Posts Tagged ‘ Gilman Tunnels ’

Video: The back road to the Jemez Mountains

Written by Mark T Fiedler - The Mark and Sheila Team
July 26th, 2010

So, you’re up for a little drive in the mountains… If you head west out of the northern end of Rio Rancho on Hwy 550, within a few minutes you’ll hit New Mexico Route 4 and San Ysidro. Route 4 is the 64 mile long main road through the Jemez Mountains connecting the Albuquerque / Rio Rancho area with the Jemez Pueblo, Los Alamos and the Bandelier National Monument.

A few miles north of San Isidro you will find the Canon de San Diego region, with its stunning red rock formations and dirt, rich with iron. The Jemez Pueblo is located here, although tribal laws do not permit photography of the pueblo or its people.

A few miles north of the pueblo, if you’re really paying attention, you will see a turnoff to the left (west) for Highway 485 – a 1 ½ – 2 lane back way into the Jemez Mountains. Although Route 4 is a quicker and wider road than 485, I find myself taking the road less traveled almost every time. The road crosses the Jemez River and goes up a narrow, steep rock canyon, following the Rio Guadalupe. A few miles in you will encounter the Gilman Tunnels. These 2 tunnels were originally built in the 1920’s to accommodate a logging railroad. Just past the tunnels, the pavement ends. In fact, there is a gate across the road at that point which is often closed well into May because of snow and poor road conditions until the spring and summer heat dries things out. The road is rough, but the vistas of the mountain meadows are worth the bumpy ride.

Once you complete the loop and rejoin Route 4, you will be within a short distance of 3 more of the region’s star attractions – Fenton Lake, Battleship Rock and Soda Dam.

Battleship Rock is easily seen from the road and is worth a stop. The large exposed rock face emulates the bow of a large ship – hence the name. The striking, 200 foot tall natural formation of welded volcanic ash is studded with glass-like obsidian rock. A river runs through the day-use picnic area at the base, and hiking trails abound.

Jemez Mountains, NM