Santa Fe has no shortage of great things to do that will keep you entertained as long as you are there, but if you are looking to get away from the city for a brief respite, then Jemez Mountains is the perfect place to go for a Santa Fe day trip. The Jemez Mountains are at the southern end of the Rocky Mountains and are a part of the Santa Fe National Forest, boasting an array of gorgeous natural features such as waterfalls and hot springs. There are also several historic sites to check out, many of them created by either Spanish colonizers or Native Americans. If you’re looking for something different, the Jemez Mountains are definitely worth a visit for an exciting Santa Fe day trip.
The San Antonio Hot Springs
Taking a day trip from Santa Fe to visit the hot springs is a must. We started with the San Antonio Hot Springs. Depending on when you go it is either a .7-mile hike or a 5-mile hike depending on the road conditions, which you can find out more about online. Since we visited in the winter, it was a long hike, which I liked because there were fewer people.
As you hike the last part of the trail, you’ll see the bubbling stream and steam rising. It only gets better from there. There are several cascading pools stacked above one other, and as you get higher up, the water gets even warmer. Plus, the beautiful mountainside on which to look out. Even in the winter, it feels warmer than a hot tub and makes changing back into clothes so much easier.
The Bandelier National Monument
We made a stop at Bandelier National Monument on the way to Jemez Hot Springs. These are the largest cliff dwellings in North America, and you can actually climb up the ladders to see inside while exploring. I loved that we were able to enjoy the sunny view on one side and the snow capped mountains on the other during our visit here.
The Jemez Hot Springs
Jemez Hot Springs is a retreat within the village of Jemez Springs. If you are looking to relax and enjoy a little bit of peace, this is the destination for you. The property has a couple of gorgeous blue pools spread across the natural landscape, and the mineral water in these springs is meant to be therapeutic and is said to have healing properties. There are also a few shaded areas to sit and relax if you want a break from the water, and no matter where you spend your time, Jemez Hot Springs offers incredible views of the surrounding landscape.
McCauley Springs is one of the larger hot springs in the Santa Fe National Forest and requires a short hike to reach. You’ll find multiple rock-lined pools with water from a larger, more shallow spring uphill that cascades down into a few deeper pools in the forest. This is definitely a popular hot spring to visit, so be prepared for there to be some foot traffic during your soak.
Spence Hot Springs
Spence Hot Springs is one of the most popular hot springs. It is less than a 1-mile hike up some steep terrain. There are two pools and the top one even has a small case that you can sit in. The water isn’t quite as warm as San Antonio Hot Springs, and depending how cold it is outside the springs, you might feel a little chill as you get out. However, the cave is very refreshing with a steamy sauna.
The Jemez Historic Site
The Jemez Historic Site is home to the village of Guisewa (Gee-say-wah), which means village by the sulfur. Here, you can walk through the ruins to see ancient pueblo, a kiva where ceremonies and social gatherings occurred, and the mission San José de los Jémez, reminiscent of when the Spanish set to colonize New Mexico.
The Soda Dam
The Soda Dam is one of the most unique natural formations in New Mexico and is definitely a must-see on your Santa Fe day trip into the Jemez Mountains. It is a collection of 15 hot springs that have formed an unusual bridge stretching across the Jemez River as a result of calcium carbonate deposits building up over the years. This is probably one of the most interesting things to see in Jemez, so make sure to add it to your itinerary of things to do in the Jemez Mountains.
The Gilman Tunnels
If you are in the Jemez Mountains, then you must visit the Gilman Tunnels. They used to be part of an old railway through the Guadalupe Box Canyon. Now that the railway has been removed, the tunnels arch over a stretch of drivable road and make for a scenic detour through the mountains.
Things to Do in the Jemez Mountains: Final Thoughts
The Jemez Mountains has to be one of the prettiest places to visit in New Mexico and it is definitely a change of scenery from the busier atmosphere of Santa Fe. It would be easy to simply stay in the city with all of the unique and fun things to do there, but you will not regret taking a day trip from Santa Fe to check out all the things to do in the Jemez Mountains. The stunning scenery alone makes it worth the visit, but it is also the perfect place to take a quick break from activities and relax in the soothing waters of the hot springs. Make sure you include this on your list of things to do in Santa Fe. You don’t want to miss out on the cool sites and natural formations here!