THE BEST WAY
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Jemez Springs is 53 miles from Albuquerque. Drive north on Interstate 25 for 15 miles to Exit 242 at Bernalillo. Go west on U.S. 550 for 20 miles to San Ysidro, then north on New Mexico 4 for 18 miles to Jemez Springs.
There is no real grocery shopping in the Jemez area; for provisions, turn left on New Mexico 528, about two miles after entering U.S. 550, where there is a large supermarket.
Bring a lot of quarters; cellphones don't work in the Jemez area. Or, you can take advantage of the Wi-Fi at Consetta's.
Unless otherwise noted, all addresses below are in Jemez Springs, N.M.
WHERE TO STAY
Laughing Lizard Inn & Café, 17526 Highway 4, (505) 829-3108, www.thelaughinglizard.com. Cute but basic motel has its own eclectic cafe and is near other eateries and hot springs. Doubles start at $70 in summer.
Ranchito Milagro, P.O. Box 346; (505) 829-4561, www.jemezjourneys.com, www.vacationrentals.com/vacation-rentals/13860.html. A one-bedroom private house near the Jemez River; sleeps four with the two pull-out sleepers in the living room. Homey and convenient. Rates start at $100 a night in summer.
Desert Willow Bed & Breakfast, 15975 Highway 4; (505) 829-3410, www.desertwillowbandb.com. This tasteful B&B, with its pristine buildings and china place settings, is more groomed than the usual funky Jemez accommodations. Two-night minimum. Doubles begin at $112 a night; a two-bedroom cottage starts at $135.
WHERE TO EAT
Deb's Deli Delights and Country Cafe, 17607 Highway 4; (505) 829-3829. The corn-blueberry pancakes are a treat; a full menu plus ice cream parlor and espresso bar. Main dishes are from $7.85 to $9.80.
Los Ojos Restaurant-Saloon, 17196 Highway 4; (505) 829-3547. Authentic Old West décor, burgers, burritos and other diner-type entrees. It's the place where locals go for a beer at night. Main dishes $7.50 to $14.95.
Consetta's, 16351 Highway 4; (505) 829-4455. You can't miss the bright aqua building right along the highway. Consetta's has an original menu and bright dining area but is open only during the height of tourist season, so call first. Free wireless Internet. Italian fare. Lunch and dinner. Main dishes $9 to $14.
WHAT TO DO
Valles Caldera National Preserve, 18161 New Mexico 4 (office); (877) 851-8946, www.vallescaldera.gov. Two trails can be hiked for free, without reservations. Otherwise, activities, which include sleigh rides and skiing in winter, plus wagon rides, stargazing, fishing lessons and birding, must be arranged in advance and involve a fee.
Jemez Springs Bathhouse, 062 Jemez Springs Plaza; (866) 204-8303, www.jemezspringsbathhouse.com. This bathhouse is run by the village and pulls its steaming, mineral-odorous and supposedly healing waters from the natural hot springs nearby (which you can walk over to see). An hour's soak is $15; a one-hour massage, $65. Reservations required.
Bandelier National Monument, 15 Entrance Road, Los Alamos; (505) 672-3861, Ext. 517, www.nps.gov/band. $12 per-car entry fee per day. An easy loop trail at the main visitors center takes you through the ruins of the ancient village at Frijoles Canyon. Ranger-guided tours are also available. The village includes petroglyphs, a kiva, the stone outlines of dwellings, and cave dwellings carved into the cliffs; in some places, visitors are allowed to climb ladders and explore the caves. Other trails lead to more ruins and the Rio Grande. The Tsankawi Trail leads visitors along trails so frequently used in ancient times that feet have worn depressions into the rock; visitors climb ladders to the ruins of a mesa-top village with spectacular views.
Ponderosa Valley Vineyard and & Winery, 3171 Highway 290, Ponderosa; (505) 834-7487, www.ponderosawinery.com. You're likely to find yourselves the only visitors taking an easygoing tour of the vineyards and sitting in the tiny tasting room while one of the owners of this family-run winery pours out its signature Riesling and Pinot Noir and shares the local gossip.
Soda Dam, about a mile north of the village of Jemez Springs. There's a small parking lot on the eastern side where the Jemez River pours through a natural mineral formation. Many people swim in the natural pool behind the dam.
TO LEARN MORE
Jemez Journeys, P.O. Box 346, (505) 829-4561; www.jemezjourneys.com. Besides renting out Ranchito Milagro, Kathleen Phelan runs a tourism business to guide visitors to the activities of their choice.
New Mexico Tourism Department, (800) 545-2070 or (505) 827-7400, www.newmexico.org.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times