up inside, you can soak your feet.  There is also a small hot spring stream that runs along the highway (opposite the river) near a large bluff on the highway.

Spence Springs is a very popular hot spring that requires a fairly strenuous hike down the canyon to the river then back up the other side to the springs. Here you’ll find a wonderful group of beautiful natural hot springs on the side of the canyon. Spence is heavily visited because it fairly easy to reach and has had a reputation as a hangout for nudists and skinny dippers. The water temperature is typically about 100 degrees F, which is very comfortable.


San Antonio Hot Springs are located 6 miles up forest road 376 (just North of the Elk Mountain Lodge).  The natural spring mineral water pours out of pipes from a hillside at over 100 degrees F. There are several rock pools flowing down the hillside with the largest pool being big enough for a large group. San Antonio Hot Springs is typically heavily visited so be patient and expect to share your experience with other “soakers”.  However, once you’re there, you won’t want to leave.  There’s plenty of beautiful scenery and it’s very relaxing!

McCauley Warm Springs can be reached via a 2-mile hike from the parking areas along Highway 4.  The Battleship Picnic Area has a $4.00 parking fee, but you can park at the upper parking lot (right off the Hwy.) for no charge.  The springs are beautiful with clear, warm water. There are 3 or 4 pools that flow down with the top pool being approximately 25 feet wide and 2 feet deep and there are a few smaller, deeper pools down stream that are a little more intimate.  Because of the beautiful area these springs are in, they can be busy even though it’s a hike to get there.

As with any trip into the Santa Fe National Forest, you should do a little bit of research on the hot springs of your choice.  A good place to start is the Jemez Ranger District. Click here for their website or call them at 575-829-3535.  Their office is located just South of Soda Dam on NM State Highway 4.   Please note:  The Forest Service lists most all of these natural hot springs for day use only between the hours of 6AM to 10PM.

Valles Caldera National Preserve

Formerly know as the Baca Ranch, this 89,000-acre property is encapsulated inside a collapsed volcanic crater.   In 2000, Congress voted to adopt the property and renamed it The Valles Caldera National Preserve.   The Caldera is dotted with eruptive domes and features a large peak as a backdrop (Redondo Peak 11,254 feet).  This old ranch property is currently being developed and studied to explore a new way of managing public lands.  The Valles Caldera National Preserve has always attracted people who wish to examine a wide range of topics, such as geology, archaeology, cultural history, wildlife and botany.  Since Congress has named the property as public land, the opportunities for studying the area is growing.

The preserve is open to the public and guarantees that you’ll find your visit unlike any other you’ve had in a national park or forest.  They restrict the numbers of visitors to small activity groups so you’ll feel like you have the place all to yourself.  This means that you won’t see big crowds or have difficulty finding a parking spot.  You won’t see a shop full of touristy gifts either.  Instead, they will offer you a chance to get out and really experience a sense of natural solitude and tranquility that will leave you refreshed and relaxed.  You’ll see wildlife, beautiful vistas and learn about the preserve’s rich history and geology.  Visit the website: Valles Caldera National Preserve

Click here for their Calendar


Free, self guided daily hikes are everyday from sunrise to sunset

– Valle Grande Hike, 2 miles,

  • Location: Trailhead is off Highway 4 near mile marker 43

– Coyote Call Hike, 3 miles,

  • Location: Trailhead is off Highway 4 near mile marker 41

No prior reservations are required for these hikes.  Only service animals are allowed to accompany owners on the trail, no pets.  To view a complete list of their hiking guidelines, click here.

Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument protects over 33,000 acres of rugged but beautiful canyon and mesa country as well as evidence of a human presence here going back over 11,000 years. Petroglyphs, dwellings carved into soft rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls in the Frijoles Canyon area pay tribute to a the early days of a culture that still survives in the surrounding communities.

The human history of Bandelier extends back for more than 10,000 years when area tribes followed migrating wildlife across the mountains, mesas and canyons. By 1150 CE ancient Pueblo people began to build more permanent villages.  Evidence of this past is still observed in the park, as is the connection of the modern Pueblo people. By 1550 these dwellers vacated their Bandelier homes and moved to pueblos along the Rio Grande River.

Legislation to create Bandelier National Monument was signed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916.  Between 1934 and 1941 workers from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) worked from a camp constructed in Frijoles Canyon. Among their accomplishments is the road into Frijoles Canyon, the current visitor center, a new lodge, and miles of trails. For several years during World War II the park was closed to the public and the lodge was used to house Manhattan Project scientists and military personnel.

The area of Bandelier National Park ranges from 5340 feet at the Rio Grande River at the south end and 10199 feet at the summit of Cerro Grande to the north.  This equates to almost a mile of elevation change in less than 12 miles. This elevation gradient creates a unique diversity of habitats specific to Northern New Mexico. This diversity of habitats and access to water supported a large population of Pueblo people.

Piñon-Juniper woodlands dominate in the southern parts of the park transitioning through to ponderosa pine highlands and forests.  The higher elevations give way to mixed conifer forests and aspen tree thickets.  Other park terrain includes desert grasslands, meadows, and riparian areas in the canyon bottoms. Bandelier is home to a wide variety of wildlife.  It will take a good hiker all day to only do part of the trail available to visitors. The backcountry trails at Bandelier climb in and out of deep canyons and cross very large flat mesas.  This park showcases the entire spectrum of volcanic geology!

Visitor Center Operating Hours:

Spring/Fall: 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Spring time change (at switch to daylight savings time) to Memorial Day weekend, Labor Day to fall time change (at switch to standard time))

Winter: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (fall time change (at switch to standard time) to spring time change (at switch to daylight savings time)

Summer: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  (Saturday of Memorial Day weekend through the Monday of Labor Day weekend )

Park and Visitor Center are open daily except:

Closed December 25 and January 1.

Jemez Mountain Trail – National Scenic Byway

Circling Fenton Lake State Park between Bernalillo, Cuba and Los Alamos, The Jemez Mountain Trail is a beautiful drive full of the courageous history of the Jemez people and surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery in the southwest.






  • Bandelier National Monument
  • Battleship Rock
  • Elk Mountain Lodge B & B
  • Fenton Lake State Park
  • Gilman Tunnels
  • Jémez Pueblo and Red Rocks
  • Jémez Springs Bath House
  • Jémez State Monument
  • Los Alamos
  • Natural Hot Springs – 4 different locations
  • Ponderosa Winery
  • Seven Springs Fish Hatchery
  • Soda Dam
  • Valles Caldera National Preserve

Your trip along the Jemez Mountain Trail shouldn’t be hurried.   Some might even say that a weekend isn’t enough time to fully appreciate all the treasures one might find.  Whatever the case, pack a camera and a light overnight bag so you can stay with us at the half way point.  We’re right in the middle of it all!

If you’re leaving from Albuquerque and can do a weekend trip, the first thing you should do is call us at 575-829-3159 to make a reservation for your relaxing getaway.  We’ll begin preparing for your arrival.  Then, we suggest that your first day consist of the following: Continue Reading…