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Roadtrip NM – Cerrillos Hills Historic Park

Posted by on January 17, 2008

A sunny winter’s day is a great time to take a hike out around the Cerrillos Hills Historic Park south of Santa Fe where one can learn more about the area’s mining history while taking in some great scenery.

Operated by Santa Fe County’s Open Space Division, the park, located about 25 miles south Santa Fe, covers about 1,100 acres of rolling foothills just outside the historic mining town of Cerrillos.

Visitors to the park will find a clean restroom, plenty of informative signs and brochures, picnic tables and thoughtful seating but above all – spectacular views.
The park is open dawn to dusk, is free of charge and leashed dogs are welcome.

During a recent hike up the Jane Calvin Sanchez (marked the Mountain Lion Trail on the informational brochure) the author found the quiet of the afternoon enlivened by the spirited, howls of a nearby pack of coyotes and then the long, lonely wail of a freight train off in the valley.

The Sanchez trail provides several vigorous, uphill climbs to strategically placed benches where one can catch their breath and the views before proceeding on.
Located along the trail are several fenced-off, mineshafts with interpretive signs posted to enlighten visitors.

Hiking amid these piñon and juniper studded hills, one can only imagine the hard work that miners during the mining boom of the late 1800s must have endured searching for silver and gold in these hills.

The Sanchez trail tops out after about a mile and then wends its way around and down a hill to drop back down to the road, Camino Turquesa, below. Here a natural spring bubbles out from under the sloping hillside and willows, cottonwoods and other vegetation flourish in the iron stained water.

Across the road, a hiker can proceed up the Escalante trail to another hilltop resting and viewing area or stop by the roadside just downstream of the spring at a shaded, picnic area with more interpretive signs. It’s a short walk back down the road to the parking area.

The Sanchez trail covered just over two miles and provided several good, strenuous climbs that got the heart pumping and muscles working.

Back at the parking area one can find the wonderful concrete and iron kiosk built to house a sundial with a sign explaining how it works and more information about the surrounding ecosystem.

From here one can also take a wheelchair accessible, graded and graveled trail a short distance to a hilltop viewing area. Here one can look down upon the village of Cerrillos below and compare what they see to a posted map showing how the village looked at the height of its boom days.

Nearby a beautifully built, iron ramada offers visitors a spot to relax and take it all in.

But a trip out to Cerrillos wouldn’t be complete without venturing into town for a cold beer at Mary’s Bar or a stop at the Casa Grande Trading Post – Petting Zoo and Cerrillos Turquoise Mining Museum. Check out their website for more information.

Those traveling out to Cerrillos Hills Park can make a roundtrip adventure of it by taking I-25 south to exit 267 located at the top of La Bajada Hill, just past the rest area.

Go under the highway and then head straight for the mountains on Santa Fe County Road (SFCR) 57, also known as Waldo Canyon Road. This paved road turns to dirt after about a mile and about six miles later comes upon the old railroad siding of Waldo.

Here one can find the ruins of massive coke furnaces by the railroad tracks and the shade of several aging cottonwood trees. Amtrak and freight trains still operate on these tracks, trespassing is prohibited and caution is advised.

The road then cuts through a narrow, twisty gorge and eventually comes out at Cerrillos where one takes a left onto SFCR 59, which leads up past the village cemetery to the Cerrillos Hills Historic Park. For more information about the park and its the history visit

Upon leaving, visitors can then head back to Santa Fe through Cerrillos and onto State Road 14 to SFCR 45, also known as Bonzana Creek Road, outside of Lone Butte. This road leads off into the foothills and past the Bonanza Creek movie ranch where from the road visitors can see the movie set used to replicate the Texas capitol in Austin during the 1800s which was used in the television, western, series “Comanche Moon.”

Stay on SFCR 45 back to the frontage road adjacent to I-25 and follow it back to State Road 14 and on into town.

This article also appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican’s Outdoors section.

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